San Marcos city planner Matthew Lewis, left, and Steve Ramsey of Craddock Avenue Partners, right, at Tuesday’s San Marcos City Council meeting. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
After months of ongoing debate and action, developers for the controversial Buie tract received their final zoning change from the San Marcos City Council Tuesday night, but not without words between opponents and proponents.
The zoning change request from single family (SF-6) to mixed use (MU) on 2.23 acres of the Buie tract west of Craddock Avenue was approved by a 4-3 council vote, with Councilmembers John Thomaides, Chris Jones, and Gaylord Bose in opposition.
Thomaides reiterated his stance in opposition to the rezoning, based on what he has called “unscrupulous” action by the developers.
In May, Craddock Avenue Partners, who own the Buie tract, requested that the 2.23 acres be removed from an original rezoning request of 12.88 acres from SF-6 to MU. By scaling back the original 12.88-acre rezoning request to 10.65-acres, the signatures of homeowners on Grant Court were removed from a petition that would have required a supermajority council vote of 6-1 to approve the zoning. If the owners of 20 percent of the property adjacent to a zoning change sign a petition, the council can only approve such a change with a supermajority.
With Grant Court homeowner signatures removed, the May petition had the signatures of owners of 18 percent of the surrounding property.
The developers have adamantly rejected the criticism by Thomaides and San Marcos residents in opposition to the development, and have said that they removed the 2.23 acres only to allow time to meet with homeowners on Grant Court to address concerns and questions.
The developers say that since winning approval to rezone 10.65 acres, they invited Grant Court homeowners to Palmers Restaurant for refreshments and a question and answer session, but, they say, only two showed up. Therefore, the developers sent all Grant Court homeowners a letter identifying the advantages and disadvantages of the rezoning.
“To approve this (rezoning of the 2.23 acres) is to condone this behavior,” Thomaides said, referencing the removal of the 2.23 acres from the original 12.88 acre request.
But not everyone was sold on Thomaides’ argument.
“You, as our city government … would not have allowed anything to happen that wasn’t illegal or right,” said former Councilmember Pam Couch, who has often spoke in favor of the Buie tract development at both city council and the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), where her husband, Bucky Couch, serves as commissioner.
Legally the developer is allowed to scale back a zoning request, but not enlarge the request once it’s submitted for approval.
“I don’t appreciate these accusations,” Couch said. “Because myself, and my husband, were a part of the accusations, when these people collected petition signatures with misinformation.”
Gordon Muir of Craddock Avenue Partners said Thomaides met with him and demanded a Planned Development District (PDD) for the Buie Tract development, but Muir said a PDD would be redundant because the development is being guided by a development agreement between the developer and the city.
“It’s like reinventing the wheel,” Muir said about entering into a PDD.
“(Thomaides) met with me, and he wanted to know exactly what we wanted to do,” Muir said. “So, I explained (the development) to him and he said, ‘Well, you know, honestly I think we need to see a PDD,’ and I said a PDD is not necessary. We already have an approved development agreement with the city that outlines very specifically all the steps that we have to take, which controls our development as it goes, and it’s in the city’s best interest already. He was like, ‘Well, I represent the neighborhoods, and I want a PDD,’ and I said I’m not going to do that. And (Thomaides) said, ‘Well, you’ll find that if you don’t do it my way, you’re not going to get it passed.'”
In the heat of the moment, as Muir explained his encounter with Thomaides, neighborhoods activist Camille Phillips yelled an expletive from the audience, prompting Mayor Susan Narvaiz to voice disapproval.
Narvaiz said she didn’t believe the developers ever wanted to circumvent a supermajority approval by removing the 2.23 acres in May.
“(This development) is incorporating everything that, for years, I’ve heard the citizens have wanted,” Narvaiz said.
According to city documents, city staff recommended approval of the development as requested. The development meets all Sector 2 policy statements and eight out of nine Horizons Master Plan requirements.
“The city shall encourage development to occur in the ‘preferred growth corridors,’” is the only inconsistency between the Buie tract agreement and the Horizons Master Plan. The master plan goes on to say that, “the two ‘preferred growth corridors’ include southeast San Marcos bounded by Hunter Road on the north and State Highway 123 on the east, and northeast San Marcos bounded by (Interstate) 35 on the west and State Highway 80 on the south.”
Development engineer Steve Ramsey said the zoning request is to keep the zoning and land use consistent, as the city’s future land use map has the 2.23 acres identified as mixed use.
Richard Coleman of Craddock Avenue Partners said he thought the zoning request for the 2.23 acres would be a “slam dunk,” as the future land use map calls for that zoning.
Narvaiz, speaking in support of the zoning request, echoed the developers and said they are only asking for what the 2.23 acres were intended for, which is mixed uses.