Left frame: San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commissioners Bill Taylor, Curtis Seebeck and Sherwood Bishop. Right frame: Windemere Ranch owner Vince Wood. Photos by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
San Marcos Planning and Zoning commissioners (P&Z) voted last week to allow Windemere landowners a narrow collector road for a 235-acre residential development adjacent to Spring Lake Tuesday night, juicing a project that has stalled for more than a year.
The 5-1 vote will enable the Windemere developers to utilize a 47-feet-wide collector road, rather than the 60 feet of width required in the city’s Land Development Code (LDC).
City of San Marcos Planner John Foreman said the smaller portion of right of way would not result in a narrower curb-to-curb paved section of roadway. The proposed road would connect Lime Kiln Road with the Windemere development.
Four people who addressed the P&Z last week opposed the current plans for the Windemere Ranch tract and two people voiced support for them. The two who voiced support for the development included Windemere owner Vince Wood and real estate developer Robert McDonald, the latter of whom was hired to develop the property. Wood and Foreman agreed that unless the P&Z granted the variance, Windemere could not be developed because there is no other point of access to the proposed subdivision.
Those who voiced opposition included nearby residents Paul Geiger and Jane Hughson, San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) Executive Director Dianne Wassenich, and San Marcos resident Steve Harvey. Geiger, Hughson and Wassenich cited water quality reasons for their opposition to any development of the Windemere tract.
“By attempting to halt the variance, their hope is they halt the development, and I simply don’t think that’s an equitable solution,” McDonald said. “The owners of this property are entitled to be able to develop (Windemere) in a responsible manner. And as I mentioned earlier, this is simply the first of many, many steps in the development process. There will be ample opportunity to raise additional concerns and deal with them as they come up from an environmental and engineering perspective.”
The proposed Windemere development has been controversial due to its proximity to Sink Creek and the San Marcos Springs, its location entirely within the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, and because Wood and Windemere co-owner Rob Haug had planned for the city to either buy or seize Geiger’s adjoining property for a road to the subdivision.
“We don’t feel that this is a lovely place for a subdivision,” Wassenich said. “Sink Creek pours straight into Spring Lake. This subdivision, the building of it, the building of that road, will damage Spring Lake seriously. So, we are not in favor of doing anything to make it possible to build this. It’s in a very bad location to be built if we want to continue to have good water quality.”
The P&Z’s action last week had the support of Foreman, who recommended approval of the variance with certain conditions. Foreman told P&Z commissioners that the Haug and Wood’s request for an exception to the LDC met the legal requirements for the granting of such a variance. City of San Marcos Interim Director of Development Services Matthew Lewis told P&Z commissioners they could legally deny the variance, though he did not make that recommendation.
The P&Z approved last week’s variance on the condition that no more than 74 lots use the road as their sole point of access to Windemere. Another condition of approval is that the property cannot not be developed more densely than specified in the concept plan. The concept plan specifies 75 dwelling units for the development. Another condition tagged to approval of the variance is that a portion of the proposed road within the 100-year floodplain must be improved with a bridge-type structure.
The P&Z’s action last week came after the city refused to condemn Geiger’s land for a road wide enough for a 108-foot divided boulevard. The LDC requires developments of 75 or more units to have two points of access. The divided boulevard would have satisfied that requirement.
After Geiger refused to sell land for the road and the city refused to condemn his property, Haug and Wood submitted a variance request to allow the development of 75 or more lots with only one point of access. After nearby residents and the San Marcos Fire Department objected to only one point of access to Windemere, and Foreman recommended disapproval of the variance, Haug and Wood withdrew the variance request and scaled down their plans.
Foreman said the developers’ current plans for Windemere would require a zoning change, though he said such a rezoning would be consistent with the city’s master plan.
P&Z Commissioner Jim Stark more than once voiced disappointment that Geiger had not sold some of his property to Haug and Wood to accommodate the proposed road to Windemere.
“I just hate that we’re in the position to have to make this decision,” Stark said.
P&Z Commissioner Jude Prather made the motion to approve the variance request. P&Z Commissioner Sherwood Bishop cast the sole vote against the variance. Bishop said the portion of the road in the 100-year floodplain along Sink Creek would susceptible to flooding, which would impair access to and from the development. P&Z Commissioner Chris Wood voiced disagreement with Bishop’s reasoning.
“It is our vision for this tract to create an estate lot subdivision containing approximately 74 lots … In essence, a one-to-two-acre spacing,” McDonald said. “In other words, about as low a density as we could possibly hope for. As Vince mentioned, we anticipate working completely within the existing environmental and engineering ordinances. We don’t anticipate requiring any variance from those. The objections that were largely expressed relate to off-site issues. Certainly some will have to be addressed during the development of this tract, but many don’t pertain to this property.”
P&Z Commissioners Wood, Stark, Prather, Curtis Seebeck, and Bill Taylor voted for the variance. P&Z Commissioners Travis Kelsey, Randy Bryan and Bucky Couch were absent.Email | Print