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

May 6th, 2010
Council gives rezoning approval for Buie tract

by BRAD ROLLINS
Editor and Publisher

Developers who want to build a mixed-use project that includes 456 residential units on a forthcoming extension of Craddock Avenue cleared another hurdle on Tuesday when the San Marcos City Council approved a package of controversial rezoning requests and land use map amendments.

In a marathon meeting that stretched almost to midnight, council members heard from nearly two dozen detractors of Austin-based Craddock Avenue Partner’s plans for the recently annexed 174-acre Buie tract. About a half-dozen residents spoke in favor of the project, including the president of an adjacent subdivision’s homeowners association.

The council voted 4-3, with Mayor Susan Narvaiz and members Kim Porterfield, Ryan Thomason and Fred Terry in the majority to rezone three tracts totaling about 44 acres from very low density residential to either mixed-use or higher-density multi-family residential. By the same margin, they approved three other rezoning requests related to the Craddock Avenue development’s first phase on property totaling about 45 acres. Council members John Thomaides, Gaylord Bose and Chris Jones opposed the changes.

Praising the project as an example of New Urbanism design that integrates a variety of uses in a walkable environment, Narvaiz said the project affirms decades of public input through programs like Envision Central Texas. Earlier in the meeting, Matthew Lewis, the city’s Development Services assistant director, was heckled briefly when he said the project complies with goals of the city’s Horizons Master Plan.

“Nope, nope, nope!,” said Camille Phillips, a former Council of Neighborhood Associations president who helped organize opposition. She was quieted by Narvaiz and the meeting continued.

Emotions coursed through dialogue on both sides of the issue.

At one point, former council member Pam Couch produced a flier that she said contained innuendo about why she and husband Bucky Couch, a planning and zoning commissioner, supported the rezoning.

“I take this very personally. This crosses a line,” she said.

Several of the throng that turned out to oppose the development referenced Texas State University students who they consider likely to occupy apartments in the development.

“Since we’ve had students who have moved in the last few years, there has been a terrible degradation of our quality of life … it’s changing the character of our neighborhood,” said Jeanette Passty, who lives on Ramona Circle in the nearby Castle Forrest neighborhood.

Developers Gordon Muir and Rick Coleman, represented by San Marcos-based Baker-Aiklen and Associates, have said their development includes no more residential units than they are entitled to under the old very low density residential zoning.

The entire 174-acre property would accommodate 459 units under the old zoning which allows for about three homes per acre, engineer Steve Ramsey said. A development services agreement signed as part of the city’s annexation of the land stipulates that the property will eventually be developed into no more than 456 units, though the residences will be clustered along the Craddock Avenue extension at a higher density than would have been permitted without the rezoning.

Lewis said reducing the footprint of the buildings and requiring they be at least three stories tall reduces the environmental impact on property that is home to at least three mapped caves and a number of karsts and sensitive geological features.

Craddock Avenue Partner’s overtures to sound design, however, did not win many converts within neighborhoods known for well-organized opposition to new development in their sector.

Many of the same residents have pre-emptively opposed development of the 45-acre Weatherford tract at Craddock Avenue and Ranch Road 12. As recently as October, Castle Forest residents successfully opposed a homeowner’s request to allow office/professional uses on his property which fronts heavily traveled Craddock.

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2 thoughts on “Council gives rezoning approval for Buie tract

  1. We like the idea of mixed use and are firm supporters of Envision Central Texas. We did not support the Buie Tract development of going from very low density residential to medium density/ mixed use because of building on top of sensitive recharge features. We based this on the original hammered out recommendations against such actions in this exact spot by the Sector 2 update in 2007 of the Horizons Plan and the synchronized Zoning and Land Use Maps.

    The coincidental actions of the Owner/Developer to tear down all the Warbler nesting sites and bull-doze over sensitive features under the auspices of clearing for more grassland for a few cattle and promising they were not developing the property under their Ag exemption was secondary to our opposition. However, it is worth mentioning that they began the process of planning to develop the land only a short time later. The study done through TCEQ that shows there are no Warblers nesting (how convenient) and the paper trail of this atrocity is another one of the reasons we opposed it.

    Yet another reason is that the residents on Franklin St directly across from this development have to contend with having the backsides of the three-story apartment/business buildings facing their front yard. Building a fence to hide the dumpsters and other eyesores might help visually but how do you block the noise?

    We all already know that it goes against the Horizons Plan and the Sector 2 update, the Zoning Map and the Land Plan Map. The solution offered to the City Council to this dilemma was that perhaps the Plans need to be updated and redone. In the name of Jesus Christ (as they say at the end of the prayers that begin the City Council meetings) we just finished updating the Plans. It looks like the citizens of San Marcos and the homeowners in Sector 2 in particular have been “sold down the river” by P&Z and the City Council.

    The Buie Tract development was not a problem for the newer Franklin Square Association residents since they were deeded a 5-acre private park as a buffer. They also do not have major thru streets “yet.” This made it easy for them to “envision” the development as a good thing. The rest of us around the neighborhood (with lower property values) will have to contend with the increased problems of unplanned commercial and higher density quarters in a single family neighborhood, especially the increase in traffic (and I don’t mean foot traffic as mixed use usually alludes to) along Franklin, Bishop and Craddock from this development.

    As it stands now when we walk our daughter to school every day we would not be able to cross Bishop if we did not have the chutzpah to use our bodies as stopping guards. We sometimes must wait up to 3 minutes to cross. Cars honk at us and drivers wave at us with their middle finger when we start inching into the street to communicate our need to cross.

    You can imagine what it will be like with another 600 cars traveling down Bishop in the next couple of years. Saying that this will not be an issue because people will take the Wonder World extension instead is misleading. No one will go miles out of his or her way to go downtown. It only takes a few trips to learn to avoid Hopkins, RR12 and by August, Wonder World extension to go to town from the neighborhood in question.

    Bishop is not a small, quiet street any longer and this development will increase traffic on it. The Wonder World extension will also create more traffic down Bishop as more and more development winds along its path towards RR12 and people’s desire to avoid the gridlock that will develop on it in the next few years will find traveling down Bishop and the ancillary, small, quiet residential streets the answer.

    Oy vey!

  2. This plan involves development on a piece of property that includes numerous caves that lead directly to the Edwards Aquifer. It’s in the Recharge Zone. Yes, San Marcos is growing, and more apartments and mixed-use will be needed, but you know what else is needed in an area with tremendous population growth? Clean water.

    The idea of building a 3-story apartment building on a parcel of land that environmentally sensitive and in that location — abutting several traditionally single-family neighborhoods, one of which includes an elementary school — is ridiculous. Only a greedy land developer and a daft city council would allow it.

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