San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

May 6th, 2010
City council approves Buie Tract changes

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Clockwise from top left, San Marcos resident Joe Schneider, San Marcos Councilmember Gaylord Bose, Director of Development Services Chuck Swallow and City Manager Rick Menchaca talk about the Buie Tract at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

Emotions ran high Tuesday night as resident after resident spoke against zoning changes and land use amendments before the San Marcos City Council regarding a proposed controversial mixed-use development above the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.

After about three hours of conversation on the Buie Tract, the council went 4-3 against the wishes of those in the standing-room only chamber who called for more time to review all the details or deny the changes on the Buie Tract, near a future Craddock Avenue extension.

San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmembers Ryan Thomason, Kim Porterfield, and Fred Terry voted to approve the changes, while Councilmembers Gaylord Bose, John Thomaides and Chris Jones were in opposition.

The fly in the ointment for those who favor moving forward with the zoning and land use changes has yet to be resolved. During the council meeting, two petitions were submitted to the dais opposing the changes. A petition previously submitted to the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) with 14 signatures has yet to be verified to determine whether the council’s 4-3 vote is enough to move forward.

San Marcos city attorney Michael Cosentino said that the city charter requires a super-majority, consisting of six councilmembers, to approve zoning change should homeowners, amounting to 20 percent or more of the land within 200-feet of the tract requesting the change, sign a petition against the changes.

As of the end of the council meeting, the petition submitted at P&Z last month had not yet been reviewed. City staff said the council will learn if sufficient signatures have been gathered to require the super-majority before the second reading on May 18.

Setting the stage for what was to come, Narvaiz read the rules of decorum in the council chambers before opening up the citizen comment period Tuesday night. Towards the end of the night, Narvaiz almost exercised her power and threatened a resident in the audience with removal from the council chambers for not observing the rules.

“Most probably we’re not all going to agree,” Narvaiz said before moving the meeting to the citizen comment period. “But we don’t have to be disagreeable.”

Residents had two opportunities to comment on the matter — during the citizen comment period, and during the public hearing scheduled for 8 p.m., though it started at about 8:45 p.m. after council heard on three other public hearings scheduled ahead of the Buie Tract on the council agenda.

Residents in opposition to the zoning changes alleged council would be deviating from the Horizons Master Plan by approving the changes, a move some called “disrespectful” to the hard work put forth by the citizenry who helped formulate the plan nearly 10 years ago.

“This is gonna be a hard decision,” said resident Rob Roark. “But make it simple, stick to the plan.”

Narvaiz claimed that moving forward with the project is not disrespectful to the hard work of the citizens, but instead is an upholding of their hard work. She said the “new urbanist” style project is exactly what citizens have wanted and what Envision Central Texas Calls prefers. Narvaiz said developments where residents can live, work, and play are in line with what the citizens’ hard work warrants.

Disregarding policy direction for the past six years that calls for conservation, sustainability, walkability, and reducing the building foot-print, Narvaiz said, “would be disrespectful. That would be wrong.”

Said San Marcos resident Jessica Henry in an email, “I want those people to look my daughter in the eye and tell them they are doing the right thing. Our children will inherit all of the problems caused now.”

Said Porterfield, “It would be simple to just sit up her and vote no, but that would not be the right thing to do. Change is hard. Growth is not our enemy … Land owners have the right to develop their property, but cities have the responsibility to guide that development (with a development agreement).”

The city council entered into a development agreement with the Buie developers stipulating clusters of mixed-use high-rises along Craddock Avenue. The agreement also set triggers for annexation of the rest of the Buie Tract. As of now, only a portion of the tract has been annexed into the city.

“If we vote for this thing and it passes, there’s going to be a lot of people disappointed,” Bose said. “… They’re going to feel like they were deceived again.”

Bose alluded to the Wonder World Drive extension and said residents welcomed that project because mention of building apartments near or along the extension, like the Buie project, was not provided.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved an Exception Request by the Buie Track developers, Craddock Avenue Partners, LLC, which led, along with recommendation from city staff, to the approval of the zoning and land use amendments for the project by the P&Z.

“SMRF (San Marcos River Foundation) has been working diligently for the 23 days since TCEQ approved the geological assessment to line up the evidence needed to show what features are missing,” said SMRF director Dianne Wassenich. “We filed a motion with TCEQ (Monday), our deadline to file, asking them to reconsider (their approval of the exception request). Now that we have gathered all the information we could lay our hands on in such a short time, to appropriately protect the (Edwards Aquifer) recharge zone on the Buie Tract … we are doing our best to understand why the city is rushing to do this harm to this tract of land on the recharge zone, and why TCEQ has allowed, against all its regulations, policies, and protocol, the highly unusual approval of just the heolocial assessment, without the water pollution abatement plan and development plan being attached to it.”

Assistant city planning director Matthew Lewis said the developers still have to attain a water pollution abatement plan and a sewer water collections plan with TCEQ.

Narvaiz said the exception request was only an extra-step the developers were taking to ensure they were abiding by TCEQ rules.

A small minority of those who spoke on the project applauded the development, including former Councilmember Pam Couch and San Marcos Wells Fargo branch President Don Nash, who cautioned he was not commenting as a representative of the bank, but was speaking on the matter as a resident of San Marcos.

Highlighting the sensitivity of the Buie project, Couch told council she had been a victim of those dissenting the proposal. Couch said a flyer was circulating that questioned and attacked her “integrity” by asking what her stake in the matter was and by asking if she and her family had been bought out by the developers. Couch’s remarks caused Narvaiz eyes to tear up. Couch’s husband, Bucky Couch was appointed to the P&Z once Pam Couch’s term on council expired. Bucky Couch voted to approve the changes at the P&Z level.

Pam Couch said she, along with every San Marcos resident, has a stake in the development. She said residents want “good developments” that will upgrade the city’s image and improve quality of life, and that’s what the Buie Tract development does, Couch said.

Thomason’s only comments on the zoning change that he voted to approve were that he had never witnessed an adjoining neighborhood endorse a zoning change, a move he called “astounding.”

The Franklin Square Homeowners Association spoke in favor of the Buie Tract project after receiving a five-acre gift from the developers said to be used as a private park. However, the petition that is yet to determine whether a super-majority from council is needed to approve the zoning change consists of 14 signatures from homeowners on Franklin Street.

Residents in adjoining and nearby neighborhoods to the proposed project, such as Castle Forest, Oak Heights, and Westover, have been the biggest forces behind the comments to council against the zoning change.

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43 thoughts on “City council approves Buie Tract changes

  1. Aside from the more-than-obvious, and aside from how easy it is wifully to misuse and corrupt the occult terms, “new urbanism” or “mixed use,” who will equip, develop, insure, maintain and police the new “private park”? Last time I looked, it was the duty of some “private” Owner’s Association, since it is not a public responsibility nor a taxpayer liability. Do the good folks of Franklin Square even have the ability to formallly accept their park, or does it just fall over into the “public” category by some quiet default? And how can a few souls in one area accept or deny any “deal” made as a part of a City policy decision? If they can, shouldn’t the nearby, formally-constituted and regulated Neighborhood Associations be the ones at the table, rather than a few individuals in a still-developing sector of the City?

    Anybody ever notice the particular order of the Council Priorities as adopted for this year? Making money comes first, while protecting and investing in the place where we live, and will have to live in for the future, comes… er…, ah… LAST. The immediate gratification and local benefit trumps sustainability every time. Just don’t seem right.

  2. “Most probably we’re not all going to agree,” Narvaiz said before moving the meeting to the citizen comment period. “But we don’t have to be disagreeable.” -What the heck does that mean?
    Couch’s remarks caused Narvaiz eyes to tear up. ” And the Oscar goes to……..”

  3. Yeah, it’s funny that the “disagreeable” comments are upsetting when directed at her friend, but there is no problem with attacks on local business owners (and residents), like the comments re: Springtown incentives:

    “But they should have at least been honest, they were afraid of competition. Instead they misinformed the public, which was their intent.”

    I guess questioning whether a former City Council member has a stake in this issue is unreasonable, but accusing others of being afraid of competition and of deliberately misleading people, well, that’s ok.

  4. Many citizens feel betrayed by City leaders in this matter. Unexpected high density at the city outskirts, right next to single family home neighborhoods, does not equal “smart” growth, nor does it enhance quality of life for existing citizens. And why the rush right now, when serious issues have been raised about the potentially damaging environmental impact of a high density mixed use development on this land?

    One of the petitions (with signatures from those closest and most directly impacted) was turned in to multiple points, and nobody on P&Z or with the City mentioned the super majority clause at that point, which would have enlightened the concerned citizens to ensure appropriate representation. Was their silence based on ignorance or another preconceived agenda?

    I am confident that 20 percent or more of the land (residents) within 200 feet (of the tract requesting the change) do not want to see these zoning changes approved. It would be a shame for our City leaders to push this through without adequate review, consideration, and proper approval.

    Several have remarked it is misleading to be told this, “project is exactly what citizens have wanted and what Envision Central Texas prefers.” Since when should Envision Central Texas tell San Marcos to ignore the will of the people as expressed in the San Marcos Horizons master plan?

  5. Well said as usual, Mayor Moore. Franklin Square is an HOA unlike the other neighborhood associations in town, and they are set up to accept this “donation” of parkland and keep it strictly private for use only by FSHOA members. True.
    If you have a couple of hours, I’ll tell you stuff that will make your head explode.
    Eddie? Want to run for Council?

  6. I wouldn’t question the seriousness of the Mayor’s emotion or her dedication to citizen concerns. I don’t always agree with her but the regular Susan dogpiles on Newstreamz are hardly fair. I get that a few of you disagree with the Buie tract zoning, but nobody is rushing it through. It went through P&Z and now three readings at Council — the normal course. If there were legitimate environmental concerns, then there would be action on the part of the regulators. The Horizons Plan ain’t the Constitution. The Couch family isn’t on the take.

    Plus, it is hardly clear that a majority of citizens disagree with the Council’s decision — it carried a majority vote of the citizen’s representatives and was overwhelmingly approved by P&Z whose representatives studied and digested both sides of the entire proposal. All we know is that 14 unverified neighbors don’t like it. 14 plus the 5 or 6 people who commented negatively on this website and some more at the Council meeting, who may be some of the same 14 — in a town of 50,000. If a majority of the citizens opposed the plan, then I bet one of the four ‘yes’ votes would change OR the council would change. The Council has been pro-growth through more than a few election cycles, despite the blustering and candidates from the other side.

  7. I don’t question the seriousness of the emotion. I only question why one attack is more “disagreeable” than the other. They both seem about the same to me.

  8. I read elsewhere that Aqualand Development, “plans to build a $17 million upscale student apartment complex in walking distance from Texas State University.” It will be a “70-plus unit apartment complex on 1.4 acres at 817 Chestnut St., which will boast granite countertops, flat-screen TVs and private bathrooms.”

  9. I don’t think Aqualand has even started on the entitlement stuff they need, so their schedule is a little out of wack. At least that is a more appropriate location for students (easy walk to/from campus, local dining options). In fact, that’ll be a shorter walk to the quad than a lot of dorms.

  10. That would seem to be a much more sensible location. It brings more of the dense residential property closer to downtown (just walk/pedal through campus and you’re there). Not to mention the existing live/work/play opportunities with Gordo’s, Grins, The Tavern, the university, etc.

  11. so much for any traffic relief with the new Wonderland extension if more people will be living along it! despite the cost, both financially and environmentally, it just doesn’t make any sense…….

  12. This article only scratches the surface of the issues with the current development plan on the Buie tract.

    I live adjacent to the development. I bought my house, about three blocks from the Buie tract, as the crow flies, specifically because the neighborhood is so family oriented, with events for kids at Easter and Halloween, and because of the number of other families similar to mine, with school aged children. This neighborhood is where I want my children to grow up.

    I love living in San Marcos. I work at the university and value the student population in the area. I understand the symbiosis between the university and our community. I am not here to speak badly about student residents. I have a couple of neighbors who are students and they are responsible, upstanding citizens. This said, I do have to admit I am very concerned with the likelihood that my property may soon be book-ended with another “Sagewood”.

    I realize that development in this growing area is inevitable and the Buie tract is prime real estate with the new bypass. I also recognize the financial benefit the city will reap from the deal the developer has made to voluntarily annex the whole of the property, adding to the city’s current taxable area. However; there are two kinds of development: responsible, planned growth (STICKING TO THE PLAN) and irresponsible, by-the-seat-of-your-pants growth. I happen to know firsthand about both.

    I was born and raised in Northern Virginia, from the 70’s through the late 90’s- during the boom of development in the area (which is EXACTLY what is in store for the 35 corridor now), and I have seen the results of both kinds of expansion. I have seen what ages well and adds to the community and I have seen what has not.

    The single family subdivisions that restricted the clearing of native plants and trees, that cooperated with the existing residents- in essence worked to minimize all aspects of negative impact on the land, the ecosystem and the community- are still attractive, popular neighborhoods.

    Meanwhile, the mass constructed apartment complexes, without the care taken by a homeowner with pride in ownership- someone with an investment in their community- those having sparse native, natural trees or vegetation and were built with little to no regard to the environment or their immediate neighbors, have deteriorated drastically. The property values of these apartments and surrounding houses have not held up as well as the single family subdivisions and their surrounding area. The populations housed in these apartments are not the type of citizens that add to the community. In most cases there has been an increased need for law enforcement in those areas, which adds to the tax burden of all property owners.

    I worry about the implications of approving yet another apartment complex in a city that is now mostly apartments. The Sanctuary Lofts are the exact same type of development, but only a couple of blocks from campus. They have yet to rent out their business/retail spaces, several years after opening. It is my understanding that they are even having a difficult time maintaining high occupancy in their apartments. If this plan doesn’t currently work right next to campus, what makes anyone think it is going to work out on the Buie tract? After several phone calls to local apartments it is clear: The apartments already in the city struggle to maintain occupancy as it is. Why provide more apartments with such poor demand? I think the Buie property is going to struggle and possibly fail. I do not believe they will achieve a high enough occupancy to get out of the red. Not where they are planning to build. Not in the price range they are speculating as rental rates. So what we are going to be left with is a poorly maintained, partially vacant development after it is likely sold off to a different managing company with no responsibility to uphold prior commitments made by the developer.

    This irresponsible and unchecked development will have a negative effect on the City’s plans for sustainability. With mostly apartment and rental housing, San Marcos is currently filled with a large amount of transitory residents, with no investment or interest in the long term success of our town. We need to be a place where people set down roots, to be a beacon for families, homeowners who are invested in their community- in our city. What there is a shortage of in San Marcos is quality single family homes- family oriented neighborhoods.

    By allowing the building of apartment complex after apartment complex the city is speaking loud and clear to families such as mine. Homeowners such as myself. We are not as important as these developers.

    The five acres being given as a “gift” to the board of the Franklin Square neighborhood, by the developers of the Buie tract, which, along with the voluntary total annexation offer by the developer to the city, stinks of bribery. What the Franklin Square board has not been forthcoming with is that most of the homeowners in their community do not want the deal. The upkeep and/or development of the 5 acres would have to be funded on the back of the members of the neighborhood, by raising their yearly dues. Especially during this economy that is a burden very few actually want.

    What makes all of this so disagreeable, as our mayor so aptly referenced, also includes how this whole process has been handled by the developer and by the city. There have been issues with proper signage for the announcement of the meetings. One of our neighbors actually had to bring a sign with him to the meeting to show the wrong date was posted. The developer cleared the land while it was still under an agricultural exemption, thus disturbing any natural habitat that may have been evident otherwise. As a result of the questionable clearing of the land there are several Karst features on the property, the whole of which is on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, that cannot be located. Included in this is a cave that is large enough to be named on the Texas Registry, and thought to now be under a pile of brush, rocks and debris.

    The developer has magnanimously said he would be building a home for himself and his fiance to reside in on the far side of the property (far away from the apartments and business space) but we have been told that before and it has not actually happened. That is the same song and dance the partners of the Franklin Square neighborhood gave us- which didn’t end up being the case when all was said and done. The good ‘ole bait and switch.

    I am not looking at just the immediate impact of such a change on our neighborhood. I am looking at the long term ramifications of poorly planned development. I care about San Marcos, not just our neighborhood. My main concern is in regard to the boom that is about to hit the city as a whole and how it is handled from the start. I saw my area in Northern Virginia get destroyed by unchecked development. I want this city to succeed. I want to raise my children here and for them to stay in this area and raise their families here.

    This place is special. It needs to remain special. The homogenization of the area needs to go around San Marcos, not through it. You should be able to drive into San Marcos and know it. Soon our city will be but a suburb of Austin and San Antonio. Kyle and New Braunfels will butt against our city limits, with all of us growing. It will all blend together to be one big blob of concrete and strip malls if we are not careful. San Marcos has character. We need to preserve that. It absolutely can be done. The master plan is a start, but it has to be followed and adhered to. Extreme caution needs to be given to the local environment; we live in a very environmentally sensitive area. Care needs to be given to the family neighborhoods. The families that live here and stay here and add to the city are assets. Students that live here and stay here and are involved in the city are assets. More apartments are not how you get these assets to stay and be assets. Single family housing is the biggest draw for both demographics. More apartment make no sense at all. Rezoning this area in such a reckless an unplanned way only opens the doors for more of the same in an area that needs to be preserved for many reasons.

  13. Concerned, you have my sympathy. I would encourage you to not allow City Council or other supporters of this project to put words in your mouth re: students.

    You are spot-on with your Sagewood concerns and in dealing with that problem for nine years now, it has never really mattered to me who is living in that dump. I’m sure there are some students there and I am sure there are plenty of non-students. I have no idea which ones are causing problems and I don’t care. The problem is Sagewood and the city needs to demonstrate that they can keep that problem under control and prevent it from having a negative impact on traffic, safety, quality of life and property values, if they want broad support for another such development.

    The students aren’t the problem. Don’t allow supporters of this project to shift the argument in that direction. It is their way of putting up a straw man (or allowing others to do so) and sidestepping the real issues.

  14. I definitely want it to be clear: my concerns are not based on students. There are good and bad neighbors of every age and demographic. If we didn’t have the university the local infrastructure would not support many of the perks we have in San Marcos. We have all of the conveniences of a big city, but with a small town atmosphere. An atmosphere that needs to be protected. If you look at other towns of similar size and makeup that have successfully defined themselves and preserved their heritage there is a constant: making a plan ahead of time and sticking to it.

    Our city officials would do well to look outside of themselves and the money to see the big picture. While many of the decisions they have made of late adds money now, it robs our futures. They are the defense of the citizens against the cheapening of our community, our homes and our city.

    I hope and pray that the landowners within 200 feet of the proposed changes all signed the petition. The folks on Franklin Street, west of Bishop, will be severely impacted, much more than I will be only a few blocks away. I hope they realize how much. The multi-use land is directly in front of their front doors. The backs of the businesses there will stare them in the face every day, since the front of the businesses are to be located on the Wonderworld Extension side of the property. To add insult to injury to them, there is no restriction as to what time the dumpsters for these businesses have to be emptied. Who wants to be woken up at 5 or 6 am by the sound of a trash truck collecting the refuse in the dumpsters, along with the beep, beep, beep of their backup warning? Not I.

    I really hope that being forced to a super majority vote will convince the powers that be that this issue is important to a bunch of their constituents, because otherwise I will probably be volunteering on the campaigns of anyone running against the ones that vote yes.

    All of this coming from someone who is not a San Marcos native- I chose to live here, to buy a house here and join the community. Here. On purpose.

    Also, I’d like to point out several things in rebuttal to some posts above. First, why it is easy for the Couches to applaud this development. They don’t live by it. Neither does Don Nash. Neither does our mayor or the others who voted in approval. Bose does and you see how he voted. Thomason shouldn’t be so surprised the board of Franklin Square is in support of the project. They are getting 5 acres, to do with whatever they wish, as payment for their support. I have been heavily involved in the opposition of this rezoning and development. I have never seen any flyer questioning Pam’s integrity. What purpose would such a thing serve? The grass roots campaign against the vote does not have the time or resources to target anyone with a printed flyer. The notion is ludicrous. I wonder if anyone actually had a copy of said flyer. I doubt it. It seems like it would serve a greater purpose to smear the dissenters than to question the ethics of someone who is not really important in the whole deal. Especially when there is a whole neighborhood being “gifted” land for their support. That should make it into a flyer. Or maybe how the city will benefit from the taxes on the land that will be voluntarily annexed ONLY IF the deal goes through. That seems pertinent. What Pam Couch thinks is irrelevant to the issue. It is her husband who has the vote, not her.

    Comparing the Aqualand project to the Buie tract is apples and oranges. First, the size of the property itself, second, the location of the property- namely the difference in ecological features and impact and where it falls in the “plan” our fearless leaders are supposedly following, and lastly the reported possible 70 plus unit buildings versus the Buie tract’s possible 450 something units to be in 3 to 4 story tall buildings.

    Finally, saying that only 14 people are against the rezoning is a serious misrepresentation. The 14 people who signed the petition mentioned are most of the property owners whose properties are located within 200 feet of the proposed changes. That rules out the 350+ households impacted in the Castle Forest neighborhood and the 100 or so households in the Franklin Square neighborhood that are not located within the 200 feet restriction and not counting the board members whose support is being “rewarded”. Nor does it represent the neighbors surrounding Crockett Elementary, between RR12 and Bishop or the folks that are located south of Franklin to the west of Bishop (Oak Heights and Westover). There are A LOT of us. We just don’t get the leverage of a petition because we are not considered to be directly impacted by the rezoning. Oh, and then add on people from the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance, the San Marcos River Foundation, etc. that are working to prevent the environmental impact.

    And considering that a supposed smear campaign against her long time buddy made Narvaiz tear up, I’d like to share something real. While walking along Franklin Street, flanking the property, Saturday with my daughter, we passed many beautiful wildflowers, of which my daughter inquired the names. As I was telling her about the plants, including the beautiful Gaillardia of my alma mater, and the animals that ate the plants, etc., she started crying, real tears from a 10 year old. She lost a little bit of her innocence of the world when she realized the flowers she was admiring were going to be paved over for a parking lot for a glorified strip mall. Sold out by the very government that is supposed to protect it. I too want the mayor and the council to look my daughters in the eyes and tell them that they are doing the right thing, for now and for their futures.

  15. Maybe this would get the councils/mayor’s attention….

    Sec. 6.06. Power of recall.
    (a) The people of the city reserve the power to recall any elected officer of the City of San Marcos and may exercise such power by filing with the city clerk a petition demanding the removal of the officer, signed by at least ten per cent of the qualified voters of the city.

  16. It was reported elsewhere that the petitions fell short of requiring a super majority vote. If an avalanche of citizens show up to speak during the Citizens Comment period at the May 18th City Council meeting, would that change the minds of any of those four during the second vote?

    Remember, it only takes two readings now, not three like it used to be. This passed the first reading, and the “Public Hearing” on it has taken place, so the only thing left now is the second reading on the 18th. Plenty showed up on the first reading, but it didn’t seem to matter, especially since some on the City Council appeared to have already made their mind up regardless of what any public comments had to say.

    As far as some on the Council are concerned, the editorials and comments here don’t count. Instead, they say what counts is direct input, in person or on the phone, via email, or written and submitted to the Council in advance of the meeting.

    If it is politics that is getting in the way of this being defeated, then I wonder what it would take to get a different result in the second reading.

  17. Mr. Harvey-

    “Citizen Comments” is for show only. The council and mayor have already made their decisions beforehand and behind close doors.

    The petition drive you mentioned was only applicable to citizens residing in the neighborhood affected and challenged the zoning change made by the council. Did any council person change their vote after this show of opposition?

    What would it take to get a different result? Different representation.

    A petition to recall certain council members/mayor, however, would be open to a larger audience and would send a strong message that the citizens are watching and tired of the bs.

  18. “A petition to recall certain council members/mayor, however, would be open to a larger audience and would send a strong message that the citizens are watching and tired of the bs.”

    From now until November could constitute an eternity, when it comes to limiting future and further permanent damage by our rogue City Council, to our community.

  19. The state statute on zoning protests (Local Gov’t Code Sec. 211.006):

    (d) If a proposed change to a regulation or boundary is protested in accordance with this subsection, the proposed change must receive, in order to take effect, the affirmative vote of at least three-fourths of all members of the governing body. The protest must be written and signed by the owners of at least 20 percent of either:

    (1) the area of the lots or land covered by the proposed change; or

    (2) the area of the lots or land immediately adjoining the area covered by the proposed change and extending 200 feet from that area.

    (e) In computing the percentage of land area under Subsection (d), the area of streets and alleys shall be included.

  20. The first round of petitions did not have enough signatures, and the vote on the first reading of the ordinance stands.

    The instructions at the top of the “Rezoning Protest Form” (from City Hall) say the following:

    1. A protest to a proposed rezoning of property must be signed by the owners of at least 20 percent of either 1) the area of the proposed change, or 2) the area of the lots or land within a 200 foot perimeter around the area of the proposed change.
    2. Copies of this form may be used, but all signatures must be original, and all forms must be submitted to the City Clerk’s office at five (5) business days before the scheduled City Council public hearing on the rezoning.
    3. You must be an owner of property for your signature to count in determining the protest area.

    It is the 2nd point above that makes me think we missed the window for the petition to get the job done. If that is the case, then the only immediate action available is for enough citizens to contact the Mayor and City Council members (either by phone or email or in person or especially at the City Council meeting next Tuesday) to potentially sway one of the four to change their mind on the second reading. Remember, it only takes two readings (not three like it used to be) for this ordinance to be approved.

  21. damn. thanks, Steve. Perhaps spending our time and effort on a recall petition is not the worst idea… very discouraging.

  22. Some people say the Horizons Master Plan is just a set of suggestions, but the Texas Local Government Code (211.004) says, “Zoning regulations must be adopted in accordance with a comprehensive plan.”

  23. “Citizen Comments” is for show only. The council and mayor have already made their decisions beforehand and behind close doors.”

    Sam D. I strongly disagree.
    1.) What is said can, and does, make a difference. You just have to be organized, and be leaning on your council members ahead of time.
    2.) Only ten10% of the registered voters voted in the last city council election. One of those elected voted against, one voted with. If you can start working now, you can get your additional 3% of the people to vote this November. Let the council know you are active, and will get people to vote against them, and why. It’s legal. And it does work. There IS an election coming up in November….

  24. Well, we get another swing.
    Westover stakeholder Joe Schnieder noticed that the city did not send notices to all the property
    owners within 200 feet of the Buie tract as required by state law.
    The city must now “start over”, and will schedule the Buie tract for P&Z and send out notices
    again.
    Meeting, anyone?

  25. I sent a letter to the Editor today, regrettably it went in before I could submit one datum correction regarding the 5 acre payoff to the Franklin Square HOA (not 5000). Bottom line is, we still have a chance. ELECTED officials HAVE to listen to their constituents and thank the Lord there is an upcoming election. Those who are so favorable to this, are welcome to move this planned zoning change to their own low density, single family neighborhoods, we do NOT stand in the way of progress just of the disregard and violation of the Master and Sector Plans. There is a lot of land in San Marcos that would more harmoniously blend with the MU zoning. Land that is not direclty over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone, that doesn’t have one of the last neighborhood schools in town and that has regular width streets with sidewalks. The Officials who are attempting to bulldoze their constituents, need to realize that a lot of the money they are going to make off this IF they force it through, will be spent on additional police force to patrol our newly jeopardized neighborhoods. Make no mistake, we will not hesitate to call the police when needed and, with 1000+ more people, it will be. Didn’t have time in the 3 mins alloted at City Hall to respond to Mr. Couch regarding his friend who moved to New Braunfels instead of San Marcos because “there is nothing to do here”. I need to ask, what swayed him? The excellent Opera, Ballet, Art galleries and Museums? Please!! He was probably swayed by the fact that they are obsessive about protecting their zoning laws and they look out for their neighborhoods. On the bright side, I am sure that the shops they want to add on the ground floor of the Buie tract apartments will make the town suddenly burgeon with new activities!!

  26. Only Tract 1 of the Buie tract was affected by the lack of
    notification, and only Tract 1 will be withdrawn from
    the city council agenda. Tract 1 is the strip between Franklin south of Bishop and the
    extension of Craddock, which the city is constructing now.
    Mixed Use (MU) zoning had been requested for Tract 1. Mixed Use can be a
    business with living space over it; it can be other things as well.
    Tract 2, which is mostly apartments, will be on the city council
    agenda on Tuesday, May 18. Tract 2 is west of the extension of
    Craddock.
    Lots of good folks are working on this, and I believe we can still have an affect on the outcome.
    There are 3 proposed developments pending on our Recharge Zone in San Marcos, and none are
    in line with our Master Plan. Stay tuned….

  27. Here’s a newsflash- Sunday evening, Pam Couch and Gordon Muir were “jovially” walking a petition of their own in the Westover and Franklin Square neighborhoods.

    It reads:
    “My name previously appeared on a petition opposing the rezoning of the Buie tract to Mixed Use…. I am NOT opposed the the rezoning and ask that my signature on the petition be disregarded…”

    Mr. Muir told residents about how great this development would be, that it would only be one story, with underground utilities and maybe a Whole Foods grocery store and some coffee shops… wow! sounds great!
    At least one neighbor fell for it and signed the “un-petition” petition.
    Wow. I am continually amazed by the fraudulent extremes these guys will go to to get this project approved.
    This guy has never told the truth, and
    what does Pam Couch have to gain in all this? Maybe her husband Bucky needs some work? I’m just sayin’…
    We don’t need ethics, we need a lawyer.

  28. I have to admit, Chris…..I thought your story was going to end with Pam throwing a cell phone at Gordon.

  29. Setting aside the environmentalists’ argument and the NIMBY group, zoning changes like this should be avoided because they upset settled expectations. MF and Commercial designations are worth more money to the property owner. The owners of the Buie tract bought the property cheaper because it wasn’t designated to allow such uses, and now they are working to receive a windfall (excess unearned profit) from a change in zoning. A windfall profit isn’t always bad in and of itself, but in this case, it comes at the expense of those who purchased MF and Commercial property in town for its true market value. Other owners will see their values drop due to the increase in supply of such properties. I don’t expect many on this board to shed a tear for Carson and other owners, but we should not forget other owners/developers because upsetting their expectations injects unpredictability in their business and discourages them from doing business in our community moving forward.

  30. You are right, John. I hope my friend Dr. Jack Weatherford is paying close attention to all of this and decides to sue everyone in his eyeline.

  31. “A windfall profit isn’t always bad in and of itself, but in this case, it comes at the expense of those who purchased MF and Commercial property in town for its true market value.”

    I agree. I’m not shedding a tear, but these property value increases do not happen in a vaccuum. There are a lot of undeveloped/empty commercial and MF properties in San Marcos. Whenever we rezone property like this, or offer up incentives, we make the playing field a little less balanced and make it a little harder for those other property owners. How much harder? I don’t know. How much is acceptable? If I owned one of those vacant properties, I’d be pretty unhappy and I’d be looking for my development incentive, to balance things out.

  32. If you are not watching City Council right now, you have missed an incredible show. And it’s not over yet.

  33. Just for what it is worth, the San Marcos “Horizons” Master Plan was adopted as ORDINANCE at its completion, for the specific purpose of protecting it from incursions by either the City or landowner/developers–especially those not from around here, who might take for granted that a few bucks and some politickin’ and lyin’ and promisin’ would sweep aside any inconveniences or impediments. Not to follow the guidelines of this particular Plan carries civil and legal penalties. It can be amended if necessary, via a well-defined process.

    It is wonderful to see more people noticing the goings-on and taking their roles as citizens seriously as they try to make the City sustainable, affordable, efficient, and expandable in an orderly way. Conversations need to be had–especially with those who believe that either “it can’t happen to us” or that nothing can be done to slow the “economic development” train and the miseries it can bring. We learned this as a COMMUNITY during the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. Thus the emphasis right up front that THE PLAN SHOULD BE USED TO MAINTAIN THE UNIQUELY DESIRABLE AMBIANCE AND QUALITY OF LIFE SM has always been known for, and carry it into a growing future. There have been mistakes, rip-offs, and a few casualties, but the protective walls still stand. So far.

    There is room for all kinds of deliberate growth, creatively, rightly and appropriately done. And money to be made without disruption or plunder. Haphazard growth, urban or otherwise, is known as the serious disease of cancer.

  34. The city council meeting agenda packet included a report from city staff with a matrix of select points from the Master Plan and columns with blocks for check mark in either “Buie plan complies” or “does not comply” indicated. Most of the blocks were checked with “complies” assessment. The summary and detail of the city staff report basically says the proposed zoning changes comply with the spirit of the plan.

    Some or many of our city leaders and city staff apparently feel those citizens raising concerns are misinformed, lacking information, or otherwise just don’t understand. It would be great if we can open things up between city staff and leaders, and the citizens, in certain aspects of city planning and development. Maybe some “town hall” type meetings, from time to time, could be helpful, as long as it is sincere and open dialog. The in-person meetings coujld be complemented by some kind of “town square” virtual (online) open discussion forum.

    I know if I were serving on a board or commission or staff or council position, I’d really appreciate additional and enhanced opportunities for input and dialog on these important topics for our community’s future.

  35. Mr. Roark- regarding our exchange about “Citizen Comment” time being a farce or not..well…OK- told you so. Note how the council had worked their magic on the prepared checklist that showed they were following rules. end of discussion as far as they were concerned.

    Mr. Harvey nailed it with his insight “Some or many of our city leaders and city staff apparently feel those citizens raising concerns are misinformed, lacking information, or otherwise just don’t understand. ” Many politicians really do believe once elected that “serving their constituents” means they do all the hard thinking for the public so we don’t have to..after all we trusted them with our votes.

    Civil disobedience and embarrassing these bloated politicians with signs and media can go far. (You do risk someone driving by and screaming “Damn hippie!” at you though.)

  36. But, as the great Mel Brooks said…”Before you go around accusing anyone of grave robbing, you better make damn sure of your evidence”. Sadly, we live in a sound byte society where we’re all busy all the time. Certainly too busy to attend all of every P&Z and Council meeting and learn what the compromises were that led to a questionable ruling. I’m not saying the Buie tract ruling is right or wrong (I’ve been too busy…) but I do know there have been good plans scuttled by the uninformed rabble seizing on the emotion of an issue.

    As to all the criticism of our elected and appointed fellow citizens, I’m reminded of a Paul Thoroux quote: ‘Nothing is so satisfying to the lazy mind as news that reinforces a negative stereotype’. For some people it’s fun to think the politicians are all on the take. Me, I doubt it highly.

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