Melissa Neslund of Bury & Partners, left, and Walt Elias of Carma Texas, right, discuss proposed changes to the Blanco Vista concept plan with the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Carma Texas is asking the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to accept a new concept plan for the Blanco Vista community in northern San Marcos.
Carma’s new concept plan would remove the current cap of 70 townhomes and increase the possible amount of multi-family units from 180 to 900.
Carma has agreed to meet with city staff in the next two weeks to nail down the details. City officials are concerned that Blanco Vista residents bought their homes expecting to be surrounded by single-family homes.
“Did they buy into that neighborhood thinking that there would be no more than X number of townhomes and no apartments with college kids?” asked P&Z Commissioner Curtis Seebeck. “That’s, I guess, the bottom line that concerns me. Did they buy into a nice, peaceful, quiet, single family neighborhood where their kids could ride their bikes down the street without worrying about drunken college ki … I’m not picking on the college kids, but … drunken apartment complex tenants, let’s put it that way, speeding up and down the streets because they have no property ownership interest in the (neighborhood)?”
The proposed concept plan amendment also would allow mixed uses anywhere in the development, except where commercial and multi-family uses are specified. Multi-family uses would be relocated from the northwest corner of the development to the vicinity of arterial or neighborhood collector roads. Commercial uses would be relocated from the northeast corner of the development the vicinity of arterial or neighborhood collector roads.
The proposed amendment also would increase the development’s density from 4.9 units per acre to 5.5 units per acre, or from 2,060 units to a maximum of 2,287 units, according to city planning staff. Blanco Vista lies on about 575 acres just north of the Blanco River near Five Mile Dam Park.
Blanco Vista’s current concept plan restricts multi-family buildings to a heavily-wooded, 50.5-acre hill in the northwest corner of the development — the location that is the furthest away from roads and utility infrastructure and in the most difficult place to build. When asked by a P&Z commissioner “whose idea was that,” Bury & Partners engineer Charlie Fowler, speaking for Carma to the P&Z Tuesday, said he did not know. Fowler said moving multi-family uses from the hill would benefit the city and Blanco Vista residents.
Bury & Partners planner Melissa Neslund said the current concept plan for Blanco Vista contradicts mixed use zoning district standards and undercuts the intent of a mixed use, master planned development. San Marcos Assistant Director of Development Services Matthew Lewis said the current concept plan has resulted in administrative problems for the city and Carma. San Marcos Senior Planner Sofia Nelson said the proposed concept plan would make it easier to track impervious cover and living unit equivalents.
“We do have some problems right now, which setbacks to enforce — mixed use or the ones that are on the concept plan?” Nelson said. “In those respects, (the amendment) is an improvement. But, quite frankly, there’s a predictability problem that we have. The (proposed) concept plan is asking for a lot of flexibility, but the concept plan is also intended to be a document that a citizen or someone within the development can say, ‘This is what my subdivision’s going to look like, these are the type of uses that we’re going to have.’ And it just doesn’t provide that level of predictability.”
Some P&Z commissioners said they were not necessarily concerned about Carma building Blanco Vista in an undesirable manner, but about what the next property owner might do if Carma elected to sell the land.
“I know that ultimately we have to look down the road (and ask), ‘What if this flips hands?’ But, from a trust standpoint, you guys have gone the extra mile in putting stuff in before you even had a house on the ground,” said P&Z Commissioner Randy Bryan to Carma representatives. “We had elementary school land dedicated, the fire station land dedicated, the rec center built. I mean, they’ve gone above and beyond … and the land they dedicated for the soccer fields, that’s a huge asset, for San Marcos to have … We actually had a tournament a couple weeks ago. To be able to bring those in, that’s great for our economy … My concern, though is, if the property is sold. That would be my big concern. I see their track record over the past decades. It’s a pretty good one.”
A concept plan is usually finalized at the beginning of the development process. There are about 102 homes already built at Blanco Vista. Carma’s concept plan for Blanco Vista was first approved by the P&Z in 2004, and amended in 2005 and again in 2007.
“You’ve got 102 people that bought into a community and now plans are changing on them,” Seebeck said. “No offense to Carma, but they claim it as a master-planned community. How can you have a master-planned community if the plan changes? … If I was living in that neighborhood, and I was thinking there would be a maximum of … 70 townhomes and 180 units of what’s there, and now we’re seeing a maximum of 900 multi-family units and an unlimited number of townhomes … I would be pretty ticked-off at this commission that approved that.”
P&Z Commissioner Travis Kelsey concurred with Seebeck’s statement. Bryan then suggested that Blanco Vista residents be notified of the possible impending changes to the development’s concept plan. Bryan said he knows people living at Blanco Vista who are concerned that only 102 homes have been sold, and said they would like to see the development be successful.
Walt Elias of Carma Texas suggested inviting all the residents to the next P&Z meeting, where a new version of the concept plan will be discussed. Elias said he would pay for the cost of notifying all the residents of the meeting, and the P&Z agreed. One commissioner said he doubted whether the city could fund such a notification effort.
Neslund said the intent of Blanco Vista is to be a master-planned development to include residential uses in conjunction with nonresidential activities, all types of residential uses including single family townhomes, loft-style multi-family, central greenspaces, and traffic flows that allow people to move freely without automobiles.
Carma also is working with city officials in the attempt to win final approval of the Paso Robles development on the south side of San Marcos. Carma is asking the city to support the creation of a Tax Increment Refinancing Zone (TIRZ) that would repay the developer $20 million from the property taxes to be generated improvements in the land value.
(Editor’s note: The above story and cutline have been revised, changing most references to Charlie Fowler of Bury & Partners to Walt Elias of Carma Texas.)Email | Print