By the San Marcos Local News editorial board
On May 4, the San Marcos City Council declined approval of a zoning change at 705 West Hopkins Street, which is located in an historic neighborhood. The council decided correctly.
The property owner, Bernice Rainosek, wants to change the zoning from Office Professional (OP) zoning to Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning. Neighborhood residents are quite concerned that the requested zoning would open the location in an historic neighborhood to a variety of high-traffic businesses, such as convenience stores, washeterias, or even tool rentals. Even if Rainosek has no intention of bringing in those types of businesses, the zoning change would make those businesses legal at that location if she decides to sell the property, and it is difficult to change a location from less restrictive zoning to more restrictive zoning, though it has been done.
Councilmembers Chris Jones, Fred Terry, John Thomaides and Ryan Thomason voted against the zoning change. Mayor Susan Narvaiz, along with Councilmembers Kim Porterfield and, surprisingly, Gaylord Bose, voted in favor. Neighborhood residents were relieved that the council prevented the zoning change.
But their relief did not last long. Because the council did not vote on a motion to specifically deny the zoning change — it merely voted against approving the change — the request still is in play. Indeed, it is back on the agenda Tuesday night, reprising a tiresome theme in the governance of San Marcos.
Ordinarily, when the council votes against approval of some motion, the matter dies. Only four times since 1987 has an item gone back on the city council agenda in San Marcos after the council had voted against approval.
But split council votes, such as the 4-3 vote against the Hopkins Street zoning change, have a way of re-introducing issues these days on the San Marcos council. Two of those events have occurred in the last 16 months. In the first case, the council reversed a previous decision and approved a zoning change clearing the path for the Purgatory Creek apartments project near Hunter Road and Wonder World Drive last March. The second case is this Hopkins Street matter.
As we noted a year ago, Narvaiz and City Manager Rick Menchaca, who set the agenda, probably aren’t bringing back an item on which the council previously withheld approval unless they have the votes to render a different decision. Thus, residents have reason for serious concern about the fate of the Hopkins Street property.
In those last 16 months, this city administration has consistently fought back against the demonstrated will of its constituents, whether by its lack of regard for long-term plans drafted by dozens of citizens who had been on the planning and zoning commission, or by its bizarre insistence that sales taxes are the basis of sound financial planning even if the pursuit of incentives for out-of-town retailers jeopardizes existing local businesses, or by simply ignoring geological reality and attempting to loosen watering restrictions in the middle of an historic drought.
It is counter-productive for the city council to continuously cover the same ground over and over again simply because those who write the agenda wish to bring back the same matters until they can secure votes for the outcomes they desire. We don’t disparage the uses of legal and procedural tools available to policy makers in the effort to pass legislation, per se. However, we do object to this persistent defiance of the public, of which the matter of re-opening the Hopkins Street re-zoning because it hadn’t been specifically denied is yet another example.
We urge the mayor, the administration and the city council to focus on the fixing the city’s infrastructure, stimulate better and higher paying jobs with benefits, create a walkable and bikeable community where our speed limits in neighborhoods are enforced, enhance public safety and work to keep — perhaps we should say, “make” — our taxes low. Time and energy spent back-tracking over previously covered ground with the hope of generating different outcomes is time that can’t be spent on the city’s more suitable priorities.
The members of the city council are duly elected at large by all registered voters in our city. The councilmembers collectively represent all of us. When the council majority says “no,” then, unless there are significant changes in the facts, that means “no,” and let’s move on. Instead, it seems that citizens who win close council decisions can never rest against these continuous assaults on their political will by city leaders. Citizens who watch the agenda and express their views to the council are forced back before the council to take up these matters again and again.
When the Hopkins Street re-zoning matter goes before the council once again Tuesday night, we urge to council to not merely vote against a motion to approve. We urge the council to entertain a specific motion to deny, then vote for that motion. And, in the future, when split votes go against the keepers of the agenda, we hope motions to deny will immediately follow, putting such items to rest for good.Email | Print