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June 23rd, 2010
P&Z delays decision on ‘smart code’ amid protests

by SCOTT THOMAS

The Planning and Zoning Commission delayed making a decision about a controversial smart code after detractors packed city hall to speak against the proposed changes Tuesday evening.

The code, which will be taken up again July 22, listed five zones parts of San Marcos would be divided into, listed from T1 through T5. T1 is listed as a “Natural Zone,” with no building allowed on it. T5 is listed as an “Urban center zone,” which says it would consist of retail, offices and apartments.

But the most controversial part of the plan was the labeling of part of the historical district along Hopkins Street west of downtown as a T4 zone, which is described as being “mixed-use, but primarily residential” with “scattered commercial activity.”

“If I wanted to be next to a restaurant I would buy a home next to a restaurant,” said James Baker, a San Marcos resident who lives in the historic district.

Baker was one of the first to speak in the public address period, but his sentiments echoed throughout the night. At least 100 people crammed into city council chambers during the meeting, marking what some said was an attendance record for a planning and zoning commission meeting. Baker said he was in favor of the Downtown Master Plan, but he never realized it would affect residential neighborhoods.

“It’s with dismay and confusion I read I was having a zoning change to my property,” he said. “I read the master plan and it never mentions zoning changes for residential neighborhoods.”

More than 20 people spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, all either expressing similar sentiments or disliking the zoning changes for other reasons.

Commission Chair Sherwood Bishop said the purpose of the new code was to more carefully control how neighborhoods and communities in San Marcos appeared, instead of just what types of businesses are allowed in certain parts of town.

“Commercial zones just have shopping centers and things, which can be terribly ugly and not consistent with the appearance in a particular community,” Bishop said.

He said it’s when the code is applied to individual neighborhoods that “thing’s get a little dicey.”

Commissioner Chris Wood said he would like to see protections for the historical district put in the code next time it is brought up, a sentiment with which other commissioners seemed to agree.

At the end of the day, after all the public comments, commissioners said the proposed ordinance had not been out long enough and not enough people had been involved in the process to go to the next stage.

“This is like handing me a magazine in Russian and asking if I agree with it,” Commissioner Curtis Seebeck said.

The commission had gone through a two-hour workshop on the code. Bishop said he felt the commission was comfortable recommending the code for downtown. However, from the beginning of the meeting Bishop had said he was unsure if any commissioners would apply the code to a specific neighborhood at that point in time.

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB

» City of San Marcos smart code website

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One thought on “P&Z delays decision on ‘smart code’ amid protests

  1. Umm, the current code calls for residential property, in residential neighborhoods. So, yes it does get dicey when people want to rezone. That’s one of many reasons that granting rezoning requests should be the exception, not the rule.

    I suspect that if the new code had switched low-density residential neighborhoods, to T-3, there wouldn’t be much fuss. Unfortunately, there appears to be a large swath, which is proposed to be mixed use.

    As I have said before, much of the trepidation about mixed use would go away (although not all of it), if the city had a habit of following up, to ensure that these properties really did add the value that they were supposed to, and weren’t strewn with trash and causing continuous calls to the police for various problems.

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