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

September 28th, 2010
Carma asks to slow down Blanco Vista plan change


Blanco Vista residents packed the cafeteria at Blanco Vista Elementary School earlier this month, upset that Carma Texas wants to change the concept plan for the project. Photos by Erica Chapa.

News Reporter

In the face of overwhelming opposition to concept plan revision, Carma Texas has slowed its attempt to obtain city approval for hundreds more townhomes and allowable multi-family units in the Blanco Vista subdivision.

Canada-based Carma has asked the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) to postpone approving or denying the aforementioned items until at least Oct. 26. A city staffmember said the P&Z probably will probably approve Carma’s request. Carma’s request for postponement is not on the P&Z’s Tuesday agenda, though commissioners can legally approve or disapprove the request at that meeting.

Carma’s request for a Blanco Vista concept plan amendment, originally addressed by the P&Z earlier this month, is on Tuesday’s agenda. However, the amendment was agendized before Carma requested the postponement.

The concept plan amendment is the vehicle by which Carma requested the increase in allowable multi-family units and townhomes. The amendment does not require city council approval — the P&Z has the final say on the matter. The P&Z approved two concept plan amendments for Blanco Vista, at Carma’s request in 2005 and 2007.

Blanco Vista lies on about 575 acres just north of the Blanco River near Five Mile Dam Park in San Marcos. Some amenities, an elementary school, and about 102 homes have been built at the subdivision so far.

Carma’s latest concept plan amendment calls for no more than 450 multi-family units and 450 townhomes, totaling 242 acres of possible multi-family/townhome development on four possible tracts at Blanco Vista.

At a Sept. 21 meeting with Blanco Vista residents, Walt Elias of Carma said he hopes any future multi-family units would be isolated by restricting them to the north side of Yarrington Road/future FM 110, on the northeastern tip of the development. All single-family homes would be south of Yarrington Road/FM 110.

Before most — or perhaps any — residents were aware that Carma intended to amend Blanco Vista’s concept plan, the P&Z considered an earlier concept plan amendment on Sept. 14. That amendment would have increased the maximum allowable multi-family uses from 180-900 units, and would have removed the current limit of 70 townhomes. If the P&Z had approved the amendment, multi-family units could be dispersed throughout the development along arterial or neighborhood collectors, rather than restricted to their current tracts.

“I think what scares me the most is that we bought here and paid more money than we would have elsewhere because of the master plan,” said an attendee of the Sept. 21 meeting. “And now, last week, had the (P&Z) commission not stalled a couple weeks, it would have pushed forward without any of our knowledge. What stops you from going in in another month and re-changing — and none of would know?”

In reply, Elias promised Carma would not request another concept plan amendment without first communicating with residents.

“Certainly we are working with the planning and zoning commission and the city staff to develop and enhance this project — that’s our intent,” Elias said at the Sept. 21 meeting. “I do want to apologize that we didn’t come to the homeowners at first, and I sincerely mean that. I think it would have been beneficial. It was not part of the process as part of the concept plan requirement. It certainly wasn’t something that we wanted to do underhanded, or in any way keep information from the homeowners. We’ve amended the plan a number of times as part of that process. It’s not a requirement, but we did (tell) the P&Z commission last week that we would address the community … Because they were concerned about community input, and we are to, and I’m here to address anything I can tonight.”

Blanco Vista’s current concept plan restricts all multi-family units to a heavily-wooded, 50.5-acre hill in the northwest corner of the development. At the Sept. 14 P&Z meeting, Carma representatives said the location is not an appropriate place for the current specified uses, as it is furthest away from roads and utility infrastructure, and in the most difficult place in the development to build.

At the Sept. 21 meeting, Elias said relocating the multi-family units from the hill and increasing them would benefit the Blanco Vista community because such a change would “allow a mixed use of residential types.”

There was some commotion in the audience after Elias said that, and some attendees responded incredulously — a pattern of interaction that occurred a few times during the course of the meeting, because attendees asked him several times what the nature of the benefit would be. No residents expressed satisfaction with Elias’ answers, a sentiment some stated in letters to P&Z after the meeting.

Approximately 90-100 people attended the Sept. 21 meeting, where every attendee who spoke opposed the proposed increase and relocation of multi-family units. Several people said that before they bought their homes, nothing they read and no one they spoke to said apartments could be allowed in the subdivision. At least 13 people who wrote to the P&Z made the same claim. Included in Tuesday’s P&Z agenda packet are dozens of letters from Blanco Vista residents opposed to relocating and increasing allowable multi-family units.

Blanco Vista resident and community liaison Sandy Dodson said she gathered more than 100 signatures on a petition opposing the latest concept plan amendments requests.

“We are sorry this fight has taken place,” Dodson said. “We know it has damaged the perception of Blanco Vista in the community. It is sad when you have to fight to enforce the promises that were made to you. Carma had a good reputation with all the work they put into Blanco Vista when it first started. It is such a shame to see them making these missteps, and creating a public relations disaster for themselves. We hope an acceptable compromise can be reached soon, and the anger they have created can die down. We want Carma to succeed in Blanco Vista, and their new community here in San Marcos — just not at our expense.”

Most Blanco Vista residents who wrote letters to the P&Z and who spoke at the Sept. 21 meeting with Carma said an increase in the allowable apartment units would decrease homeowner property values, cause too much vehicular traffic, and pose safety risks, especially for children. Some residents said apartment tenants would illegally use amenities paid for with homeowners association fees.

Blanco Vista resident Toni Terling Watt said her home is situated in an area that is “breathtaking, one of the most beautiful I have seen.” Watt, a Texas State associate professor, said the subdivision was marketed to her as one with no apartments.

“I was thrilled that I had found a way to remain in San Marcos and to provide a stable, safe, family-oriented community for my family,” Watt said. “My son just started kindergarten at Blanco Vista Elementary and is participating in their progressive dual language program. I was so pleased that I could build the sort of life I have dreamed of for my family. However, I now feel that all of that is in jeopardy. This dramatic revision to the number of multi-family units allowed, the request for increased density, and the proximity of high density units to the elementary school, will reduce my son’s safety, our sense of a stable community, my property values, and the beauty and tranquility of the area. This is a significant blow to the residents of Blanco Vista.”


Walt Elias of Carma Texas speaks with Blanco Vista residents at Blanco Vista Elementary School.

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26 thoughts on “Carma asks to slow down Blanco Vista plan change

  1. why the push to change the plans? are so many people moving out there that there’s just not enough homes for them or are there STILL EMPTY LOTS? just curious

  2. Shame on Carma for not being faithful to their word on the master planned community. People bought homes in Blanco Vista based on Carma representing the master planned community. Families invested their savings, placed their hopes and dreams in the hands of Carma. And now for Carma to try to sneak significant changes past those very same homeowners? Shame on Carma, and shame on our City Leaders for wanting to provide more taxpayer money incentives to Carma for their proposed Paso Robles community.

  3. The problem is that there are too many empty lots. Unfortunately, apartments and retail only perpetuate our big problem of having such a transient population. Adding apartments to Blanco Vista will not bring any benefit to the city and it won’t stimulate home sales in that subdivision. It will simply provide a revenue stream, to offset the lack of home sales.

    A lot of people in San Marcos are remarkably shortsighted and when the going gets tough, they look to apartments and retail to fuel our “growth.” I’d much rather explore what could be done in Blanco Vista, and across San Marcos, to make this a more appealing long-term home for people, which would then stimulate home sales, job creation, etc.

    When I think of growth, I think of improvement, not just expansion. I use the word growth, the way one would use it when describing someone who is maturing, developing, growing as a person. That is my idea of growth for city. I don’t think of growth strictly in the physical expansion sense. Physical expansion is a component, but there is healthy physical expansion and unhealthy physical expansion, as our waistlines can attest.

    I believe that some in San Marcos have confused growth and bloat. I would like to see us get bigger, stronger and better. I’m not so interested in just piling on more retail and apartments (the “growth” equivalent of television and Twinkies, IMO).

  4. It is nice to see Carma so responsive. One has to wonder how much tension between the citizens and developers could be eliminated, if our elected representatives pushed back more often. It does not appear that the response to that pushback would be a mass exodus of developers, as our leaders would have had us believe. It turns out that our requests are perfectly reasonable and well received. It is only the tone, set by the failure of leadership to actually lead, which creates much of the problem.

  5. October 26th is,….

    just before November 2nd.

    This isn’t “good will”,….

    but it IS certainly a tactic,…folks

    Carma is hurting financially,…

    and they must get this pushed through.

    Just wait and see.

  6. My neighbors and I have seen developers use delaying something as a tactic, often seeming to make the decision to delay something at the last minute.

    The neighbors get prepared to go to P&Z or city council on a certain date and discover that something has been postponed. Then they have to take time out of their schedules to come back on a different night.

    The neighbors need to be vigilant, organized, and persistent.

    Ms. Dodson said above: “We want Carma to succeed in Blanco Vista, and their new community here in San Marcos — just not at our expense.”

    The neighbors on the west side of San Marcos have expressed the same sentiment many times; just remove the words “Carma” and “Blanco Vista” and replace them with names appropriate to our area of town.

  7. Camille, I wouldn’t worry too much about the BVHOA–they managed to get 94 of 102 homeowners to a meeting with only a single-day notice in which city staff did an excellent job of presenting the facts and Carma’s representative got grilled. Their level of organization & communication is highly advanced, particularly for a new neighborhood. They also have some great expertise within the organization that can help maintain persistency and develop reasonable alternative solutions. I fully-expect them to keep this thing on the front burner for an extended period of time, and I think Carma realizes they have problems well beyond the Concept Plan with Blanco Vista residents.

  8. Just on a PR note, a bit of advice to anyone speaking on Carma’s behalf:

    When apologizing for the fact that you did not consult first with BV homeowners, do not say these words:
    “It was not part of the process as part of the concept plan requirement.”
    “It’s not a requirement, but we did (tell) the P&Z commission last week that we would address the community …”

    With those statements, Mr. Elias is effectively saying, “Yes, we should have consulted the homeowners before we tried to sell our plans to P&Z, but we weren’t required to, so we didn’t. Now that we are, I want to point out we’re doing it, even though we’re not required to.”

    It’s hard to convince people you’re sorry for dumping on them when you keep pointing out how you really weren’t obligated to avoid dumping on them in the first place. You end up sounding sorry, all right, but not in the way you intended.

  9. Almost thought Jim Stark was going to tell Blanco Vista residents to “get over themselves” when he was chastizing them to not villify college students this evening!

  10. Personally, i thought the P&Z handled this really well tonight. It is not an easy issue, and not an easy thing to figure out with that many sets of eyes staring at you. Can’t blame Jim for going off a bit on the college student attacks. I know when I was a student I got sick of being villified by “townies” because of the actions of some of my less mature counterparts.

  11. My understanding is that P& Z requested Carma to work w// Blanco Vista home owners between now and December.
    The next PZ meeting on issue was rescheduled for December.

    Still ALOT of concern and skepticism from residents.
    It’s hard to trust that big business will do what’s best for you while knowing that our city doesn’t have your back either.

    I feel bad for these homeowners. I’m also appalled that our city is continuing to work w/this company.

  12. Tell you what, Jim….let’s put apartments and townhouses all around your house and see what tune you sing about the college students then….it’s easy to defend the students when it’s not *your* neighborhood that’s about to be overrun by them.

  13. Many of the people who complain about (and ultimately move out of) the apartments are students and many of the people causing problems in the apartments are not students.

    That being said, getting on the pulpit in defense of the students is a time-honored method of changing the subject and avoiding the real issue that apartments are not compatible with single-family neighborhoods. Frankly, if there wasn’t a single student living on Sagewood, that would not change the problem. Nor would filling it entirely with students.

    What’s worse, is that according to the chief of police (at least that is my recollection, from noise ordinance discussions), every time a new apartment complex is built, the “problem” renters flock to it, in part to test the boundaries and in part because they aren’t welcome so many other places.

    So, while I applaud Jim or anyone else who defends the students and tries to shut down “us and them” debates, he also needs to address the real issue, which is the impact these P&Z decisions have on our neighborhoods and how that impact resonates through the whole city, through our economy, through our town and gown relations, etc.

  14. Somebody from Blanco Vista, please tell us more about the short statement I heard last night from one of the speakers re Carma using builders who are not following the architectural guidelines that were advertised as being part of the master plan for the community. This issue was brushed over since the meeting last night was about the changes to the types of homes being built in the development. But I’m wanting to know more from those who said they were not given true stories about what their community would look like, when they first purchased their homes.

  15. So now we shall delay action on chameleon #1 until we can secure the most advantageous terms and generous allowances for chameleon #2. Well, at least the current group of our “representatives” is stunningly consistent. And now both mayoral candidates agree that the Land Development Code needs to respond to the hungry cries of the BoR.

    In THEORY, a Land Development Code is rational, conservative, and designed to aid those who build sensitively and responsively, to discourage the rampaging kind of development Ted mentions in his remarks above, which are precisely on target. Also, cws uses a word too seldom heard in the clamor for more free stuff to pump up home and apartment sales–“expertise.” That means to me some knowledge of good planning principles, like what kind of mix is a good mix for the community and the market, familiarity with our soil types and slopes, therefore waterways and drainqage, a sense of costs involved in providing each of the various services we offer, some familiarity with traffic patterns associated with various types of development, familiarity with the real needs of various sectors of existing development, at least a fundamental knowledge of how the Edwards Aquifer and the various creek drainages work to provide us with our singular–and endangered–natural resource.

    The reasonable application of such expertise lends a shine to any community. Its absence, I agree with several others, is one of the causes of people deciding on Kyle, New Braunfels, Martindale, Seguin, etc., instead of here in “anything goes” land, where greedy speculation is rewarded, even if it runs off the rails in process.

    By the way, how fast is the buildout of a subdivision SUPPOSED to happen? Look at any long-established one–the one I once lived in, in Westover and my current one of Sierra Circle, for example, or nearly any other, including the various “Willows.” Rome was not built in a Day, as they say, but you could almost say that about Kyle. Time alone will judge how successful that was, and will be. They DID ride the “housing bubble.” As did Round Rock.

  16. Why doesn’t Carma build “Paso Robles” at Blanco Vista?

    The ‘executive retired’ population would be great quiet neighbors. Carma could honor the original (pre 2007 change allowed) number of upper priced, non-ghettoizing 90apts, townhouses, and residences that are compatible w/Blanco Vistas master plan.

    Since they are sure there is a niche for this type of development (Paso Robles), this move could solve their $$$ crisis at Blanco and save us taxpayers the $20,000,000 we would give them on infrastructure costs.

  17. I wanna see how the votes go. If thomaides votes yes. He’s got alot of peoples votes for mayor. Cmon thomaides we need this

  18. I would like to see Paso Robles at Springtown Center. It must be big enough for at least 9 holes. It is close to services and transportation and shopping. I could have high density and homes on small lots. It shouldn’t effect the acquifer. It would be a good repurpose of the shopping center.

  19. Someone has a far rosier view of this market than I, I fear. Is there a major manufacturer waiting in the wings to jump out and hire 3,000 souls at supportable wages, and we just dont know it. Else why all the Mixed Commercial and the hugh chunk of Mixed Use, with no real definition or footprint of what or where it is to be located in re: the “Gated” senior/retiree/executive” part, which is actually not all that large, seen in the whole. Of course, we cannot zone outside the annexed and PDD sector, so THEY will decide those crucial issues–likely in a way as to maximize profits, whether the plan actually “works” or not, and whether it is subject to some later downturn or not.

    We are not getting any performance guarantees, have no penalty for underperformance, , have not even a confident promise or a previous example, except for … ahem…Sierra Blanca.

  20. Billy

    have faith. San Marcos will be getting their fair share of money from this development. I will be pouring thousands and thousands back into it. It’s gonna be alright partner

  21. San Marcos has a perfect opportunity right infront of them. If thomaides can’t see it. I can. Now if san Marcos wants upperclas to keep moving to Nb or north or have us spend money elsewhere. Your doing a good job thomaides by voting no. Wake up. See what carma and paso robles will do for san Marcos. You have citizens here wanting to back this development and support it. I wanna see a 6-1 vote. Make thomaides stand out alone on this

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