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

May 20th, 2010
Buie Tract changes turn official as opponents fume

052010buie

Buie Tract developers Rick Coleman, left, and Gordon Muir, right, address the San Marcos City Council in support of their project. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

After continued public outcry against a controversial development in the western stretches of the city carried no weight with the San Marcos City Council Tuesday night, most of the rezoning changes approved on May 4 for the Buie Tract remain.

Councilmembers who voted for the rezoning classifications for the Buie Tract earlier this month decided to not reconsider their vote Tuesday, effectively making the changes permanent. Opponents of the changes have been quite vocal in arguing that the new designations disregard the citizen-produced Horizons Master Plan, which calls for Very Low Density Residential (VLDR) and Single-Family (SF-6) in the area.

The new zoning designations were altered from VLDR and SF-6 to Medium Density Residential (MDR), Mixed-Use (MU), and Multi-Family (MF-12).

The only portion of the development in which the changes approved earlier this month will not apply is a 12.88 acre tract fronting Franklin Street. City officials announced late last week that the developer will have to re-initiate the zoning process for that property after it was determined that the city hadn’t notified all of the property owners within 200 feet of the proposed change, as required by state law.

Residents appealed to councilmembers for or against reconsideration of the zoning changes on the other three tracts within the project during Tuesday’s citizen comment period, a process full of emotion lasting for more than an hour.

Among those speaking on behalf of the project were developers Gordon Muir, Rick Coleman and his son Chase Coleman, project consultant Ed Theriot (who use to work as an engineer for the city of San Marcos), and project engineer Steve Ramsey. Also speaking for the project were Pam Couch, who served on the city council until last December, and Economic Development San Marcos (EDSM) Executive Director Amy Madison.

“In the Buie Tract development it seems we have hit a home run,” Madison said, adding that the project has economic development pluses and pointing to developers’ measures of buffering sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge features.

The Buie Tract is on the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, a crucial detail in much resident concern about the project. Opponents also say they dislike the idea of more apartments coming into San Marcos.

Opponents of the changes have named Couch in flyers questioning her integrity and called to end her right to speak in favor of the project at council meetings and at the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z).

Community activist Camille Phillips, formerly the president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA), argued to councilmembers that Couch should be not be allowed to lobby council, given that she’s only recently come off the dais. Phillips said that retiring councilmembers shouldn’t be allowed to appeal to council for a year after their service.

Phillips also said that a conflict inheres in Couch lobbying the P&Z because her husband, Bucky Couch, sits on the commission. After Pam Couch decided last year to not seek re-election in the November 2009 race, she signed on as the treasurer of record for council candidate Ryan Thomason, who sat on the P&Z at the time. When Thomason won election to the city council last November, Bucky Couch was named to the P&Z.

The P&Z will take up the 12.88-tract fronting Franklin Street at its May 25 meeting. City Manager Rick Menchaca said that portion of the Buie Tract has to go through the re-zoning process over again after Franklin Street resident Joe Schneider alerted city officials of the city’s neglect in notifying six homeowners in that area. Menchaca said Tuesday that the city’s Geographic Information System (GIS)  missed updated information in the appraisal district.

In light of the new development of the city’s inaccuracies, Councilmember John Thomaides pressed Menchaca for assurance that the other tracts in the Buie Tract for which rezoning requests were brought forth did not also fall victim to the computer glitches. Thomaides said residents neighboring the other tracts of the Buie property have complained that they, too, were overlooked by the city notification process concerning the proposed changes, which now have become permanent.

Menchaca said he’s confident the mistakes affecting the 12.88-acre tract didn’t permeate the whole process, adding that due diligence was put forth.

“(City) staff physically went through each one manually to make sure that others got (notification) too,” Menchaca said, adding that staff went over the information three times to avoid further mistakes.

Menchaca said two petitions have been submitted rejecting the rezoning of the Franklin Street tract from SF-6 to MU. If the owners of 20 percent or more of property within 200-feet of the tract oppose the zoning request and petition city government, then a supermajority of six councilmembers will be required to approve the changes.

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0 thoughts on “Buie Tract changes turn official as opponents fume

  1. This is disturbing. It seems like too much “good old guy and gal” stuff has infiltrated this flawed decision. I am gravely disappointed. I expect integrity from my government.

  2. It is of great interest that the city council is supposed to represent the citizens of San Marcos. There were at least 100 people who objected to the rezoning of the Buie tract, and just a handful who favored it, obviously those who were involved in profiting from the change. It is glaringly clear that the four members of the city council who voted to change the zoning to Multifamily–450 apartments!–will profit in some material way from that zoning change. They no longer represent the citizens of San Marcos, they reprepresent the developers, who come from out of town and don’t care about our city or our neighborhoods. The Buie tract is covered with recharge features, many of which have been bulldozed, and many of the remainder will be covered with buildings or parking lots. This is an absolutely egregrious abuse of power on the part of those four council members. My thanks to the three who voted to deny the zoning change. They at least listened to the people. Is there anything we can do to reverse this zoning change?
    Many people may not realize that future plans are for Craddock to continue from RR12 all the way above Aquarena Springs and on to I35. This will raise an even more important problem with the extremely sensitive recharge features above Spring Lake and Sink Springs. Be prepared for more bulldozing and a real racetrack from Hunter road to Wonder World Bypass to Craddock to I35. We clearly will need more law enforcement personnel and if we’re fortunate some new city council members.

  3. I am absolutely disgusted by the blatant disregard of the wishes of the San Marcos community by certain “representatives” of said community. Having a home in the area close enough to hear them bull-dozing that I love, I am very seriously considering leaving San Marcos in favor of something outside of the city limits. It is obvious as long as certain people have the power, it doesn’t matter what any of us say to the contrary and I just don’t have the time or resources to fight a losing battle anymore…

  4. Joyce, just be cause the Council voted against your wishes doesn’t mean they aren’t representing the majority of citizens in the City. Nor is 100 people showing up at one meeting necessarily a reflection of the wishes of the rest of the city. Maybe those in favor just let their wishes be known other ways like phone calls, emails, seeing members in person, etc. And neither does a vote opposite your wishes mean someone is profiting from it any more than to assume that you will profit from getting your way. Being realistic and not emotionally stupid is a major problem with how people view politics and the elected officials today. Let’s not succumb to that, and instead set a good example of our kids.

  5. The opposition is always more vocal than the support in cases like this. So it’s no surprise that the majority of people who spoke did so against the plan.

    Also, much of the opposition to this plan was from those who live in the affected area….so with the logic that some are applying here, can we assume that these people were acting in their own self-interests rather than the good of the entire community? If that’s the case, doesn’t Council have a duty to the community at large rather than the special interests of this type of group?

    I’m not saying that I necessarily support Council’s decision here. I just don’t like it when people who don’t have all the facts cry “self interest” “insider dealing” or “corruption” at government when it makes a decision that they disagree with.

  6. Well written Dano, and SO true! Funny that the fake “B. Franklin” on here doesn’t anywhere near resemble the ideas the real Ben Franklin sought in the creation of our government. But I guess those who continue to hide behind fake names will continue to throw stones like a spineless snake trying to incite fear in people. Perhaps he should change his fake name to “chicken little” and thus his cries “the sky is falling” would be more appropriate.

  7. I’d say that using only your first name is more anonymous than ones first initial and last name. Using your logic mawell, or maximillian, or maxiene that makes you more of a coward, right?

    On the real issue about the Buie tract, I don’t live in the nieghborhood and I spoke against the re-zoning on multiple occassions. The lies by the developer are well known by anyone who’s followed this issue. There will be many negative impacts to all of our community if we open the doors for unethical developers to bulldoze and pave over our recharge zone. But hey, when they build all these wonderful air conditioned shopping centers and movie theatres who needs a river to coll off in?

  8. While it is evident that my statements apparently rattle your cage Max, please remember that freedom of speech and expression IS one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

    Your are entitled to express your opinion here, as are the rest of us,…

    …and you certainly have.

  9. It just keeps getting better, ya’ll:

    Both the LUA and rezoning are on the agenda. Craddock Avenue Partners has scaled back the size of the tract to be rezoned from 12.88 acres to 10.65 acres (same legal description as the LUA tract). This action contracts the perimeter of the 200 foot buffer for purposes of a protest petition. City planning staff will have to recalculate the percentage of the protest area based on this action which was taken by the developer last Friday afternoon.
    Michael J. Cosentino
    City Attorney
    City of San Marcos, Texas
    512.393.8153
    Fax 512.393.3983
    mcosentino@sanmarcostx.gov

    CITY COUNCIL MEETING TONIGHT.

  10. To be clear, the developer is changing the location and/or layout of the development on their property, so that less of it is within 200 feet of complaining residents, thus invalidating their complaints?

    Is that really what the mayor means, when she says that they have “done everything they are supposed to do?” Is that really in keeping with the spirit of the ordinance, or is it just following the letter of the law?

  11. So the statute says that residents within 200 feet can protest…..and this prompts (and enables) the developer to move 201 feet away and avoid having to deal with these “troublesome complainers”. Whatta system! Unfortunately for those in the area, this might show exactly what kind of “neighbor” the developer plans to be.

  12. “I wouldn’t want to work with them, but that’s just me.”
    -San Marcos City council Member Chris Jones on the City’s relationship with the decades old San Marcos Council of Neighborhood Associations during tonight’s discussion of a Council appointed “Neighborhood Commission”.

  13. WELL, WHO’DA THUNK IT? Is the Buie Tract a battle lost by affected citizens? Or has the worm turned and taken a dump in the punchbowl? Tuesday’s Council Meeting may not be what it seems, in the end.

    Curiously, after a very stern tutorial for everybody by the Mayor, and in the confusion of trying to shut down opposition or change, the Council voted on the agenda item as printed–to approve or deny zoning for ALL 12 ACRES of the small remaining tract under dispute. There is a little hitch: the developer had asked after the fact to limit to 10 acres, in order to convert and accommodate a group of protestants. There were attempts to deal only with the 10, even though the change was suggested first at the meeting, after a Friday afternoon brainstorm between between “her honor” and the developer. The move would negate several signers of the opposition petitions, thereby avoiding the 20% opposition requirement to create the need for a “super majority” vote of the Council to approve.
    With the omission of the very small tract, the petitioners went down to 18%, thereby failing.

    Whoops! The Planning Director said into the mike, for the official record, that Staff had included late signatures for and against, and the total for all 12 acres met the requirement, with 20.7%. FOR THE WHOLE 12 ACRES. The Attorney had opined that any qualifying signatures for or against would be valid if received prior to the vote. Thus, the petition against was valid for the entire 12 acre proposal, but not for the 10 only. The Mayor took the unusual (possibly illegal) prerogative of declaring from the dais the invalidity of certain late signatures, because “they weren’t in by Friday.” Unfortunately, Staff had accepted them as valid–legally.

    Mayor Herself, insisting on the whole ball of wax, without any complications or amendments, inadvertently created just the situation she was trying to avoid. She had the staff clarify, for the record, that the vote was for 12 acres. The vote was 5 for, 2 against the approval of the zoning FOR ALL 12 ACRES, unless my hearing has gone worse than I THINK. No super majority, therefore, no pass.

    THUS, the developer and his supporters, including, for some odd reason, former Council Member Couch, left the meeting jubilant and triumphant. (Incidentally, as one person pointed out, the overall “development agreement,” which was to have been promptly filed at the Courthouse some time ago, was nowhere to be found at the Courthouse, after research by the County Clerk and staff. So much for “doing everything we were supposed to.”)

    Unfortunately, the record (and videotape) seems to show that the Mayor was a tad hasty in declaring the matter approved and settled. (Not only that, but the ostensible TQEC approval of the Environmental Impact Survey, seems to have missed at least two fragile Aquifer recharge features, to wit, two CAVES.) The dozing and covering was done well in advance of the EIS, apparently, a few months ago when the land in question was cleared “for pasture land” as a part of an application for an agricultural use tax exemption. Whoops, again. Twice more, in fact.

    It seems the vote on the original agenda item as submitted DID NOT PASS, LEGALLY. That is actually a rather minor impediment for the developer, who can apparently proceed with the far larger part of his attempt to pave over sensitive recharge area–damned unlikely to build it out himself, since that’s not what big developers do, but to pass it on to someone who actually does deal in commercial real estate and high-density apartments. But the residents who will be affronted by the backside of the commercial, with its supply trucks and garbage services, etc., may get a respite, a chance to try again, and to get real buffering, at least–the ostensible reason for Mr. Developer to hold out the +/- 3 acres for “further discussions with the residents” in the first place. (A subject which seems to have evaporated when the proposal couldn’t be split and apparently passed “as is.”)

    I am sure there are lawyers in town salivating to get a piece of such a lay-down deal against the City for its shady handling of the matter, which won’t pass either the smell test or legal scrutiny. (Another funny thing–detailed maps have been made and presumably still exist at the University EARDC of the caves, sinkholes, fractures, photo-lineaments, etc. on the ground before it was disturbed.) A lot of egg to go around for a lot of determined and thoughtless, “make the deal” faces.

    If there remains enough energy among the affected civilians and other citizens who want SUSTAINABLE development for the community, that is. (The repeated Mayoral use of the term “smart growth” is a sham, as that term means whatever anybody breathing wants to call it–not a competent planner in the Universe uses or can define it. “Sustainable” sort of defines itself, no?)

    The Horizons Master Plan is not, as Ms. Couch testified, “after all just a plan, and sometimes plans just need to be changed to suit new conditions.” First, the recharge area directly feeding our water supply and the River ain’t exactly “new conditions,” nor is our commitment to protect them in specific ways. It’s a legally binding Ordinance of the City, and there is a carefully prescribed, realistic way to change it, rather than just ignoring it.

    As Ms Wassenich is aware, we are on the threshold of a new struggle to maintain our access to clean local water and the River which is the historic soul of San Marcos. It promises to be big, long, nasty, and easy to lose in the statewide rise of water and water rights competition to a very major issue across the State, where we have overpopulated, strained, polluted and wasted the resource to increasingly desperate scarcity–for money, of course. We’d best be ready to defend what we’ve got at all costs. SA and Auustin are already at each other in the courts over whether Austin and LCRA must provide water to fuel the ever-increasing appetite of SA–the monster that already tried VERY hard to swallow us for a decade over a decade ago. Consider who’s got the clout in the Lege, likely including our own Senator, who has more people where he lives than here.

    Here as usual, if WE won’t stand up for US, somebody will be very happy to manage our affairs–and our future–for us. And make money doing it, much of that our money. Time to be more than onlookers rubber-necking at the carnage.

  14. WELL, WHO’DA THUNK IT? Is the Buie Tract a battle lost by affected citizens? Or has the worm turned and taken a dump in the punchbowl? Tuesday’s Council Meeting may not be what it seems, in the end.

    Curiously, after a very stern tutorial for everybody by the Mayor, and in the confusion of trying to shut down opposition or change, the Council voted on the agenda item AS PRINTED–to approve or deny zoning for ALL 12 ACRES of the small remaining tract under dispute. There is a little hitch: the developer had asked after the fact to limit to 10 acres, in order to convert and accommodate a group of protestants. There were attempts to deal only with the 10, even though the change was suggested first AT the meeting, after a Friday afternoon brainstorm between between “her honor” and the developer. The move would negate several signers of the opposition petitions, thereby avoiding the 20% opposition requirement to create the need for a “super majority” vote of the Council to approve.
    With the omission of the very small tract, the petitioners went down to 18%, thereby failing.

    Whoops! The Planning Director said into the mike, for the official record, that Staff had included late signatures for and against, and the total for all 12 acres met the requirement, with 20.7%. FOR THE WHOLE 12 ACRES. The Attorney had opined that any qualifying signatures for or against would be valid if received prior to the vote. (Supposedly, there are another dozen oppo’s. filed Tuesday, which never were counted.) Thus, the petition against was valid for the entire 12 acre proposal, but not for the 10 only. The Mayor took the unusual (possibly illegal) prerogative of declaring from the dais the invalidity of certain late signatures, because “they weren’t in by Friday.” Unfortunately, Staff had accepted them as valid–legally–and said so on the record.

    Mayor Herself, insisting on the whole ball of wax, without any complications or amendments, inadvertently created just the situation she was trying to avoid. She had the staff clarify, for the record, that the vote was for 12 acres. The vote was 5 for, 2 against the APPROVAL OF THE ZONING CHANGE FOR ALL 12 ACRES, unless my hearing has gone worse than I THINK. No super majority, therefore, no pass. Hard cheese for the “pre-development agreement” (WHAT !!??) and apparent sureties made beforehand to the developer by slavering advocates.

    THUS, the developer and his supporters, including, for some odd reason, former Council Member Couch, left the meeting jubilant and triumphant. (Incidentally, as one person pointed out, the overall “development agreement,” which was to have been promptly filed at the Courthouse some time ago, was nowhere to be found at the Courthouse, after research by the County Clerk and staff. So much for “doing everything we were supposed to.”)

    Unfortunately, the record (and videotape) seems to show that the Mayor was a tad hasty in declaring the matter approved and settled. (Not only that, but the ostensible TQEC approval of the Environmental Impact Survey, seems to have missed at least two fragile Aquifer recharge features, to wit, two CAVES.) The dozing and covering was done well in advance of the EIS, apparently, a few months ago when the land in question was cleared “for pasture land” as a part of an application for an agricultural use tax exemption. Whoops, again. Twice more, in fact.

    It seems the vote to approve the original agenda item as submitted DID NOT PASS, LEGALLY.

    That is actually a rather minor impediment for the developer, who can apparently proceed with the far larger part of his attempt to pave over sensitive recharge area–damned unlikely to build it out himself, since that’s not what big developers do, but to pass it on to someone who actually does deal in commercial real estate and high-density apartments. But the residents who will be affronted by the backside of the commercial, with its supply trucks and garbage services, etc., may get a respite, a chance to try again, and to get real buffering, at least–the ostensible reason for Mr. Developer to hold out the +/- 3 acres for “further discussions with the residents” in the first place. (A subject which seems to have evaporated when the proposal couldn’t be split and apparently passed “as is.”)

    I am sure there are lawyers in town salivating to get a piece of such a lay-down deal against the City for its shady handling of the matter, which won’t pass either the smell test or legal scrutiny. (Another funny thing–detailed maps have been made and presumably still exist at the University EARDC of the caves, sinkholes, fractures, photo-lineaments, etc. on the ground before it was disturbed.) A lot of egg to go around for a lot of determined and thoughtless, “make the deal” faces.

    If there remains enough energy among the affected civilians and other citizens who want SUSTAINABLE development for the community, that is. (The repeated Mayoral use of the term “smart growth” is a sham, as that term means whatever anybody breathing wants to call it–not a competent planner in the Universe uses or can define it. “Sustainable” sort of defines itself, no?)

    The Horizons Master Plan is not, as Ms. Couch testified, “after all just a plan, and sometimes plans just need to be changed to suit new conditions.” First, the recharge area directly feeding our water supply and the River ain’t exactly “new conditions,” nor is our commitment to protect them in specific ways. It’s a legally binding Ordinance of the City, and there is a carefully prescribed, realistic way to change it, rather than just ignoring it.

    As Ms Wassenich is aware, we are on the threshold of a new struggle to maintain our access to clean local water and the River which is the historic soul of San Marcos. It promises to be big, long, nasty, and easy to lose in the statewide rise of water and water rights competition to a very major issue across the State, where we have overpopulated, strained, polluted and wasted the resource to increasingly desperate scarcity–for money, of course. We’d best be ready to defend what we’ve got at all costs. SA and Auustin are already at each other in the courts over whether Austin and LCRA must provide water to fuel the ever-increasing appetite of SA–the monster that already tried VERY hard to swallow us for a decade over a decade ago. Consider who’s got the clout in the Lege, likely including our own Senator, who has more people where he lives than here.

    Here as usual, if WE won’t stand up for US, somebody will be very happy to manage our affairs–and our future–for us. And make money doing it, much of that our money. Time to be more than onlookers rubber-necking at the carnage.

  15. Spot on rally cry that we need more citizens to get involved now to ensure sustainable growth for San Marcos to still be the jewel of Texas in years to come.

  16. Mayor Moore;

    Thanks for standing up for what is intelligent with respect to this vital issue, and for what is right.

    The insight, experience and perspective that you bestow to support the substantiated outcries of the majority who WILL NOT BENEFIT from this incredible sham that is being perpetrated on our citizenry at-large, out of the self-serving motives of corruption and greed by these short-sighted, soulless factions at City Hall,

    is highly valued and drives through the heart, the legitimate concerns of the collective voice of San Marcos voters and residents who continually find themselves on the outside-looking-in YET AGAIN,

    as the unwilling recipients to the inevitable detriments of YET ANOTHER shady deal, conjured by our ROGUE ELECTED GOVERNMENT at City Hall.

    Can we afford to wait until November?

    Perhaps not.

  17. It is interesting that there are no comments in support of this latest move. I am hoping that is because even those in support of this development recognize the last minute attempts to redefine the playing field as an underhanded, dirtbag maneuver, not that they just haven’t gotten around to commenting yet.

  18. In the past, I have been far less critical of the Mayor than many on here. Overall, I tend to think of developments like this one as a good thing.

    But for her to simply shove due process aside and make a declaration from the pulpit like she did (invalidating the signatures on the petition after they had been cleared by staff) is beyond my ability to defend.

    At best, she has now ignored the clear will of the people on a technicality (which is, for a politician, still a grave offense). At worst, she has overreached her powers and abused her authority as Mayor.

    Either way, I am becoming convinced that this term in office should be – and will be – her last.

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