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

October 7th, 2010
P&Z approves rezoning of small Buie Tract parcel

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Steve Ramsey of Ramsey Engineering speaks last week on behalf of the Buie Tract development to the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission. To Ramsey’s left are San Marcos River Foundation Executive Director Dianne Wassenich (in blue) and former City Councilmember Jane Hughson. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

Accusations of underhanded dealings and fears of too many apartment units accompanied yet another recent decision of the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which voted last week to approve a zoning change in the controversial Buie Tact.

At issue was a 2.23-acre piece of the 174.24-acre Buie Tract. Craddock Avenue Partners LLC (CAP) wants to build on 46.15 acres of the tract, ending up with two- and three-story buildings featuring offices and retail units on the first floors and the same uses plus residential units on the upper floors, for up to 459 units. The Buie Tract is located within the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, near the future Craddock Avenue extension, North Bishop Street and Franklin Drive.

The P&Z voted 4-2 to approve CAP’s request to rezone the 2.23 acres from SF-6 to mixed use. The parcel is on the southwest corner of Craddock Avenue and Bishop Street.

One P&Z commissioner who voted against the rezoning suggested that CAP intentionally nullified the effect of a petition to circumvent a legal requirement for a super majority vote. Another commissioner said he opposed the rezoning because the development calls for too many apartments in an area historically composed of single family residences.

The city planner assigned to the case said CAP’s rezoning request was consistent with the city’s master plan. The planner who recommended approval of the request said the rezoning would allow residents to meet most of their daily needs by allowing nearby commercial amenities to exist.

Three out the six individuals who addressed the P&Z last week expressed opposition to the rezoning. Those opposed were San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) Executive Director Dianne Wassenich, nearby property owner Camille Phillips and San Marcos resident Rob Roark. Those who expressed support for the rezoning included nearby resident Anita Fuller, CAP Manager Rick Coleman, and Steve Ramsey of Ramsey Engineering. Ramsey spoke on behalf of CAP during the public hearing and Coleman offered testimony when asked by the P&Z.

On May, 28, CAP withdrew the 2.23 acres from its original 12.88-acre zoning request. Had CAP maintained its original request, then a super majority of six votes on the city council would have been required because the owners of 20 percent of the land within a 200-foot radius of the 12.88 acres signed a petition opposing the rezoning. With the amended request of 10.65 acres to be zoned mixed use, the petition only produced opposing owners of 18.04 percent of the land area affected within a 200-foot radius.

“I’m sorry, but it stinks to me,” said P&Z Commissioner Curtis Seebeck. “Man, the timing really was — I mean, the coincidences are just … to me, it looks like an end run around the rules.”

CAP representatives maintained they did not know 20 percent of landowners had signed the petition at the time they pulled the 2.23 acres from their original rezoning application. CAP representatives said they scaled down their request as a courtesy to residents of the nearby Grant Court neighborhood. CAP pulled the 2.23 acres on May 28 before the council considered the rezoning on June 1.

“I’m having a hard time buying that they didn’t have any clue that it wasn’t at the 20 percent level yet … I’m just not seeing it, I’m not buying it,” Seebeck said. “I won’t be able to vote for this.”

On June 1, Councilmembers Gaylord Bose and John Thomaides cast the only votes against CAP’s scaled down rezoning request.

Rick Coleman, who co-owns the Buie Tract, told the P&Z that city staff told him on May 28 that the percentage of signatures for the 12.88-acre piece was only 17 or 18 percent at the time when he pulled 2.33 acres out of the proposal. Coleman added that CAP attempted to speak with neighboring property owners with individual letters and an invitation to meet at Palmer’s Restaurant, Bar & Courtyard, but only two people showed up.

“We did not know until like 6:30 at night (on June 1) — when some other petitions were brought in here, it was told to us that they had over 20 percent,” Coleman said. “But that was not known until the petitions were sent here at 6:30 Tuesday night. So, I don’t know about underhanded stuff. I’m telling you how it came down to us. That’s exactly how it was. On Friday, when we did this, it was either 17 or 18 percent, it was not 20 percent. We thought all the petitions were in. So, I don’t know what else to say.”

On May 25, Nelson informed P&Z commissioners that the petition against re-zoning the 12.88 acre parcel had signatures amounting to “19-point zero some percent” of nearby property owners.

“There may have been maneuvering, there may not have been maneuvering — on both sides,” said P&Z Commissioner Bill Taylor. “The fact is, this is a busy intersection. Nobody’s going to want to have a single family residence there. It needs to be some type of commercial and I would like us to look past … bickering on this.”

At its May 25 meeting, the P&Z voted 8-1 to approve the rezoning change for the 12.88-acre parcel. CAP had to resubmit the 2.23-acre parcel to P&Z for rezoning after amending the original request, of which city staff had recommended approval. P&Z Commissioner Sherwood Bishop cast the lone vote against rezoning the 12.88 acres on May 25.

Bishop said the P&Z already had approved “a huge number of apartments” for the tract, jeopardizing the integrity of a neighborhood that has long been based on single-family residences.

“There seems to be far too much density,” Bishop said. “It’s an area where people have been buying their homes for years and bought them because they wanted to be living in single family residential areas. And now putting in this one huge apartment complex in there … tremendously changes the whole nature of the neighborhood and adds a huge amount to the density to the neighborhood.”

City of San Marcos Senior Planner Sofia Nelson told the P&Z that the 2.33 acres’ future land use designation is already mixed use. Nelson said the sector plan and master plan specify a neighborhood commercial service area for that part of the city.

“As a property owner in the Franklin Square neighborhood, I welcome this type of development that will potentially provide businesses within walking distance,” Fuller said during last Tuesday’s public hearing on the issue. “It is time for all of us citizens to embrace what the industry calls ‘lifestyle centers’ and allow our neighborhoods the opportunity to express the concept of ‘live, work, play.’”

P&Z Commissioners Chris Wood, Jim Stark, Jude Prather, and Bill Taylor voted for the rezoning last week. P&Z Commissioners Travis Kelsey, Randy Bryan and Bucky Couch were absent.

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18 thoughts on “P&Z approves rezoning of small Buie Tract parcel

  1. Scumbags.

    It is disappointing to see that one of our Council candidates is ok with rewarding this sort of behavior. I guess the ends justify the means?

  2. Another unbelievable concession made on behalf of a developer using shady tactics. We should just hang out a sign that says “a nice place to do business but you wouldn’t want to live here”.

    I don’t know who to be more disappointed with – the commissioners who voted for this travesty or the ones who couldn’t be bothered to attend the meeting and vote. P&Z shouldn’t mean “approve every request for variance that comes before us”.

  3. We need to ramp up the pre-meeting prayers, because there appears to be no moral compass at city hall.

  4. San Marcos we had a vision… moving forward, progress. Yet we know that this progress brings aches. So here we are with an opportunity, to move forward to forever preserve over half of the beautiful hill country of Buie Track. An opportunity to show others how smart growth occurs.
    As a Commissioner for the Planning and Zoning Commission, we make tough decisions for our community. With do so based on law and regulations. It boils down to property rights, personal freedoms. If someone wishes to develop their own land under the laws and regulations of our great State of Texas and San Marcos then that is there personal freedom to do so.
    My P&Z packet for the Buie Tract was an evaluation of our policies and regulations. It has 8 out of 9 Horizon Master Plan evaluations shown as consistent, 4 out of 4 Sector policy evaluations as consistent. This is consistent with the Horizons Master Plan, this meets the regulations of our state.
    People growth and prosperity is a blessed gift San Marcos has. So when we grow in a way in which half of a beautiful hill country property is preserved, that shows the unique awareness San Marcos has.
    And Mr. Marchut the Commissioners of the Planning and Zoning Commission where going to have a private prayer about these though decisions but decided not to based on open meeting rules. Our compass at city hall points true.

  5. Justify it all you want, Prather. You and your cohorts at P&Z are responsible for providing waiver after waiver of established zoning rules to allow one developer after another to dump multi-family and commercial development right up against established neighborhoods all over this town – and Council is giving them OUR TAX DOLLARS to do it with.

    Together, you’re systematically destroying any chance this city will ever have of maintaining any sort of community, and doing it all in the name of “smart growth” and “expanding the tax base” – but somehow for all of this expansion of the base, our City finds itself in record debt. I guess you’ll all be happy when this town is nothing but one giant apartment complex with a bunch of big-box retail scattered throughout. Think of the tax base we’ll have then!

    I seem to remember Austin pushing “smart growth” a few years back….how has that worked out for them?

  6. A request for a variance should always, repeat so P&Z members will understand, always be met with a resounding Hell No! Not to say that variances should never be granted, but they must be the exception, not the rule. The developer response to Hell No should never be a whining ‘but I can’t do what I want to without it’ all that means is that they were too stupid/lazy to do a proper feasibility study. It is not the City/taxpayers duty to bail them out of the situation theri stupidity/laziness created. Try asking yourselves this question P&Z members, will the flowers not bloom in the spring unless this variance is granted? If the answer is yes they will, don’t do it. If you want in depth analysis, flip the question, will the flowers not bloom if we grant it? Usually the answer will be, no they won’t; if that’s the case, don’t grant it.

  7. B.S.

    If it is such a beneficial project, then sell it to the community around it. Don’t dice it up and approve it in pieces, so that the voices of the residents around it can be effectively silenced.

    Your compass may point true, but that doesn’t mean it points in the right direction. Porterfield had it right when she objected to this maneuvering the first time around (although, sadly, she still voted for the changes) and Mr. Seebeck has it right this time. It stinks and you know it.

  8. BTW, apartments in the middle of an established neighborhood is not “progress,” it is the same ol’ same ol’. Progress would be master planned communities with single-family, multi-family and commercial. Progress would be more residential development downtown. Progress would be real jobs and viable alternative transportation options.

    Get those things right, and show that you know what the hell you are doing, then come back and “move the established neighborhoods forward.” So far, City Hall has not successfully fixed even one of these failed experiments and people are growing weary.

  9. Jude Prather, don’t forget that you are running for office, and that disgustingly haughty, self-righteous tone will not get you any further with your voters than your naively imbecilic statement to the POA that “you know what you need, and I’ll bend over and grab my ankles to give you whatever you ask for.” It certainly doesn’t help your case to pretend that you’re such a buffoon that you can’t call a duck a duck. These jackals knew when they bought the property that it was designated very low density residential in the master plan, and that they could therefore get it cheap, dupe the 4 of 6 P&Z commissioners and 4 of 7 council members who remain in the bent-over-grabbing-ankles position for any kind of development, and make a bundle developing it as multi-family. They then pulled this OBVIOUS CHARADE to nullify the perfectly valid petition that would have stopped the whole disgusting mess. Are you seriously going to play stupid around that? I dare you to answer to those two points with any kind of specificity, and I do it without any faith that you’ve got the fortitude or the integrity to do so.

  10. It’s good to see people riled up over this. We the people of San Marcos are being steamrolled by a Council and a P&Z alike who seem to want nothing but to give developers whatever they want around here.

    The only answer is to get these people out of office at the earliest opportunity. Remember Prather’s voting record from his P&Z days when you go to the poll next month. He’s no doubt hoping you won’t….

  11. It still has to go to City Council. We need a LOT of people to show up and speak to the Mayor and City Council Members (in addition to calls and emails). Enough is enough!

  12. “It boils down to property rights, personal freedoms. If someone wishes to develop their own land under the laws and regulations of our great State of Texas and San Marcos then that is there personal freedom to do so.” Not if if affects the public health and safety of citizens over the long term. Your advocacy is antithetical to your “stewardship of the environment” mentioned in early press release. This is ALL of our air, water and earth. Moreover, this is congruent with your facebook wall advocacy ” Thank you San Marcos Board of Realtors for your endorsement of my campaign. Your Board provides insightful, smart and expert opinions that I will always listen to.”

    Mr. Hooper is the clear choice. He listens, he is a visionary and can articulate his paradigmatic perspective to the voters. I have seen first hand Mr. Hooper’s professionalism and sincere for love for San Marcos, TX.

    This is NOT smart growth, this is dullard growth, filling pockets of outsiders.

  13. It is good to consider that ‘every man’ has the right to do with his property what he wants….. to an extent! The P & Z committee for San Marcos is a group of men (at the present) that should consider as the #1 priority of their job, first and foremost, they should consider what is best for the town. If a property owner wants to put in a car lot on his property in the middle of a neighborhood area, I would hope that the P & Z would consider the good of the town over the right of that property owner. In the same fashion, this vote should have considered the residents of San Marcos, not the property owner and not the future possible residents. When will we get it right and take care of “us”?….. those already living in San Marcos first! Take care of whom we have already attracted to our fine city. San Marcos will grow…. it has too much going for it….. let’s just lay some ground rules and, most importantly, stick to them!

  14. Significantly, Ms. Porterfield said at the Candidates’ debate that she voted for the Buie shell-game “because it was cluster development.” So some of our “leaders” have heard of something called “the new urbanism,” which they concieve to include the famous “live, work, play in the neighborhood” mantra we have become so familiar with. Their understanding of traditional “Best Management Practices” in urban design and planning is quite shallow, thinking it includes grouping incompatible uses to make them compatible–which does not happen, and cannot, except in a VERY uniform local culture, where all the people share in or desire “urban” values, which have much to do with lifestyle choices–parfents with kids, for example, who require no coffee shops or tattoo parlors or movies to walk to. More like groceries, cleaners, and convenience stores, perhaps. Families seldom choose lofts, especially above mixed commercial. Parks and fitness activities, perhaps, libraries, schools, perhaps a neighborhood meeting place. But never high-density rental living. One clusters LIKE things, not Disparate things, in such a development. Their recipe sounds fine–slides right off the tongue; but consider, where is the “work” going to come from, and what type, and likewise with the “play” element, which different people prefer in their own mode–bike trail or pool hall?

    “New urbanism” development is meant for, and creates, an urban cityscape, with all that entails. It can be done, and done effectively, with forethought and creativity, Of which I can find none in the Buie mess. And the off-site incompatible uses need buffering–a term I have not heard in YEARS: noise, traffic, garbage service, parking, roads and streets, segregation of high from low traffic areas, design of streets and roads. The rubber stamp somebody brought back from a conference is quite inadequate to create peaceful, harmonious, charming or safe development.

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