UPDATED: The planning & zoning commission approved the plan, 4-3. Commissioners Bucky Couch, Kenneth Ehlers, Randy Bryan, and Bill Taylor voted in favor; Sherwood Bishop, Jim Stark and Chris Wood voted against. Curtis Seebeck was not present.
by BRAD ROLLINS
A month after the San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission rejected plans for a student housing project on a tract bordered on two sides by the Oak Heights neighborhood, the developer says he has submitted a modified proposal in a second pass at winning the city’s blessing.
Proposed | The Retreat at San Marcos
View Weatherford, Gilcrease tracts in a larger map
Athens, Ga.-based Retreat Holdings LLC wants to build 195 Craftsman-style cottages on 48 acres of what is known locally as the Weatherford tract at the intersection of Old Ranch Road 12 and Craddock Avenue. But by a vote of 4-3, planning commissioners on Feb. 22 shot down a package of rezoning requests, land use amendments and related plans for what is being called the Retreat at San Marcos.
The company last week submitted an amended plan that seeks to address criticism from two dissenting commissioners of a proposed fire and police station site on 2.75 acres directly at the corner of the two major thoroughfares, said Ed Theriot, a consultant working for the developer. The modified plan instead would dedicate 1.8 acres fronting Craddock to the city, freeing the corner lot for commercial development.
“We heard from a couple of commissioners at the meeting that they were disappointed that the commercial was moved off the corner. They said they preferred a project with a commercial component. What we’ve done is come up with a plan that puts commercial back on the corner and accommodates the city’s request for a fire station on the property,” said Theriot, a managing partner of Buda-based ETR Development Consulting.
The planning and zoning commission is expected to consider the amended plan at their regular meeting on Tuesday, March 22, two days before the city council would have considered an appeal of the P&Z vote rejecting the earlier version.
Oak Heights residents, and those from other nearby neighborhoods, want the city to adhere to a 2001 sector plan that allows for 10 acres of commercial directly on the corner surrounded by low-density residential neighborhoods with pockets of medium-density townhomes. But Theriot, a former longtime city planning official, says reduced traffic on Old Ranch Road 12 following the opening of the Wonder World Drive extension make it less likely that the location can sustain 10 full acres of commercial.
What Retreat Holdings is proposing instead, Theriot said, is a multi-family development that comes in at four units per acre, still less than the six units per acre that would be allowed under current low-density, single-family residential zoning. In an attempt to alleviate neighborhood concerns, the developer has agreed to maintain a privacy fence and tree buffer between homes and the project; dedicate 4.5 acres as a public disc golf course; and eliminate a proposed connector between Hughson Drive and Ramona Circle. The modified plan also accedes to the Seventh Day Adventist church’s request for right of passage on the Retreat’s internal road to access a portion of its property where it intends to build a school.
The tract includes the homesite of retired dentist Jack Weatherford who, for many of the 40 years he has owned it, has seen neighborhood opposition kill one possible use for the property after another.
Surrounding neighborhoods are easily the most organized — and implacable — in the city and have mounted spirited opposition in recent years to projects ranging from a 454-unit apartment complex on the 176-acre Buie tract to a request from a homeowner on busy Craddock Avenue to rezone his property for office use. (That homeowner, downtown businessman Travis Kelsey, has since been appointed to the planning commission and has recused himself from votes on the Retreat at San Marcos, which is across the street from the house he owns.)
When the planning and zoning commission rejected a rezoning request to accommodate an apartment complex in 1999, then-chair Bob Mooney said, “The neighbors will not accept anything but single-family and limited business.”
Little has changed in nearby residents’ position since and some neighbors are not satisfied even with that.
After Weatherford said Wal-Mart was looking at the property for a neighborhood market in 2006, a group of residents led by activist Camille Phillips launched an effort to raise $5 million — Weatherford’s asking price at the time — to buy the property for use as a park. That effort never yielded the required funds and the council at the time declined even to pass a non-binding resolution in support.Email | Print