Carma Texas Development Manager Walt Elias, far right, discusses the Blanco Vista development with Blanco Vista residents at Blanco Vista Elementary School in September. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Carma Texas withdrew its request for a concept plan amendment allowing more townhomes and more centrally located mixed uses last week.
The developer is likely to replace that request with proposal to operate a Planned Development District (PDD) at the request of city officials, who have argued that a PDD would afford more flexibility.
Blanco Vista residents have mostly hailed the latest move, the third shift by Carma Texas regarding the project.
At a Sept. 14 meeting of the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) Carma representatives requested a concept plan amendment involving an increase from 180 to 900 allowable multi-family units. Carma also asked that multi-family uses and commercial uses be allowed in more places, and asked that the current 70-unit cap on allowable townhomes be removed.
Commissioners deferred the issue to Sept. 28, by which time Carma scaled down its proposal, asking that that the city approve an increase of allowable townhomes from 70 to 450 and an increase of allowable multi-family units from 180 to 450 units.
“We are looking at some alternatives and will be back in front of the community and the city — city staff and the city government — to evaluate the master-planned community at Blanco Vista,” Carma Development Manager Walt Elias said last week. “We’re committed to the community and we’re committed to San Marcos, and we will better the community with involvement from all parties.”
In letters to the city and two additional public meetings in the last month, Blanco Vista residents overwhelmingly opposed allowing more multi-family units in more portions of the development. Residents opposed to more multi-family units said more tenants would lead to increases in traffic, crime, and safety hazards, especially for children.
“We are hoping we can come to a compromise with Carma to help get to their goals and preserve the single family neighborhood that we were promised when we built here,” said Blanco Vista resident Scott Dodson.
Dodson said attendees of Blanco Vista’s recent National Night Out took an informal vote on their neighborhood’s future.
“Seventy-five percent of the people there wanted no apartments in the development,” Dodson said.
Blanco Vista lies on about 575 acres just north of the Blanco River near Five Mile Dam Park. The nixed concept plan amendment would have made 242 acres of Blanco Vista eligible for future multi-family units or townhomes. Blanco Vista is zoned mixed use, but multi-family units are currently restricted to a wooded, 50.5-acre hill in the northwestern corner of Blanco Vista.
Several Blanco Vista residents said nothing they read and no one they spoke to told them apartments would be allowed in the subdivision before they bought their homes. At least 13 people who wrote to the P&Z made the same claim.
An elementary school and about 102 homes have been built at Blanco Vista, which opened just as the housing market crashed in 2008. The density of Blanco Vista is currently limited to a maximum of 4.9 units per acre, or 2,060 units.
Elias told P&Z commissioners weeks ago that the 50.5-acre tract is not an appropriate location for multi-family uses because it is furthest away from roads and utility infrastructure and the most difficult place to build.
“We don’t know if (Carma is) just going to utilize the entitlements that they are allowed to under the current master plan or if they are going to submit a PDD (application for a Planned Development District) or what, quite yet,” said San Marcos Senior Planner Sofia Nelson. “It sounds like they were leaning towards a PDD, but they haven’t submitted anything official yet.”
On Sept. 28, the P&Z indicated its preference for Carma to submit a PDD for Blanco Vista rather than pursue the concept plan amendment. PDDs are intended to allow closer collaboration between the city and developers. Elias declined to indicate whether his company intends to submit a PDD.
Said Dodson to Blanco Vista residents and others in an Oct. 5 email: “We will appoint a team of home owners to meet with Carma, its developers, and perhaps City staff to come up with a preliminary plan. The preliminary plan will be presented to the home owners for comments. The plan will be adjusted to best accommodate the needs of Carma, and the desires of the home owners. Revised plans will be presented to the home owners at a follow up meeting – Carma hopes to have 90% of home owners agree with the plans. The final PPD plans will be presented to the City.”
Dodson said those statements resulted from a combination of discussions between himself and Blanco Vista resident Chance Sparks, letters to him from Carma, conversations between Sparks and Carma, and e-mails Dodson exchanged with City of San Marcos Interim Director of Development Services Matthew Lewis. Sparks is a former planning employee of the City of San Marcos.
At the Sept. 28 P&Z meeting, P&Z Commissioner Jim Stark told Blanco Vista residents they would do well to make good use Sparks’ knowledge of the development process.
On Sept. 21, Elias told nearly 100 Blanco Vista residents gathered at the neighborhood’s elementary school that he hopes any future multi-family units will be isolated by restricting such uses to the north side of Yarrington Road/future FM 110, on the northeastern tip of the development. In that scenario, all single-family homes would be south of Yarrington Road/FM 110.
Virtually every homeowner at Blanco Vista attended the Sept. 28 P&Z meeting, where they overwhelmingly opposed the requested concept plan amendment. The city council chambers and lobby, crowded with people during the meeting, virtually emptied after commissioners decided to postpone action on the request until December.
Nelson said the 50.5-acre tract where multi-family uses are currently allowed — Tract F — could include traditional-style apartments to a maximum of 180 units. Nelson said she does not know how apartments in that tract would affect surrounding single family residents.
“(Carma) would have to do a traffic impact analysis to show if additional roads would be necessary than what has already been planned,” Nelson said. “That is one thing the city would look at. The developer has already said publicly that that was sort of a bad place for a multi-family, and that maybe that was a bad choice that they had made in the past about allowing only multi-family in that location. So, it would be highly unlikely that they would develop that property as multi-family. But, that being said, it is permitted under tract F.”
At the Sept. 21 meeting with Blanco Vista residents, Elias apologized for not notifying them before requesting a concept plan amendment.
At the P&Z meeting on Sept. 14, Lewis said Blanco Vista’s current concept plan has resulted in administrative problems for the city and Carma. Nelson said the current concept plan does not provide enough predictability for the city or Blanco Vista residents. On Sept. 28, Nelson told P&Z commissioners that city staff prefers a PDD in Blanco Vista’s case.Email | Print