An old conflict has resumed over the fate of the Weatherford and Gilcrease tracts in northwest San Marcos, at the gateway to the Hill Country.
A 195-unit, 782-bedroom student housing development is proposed for construction on the 48.36 acres comprising the two aforementioned tracts, and many nearby neighbors appear to be up in arms about it.
On Jan. 25, the San Marcos Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission held a public hearing on the proposed development, known as the Retreat at San Marcos. The hearing was very well-attended — the meeting room and foyer were full of people, most of whom appeared to be opposed to the development.
City staff recommended that P&Z commissioners disapprove current plans for the development. Staff said the proposal conflicts with the city’s Sector 2 plan, though the developers’ consultant, Ed Theriot, came to the opposite conclusion. City staff agreed with the developer that the Retreat at San Marcos would involve low housing unit density, though staffers said the area is intended primarily for single family residential development, not multi-family.
The Retreat at San Marcos includes 41 acres of multi-family residential units, 2.75 acres of commercial uses, and a 4.5-acre disc golf course. City staff said the commercial area proposed for the project is too small, smaller than the 10 acres recommended by the Sector 2 plan.
Of the 15 members of the public who spoke during the hearing, 12 people urged P&Z to not recommend approval of the development. The P&Z may decide on a recommendation to the city council on Feb. 8.
Those opposed to the project generally say they like the concept of it, just not the location. Those opposed to the Retreat at San Marcos said it conflicts with city plans for the area and would disrupt nearby single family neighborhoods with too much traffic, noise, and other disturbances popularly associated with masses of college students. Those opposed to the project expressed concerns about lowered property values and quality of life for nearby homeowners.
Those in favor of the development said the Retreat at San Marcos is a quality development the city needs, and it would not devalue surrounding property values. In a letter to the city dated Jan. 17, Weatherford tract owner Jack Weatherford said unreasonable neighbors have for more than 10 years prevented him and others from developing the land. Those in favor of the Retreat at San Marcos point out that the developer has met with concerned residents on four occasions, and has altered the project in several ways to accommodate their concerns.
According to city staff, the proposed student housing project includes 105 single-family cottages, 25 two-unit duplex cottages, four fourplex cottages, 821 parking spaces, and a quarter-acre amenity package with a clubhouse, tennis court, pool, and basketball court.
The four individuals who seek to buy, develop, and manage the property are member-managers of Retreat Holdings, LLC, based in Athens, GA. If the city grants the requested entitlements to the property, Retreat Holdings proposes to buy the property from Weatherford and remain the owner and manager of the Retreat at San Marcos.
Retreat Holdings member-manager Russ Crump said he and his colleagues have built nine similar projects nationwide.
Retreat Holdings seeks a planned development district (PDD) overlay for the project, which involves more collaboration with the city than a regular development agreement. City Planner John Foreman told P&Z commissioners that the developers are going above and beyond what is required by city codes in areas related to parkland dedication, parking, water quality protection, and exterior design standards.
Among the 15 people who spoke during last week’s public hearing, Crump and former city council candidate Anita Fuller expressed support for the project. Another person read two letters in favor of the project.
City staff reported receiving three letters opposed to the Retreat at San Marcos, and a letter from Weatherford in favor of the project. City staff said they received six phone calls from people opposed to the project, and one phone call from someone who requested more information. The city received another phone call from someone staff described as “very concerned” about the project.
Construction of the Retreat at San Marcos depends on the city council’s approval of various land use change requests, and its approval of the development agreement. If most P&Z commissioners vote against the PDD and related requests, a super-majority vote of councilmembers would be required to approve the project.
P&Z Commissioner Bucky Couch expressed skepticism about the safety of a proposed entrance to the development off of RR 12. P&Z Commissioner Randy Bryan asked proponents of the project to more clearly explain how it would not harm nearby residents. Representatives of Retreat Holdings said they will work with city staff and neighbors to further modify their proposal.
P&Z commissioners are expected to vote on the matter at their Feb. 8 meeting.Email | Print