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Buie Tract development gets second council nod

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Former San Marcos City Councilmember Pam Couch, left, and former city engineer Ed Theriot, right, who now is a consultant for Craddock Avenue Partners, speak in favor of the Buie Tract development to the city council. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

The San Marcos City Council approved a scaled back zoning change for the controversial proposed Buie Tract development Tuesday night, clearing the way for a mixed-use project on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone and near several established single-family neighborhoods in the Western reaches of the city.

The 5-2 vote, with councilmembers Gaylord Bose and John Thomaides dissenting, came after a motion to deny the request was voted down.

Thomaides motioned to deny the amended 10.65-acre zoning request on Franklin Drive, which was scaled back from the original 12.88 acres initially requested for the mixed-use (MU) zoning designation. The acreage was designated as single-family (SF-6).

The developers of the Buie Tract requested early on the morning of May 28 that the zoning request be downsized from 12.88 acres to 10.65, San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said.

Craddock Avenue Partner Gordon Muir, part owner of the property, told councilmembers the downsizing of the zoning request came after the developers wanted to include Grant Court homeowners in the discussion after first excluding them, though they, too, would have been affected by the zoning change.

The tract approved for re-zoning had been forced to go through the process for a second time after city officials discovered they hadn’t notified all the property owners within 200 feet of the change, as required by law. The council initially approved the change, and the zoning changes for three other Buie Tract pieces, at its May 4 meeting. The city’s planning and zoning commission (P&Z) gave the 12.88-acre piece its approval for a second time on May 25.

Thomaides pressed Muir after city staff confirmed that if the zoning request would have been considered as originally requested, a super majority of council would have been needed to approve the change. Assistant Planning Director Matthew Lewis said that if council considered the the original request of 12.88 acres, then a super majority of the council would be required, because the owners of 20 percent of the land within a 200-foot radius of the tract signed a petition opposing the development.

With the ammended request of 10.65 acres to be zoned MU, Lewis said, the petition only produced opposing owners of 18.04 percent of the land area affected within a 200-foot radius.

Thomaides verbally pummeled the developers during open session, asserting that they had found a loophole that ultimately disenfranchised some area homeowners, specifically those on Grant Court.

“I’m not going to sit up here and pretend that the developer is evil,” Narvaiz said. “… The petition, when (the developers) asked for this change, was not at 20 percent or over.”

Narvaiz maintained that the developers were unaware that the 20 percent threshold necessary to cause a super majority of council approval had been reached. She said the developers scaled back the zoning request when the petition opposing the zoning change only had signatures from people owning 19 percent of the affected land area within a 200-foot radius.

“You have to admit it does look a little suspicious,” Councilmember Kim Porterfield said before ultimately voting in favor of the zoning request. “The area we were going to consider required a super majority, and now it’s a lesser area (needing only four votes in favor to approve the change).”

The project’s consultant and former city employee Ed Theriot said the scale back of the request keeps the changes “consistent” since the change requested in the Land Use Map also was only for 10.65 acres.

The Land Use Map change from Very Low Density Residential (VLDR) to MU also was for 10.65 acres, since the other 2.23 acres were already MU district.

Theriot said the land use move from VLDR to MU is consistent with the Horizons Master Plan and Sector 2, adding that zoning change request meets the criteria outlined in the plans.

Residents in opposition to the project demand councilmembers act within the parameters set fourth in the Horizons Master Plan, which is a citizen produced document. Opponents say the zoning changes will harm the environment and goes against the hard work and wishes of the citizenry.

The whole Buie Tract is situated above the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, which houses several caves and sensitive karsts. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has approved an exception request that calls for buffer zones to the sensitive features on the property.

Former councilmember Pam Couch who since leaving the council in December has been a strong proponent for the proposed development, took issue with dissenters who cite the Horizons Master Plan in an effort to stall the development.

“A plan is a good thing to have, but it’s not The Bible,” Couch said during the public hearing on the zoning change, adding that a plan is a blue print to follow and research, but fluid enough for changes.

“I appreciate the plan and all the work that was done,” Couch said.

City Attorney Michael Cosentino confirmed that the developers scaled back the request and added that the council can accept zoning change requests that are smaller than their original requests, but council cannot accept an amendment that would increase from the original request.

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#1 Comment By Andrea On 06/03/2010 @ 12:04 pm

Pam Couch is so wise. I say we put her in the Mayor’s chair!
John Thomaides please go in lockstep with the majority of the council and stop standing up for the residents, that only stalls developers from taking advantage of our ridiculous government representation.

#2 Comment By Mike On 06/03/2010 @ 1:36 pm

I’m confused, maybe I just don’t understand.

If the 2.23 acres were already zoned MU then why did the owner go through the process twice with P&Z to change it to MU? Why did the City Planning Office go forward with contacting adjacent property owners about a zoning change if the land was already zoned MU? If the land was already MU why did the City Planning Office, P&Z, City Council and the owner spend so much time on a needless zoning change?

Has it gotten so bad that we must depend on former city employees (Ed) to show us the errors?

Finally, if the 2.23 acres were already zoned MU then why did the developers justify their last minute change to “include Grant Court homeowners in the discussion after first excluding them?”

Seems to me this is a comedy of administrative errors without even considering the other controversial issues surrounding this matter. But, maybe I don’t understand the intricacies of municipal governance…

#3 Comment By Ted Marchut On 06/03/2010 @ 2:02 pm

It would be far more palatable, if it were a comedy of administrative errors. It smells like a deliberate effort to undermine the processes we have in place to protect the neighbors who will have to live with this long after the developers and the politicians are gone.

#4 Comment By B. Franklin On 06/04/2010 @ 8:36 am

““A plan is a good thing to have, but it’s not The Bible,” Couch said during the public hearing on the zoning change, adding that a plan is a blue print to follow and research, but fluid enough for changes.”

Excuse me for disagreeing but,

a plan is NOT a good thing to have for someone such as yourself, or for some group that has it’s own private agenda that flies in direct conflict with that plan.

Let’s be honest here.

Please.

““I appreciate the plan and all the work that was done,” Couch said.”

Yes, we can tell.

And we appreciate all of the hard work that YOU are putting in Pam, to determine what is best for us and the citizenry who came up with that popularly derived plan, and for our community in the grand scheme of things, since obviously the citizens and the “little people” don’t know, and are unable to determine what is really best for them, and for us and our desired way of life here in the Texas hill country.

Thank you again.

#5 Comment By Dano On 06/04/2010 @ 9:50 am

It would have been more honest of her to say “We know there is a plan, but what we want to do is not in accordance with that plan, so we’re ignoring it.”

#6 Comment By Jake On 06/04/2010 @ 10:43 am

I think that the approval should have been contingent upon Gordon Muir, Ed Theriot, and Pam Couch having to move and live on Grant Court or similar residence where THEY would have to look at the development day after day. Instead, they get to go home and not have their beautiful view blocked like like we the people who live here will.
Thanks a lot for your neighborly consideration, morons.

#7 Comment By chris north On 06/04/2010 @ 10:58 am

Ed Theriot may have to do some accounting for his actions. Wait for it.
Thanks to everyone who spoke/wrote/signed in opposition of this development and worked hard within “the system” to make our opinion heard and respected.
We could have had an excellent, forward-thinking, cutting edge development that would make the developers money, been a benefit for the surrounding neighborhoods, and had much less impact on the environment. While we all feel discouraged at best, let’s not give up.

#8 Comment By Sin Nombre On 06/04/2010 @ 11:37 am

I’ll say that maybe the plan is like the bible and she follows neither, because if one were religiously Christian, not just spiritually speaking, than they would practice honesty, integrity and sound ethics. None of the proponents of this project have displayed any of these characteristics.

#9 Pingback By QUOTE CORNER – San Marcos Local News On 06/14/2010 @ 4:28 am

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