by BRAD ROLLINS
Backers of a controversial apartment and retail project between Sessom Drive and Sessom Creek say they will not take a page from other developers’ playbook to thwart the will of neighboring property owners who have signed a petition opposing the project.
The San Marcos City Charter requires a supermajority — six of seven council members — to vote to approve a rezoning request if owners of 20 percent of property within 200 feet of a project boundary sign a petition opposing the rezoning.
In the past, however, determined developers have found a work-around by shaving off a portion of the project boundaries and thereby eliminating some of the opponents from the 200 foot zone. But Carter Morris, the real estate broker who represents San Antonio developer Darren Casey and five homeowners whose property is under contract for sale to Casey, said his client will not try to win approval for a $63 million mixed use project by undermining the petition.
“We’re going in for a straight up or down vote and we’ll go from there,” Morris said. “My client has taken on this project from the start with the goal of being transparent and to work with those who have concerns about it. He has no interest in negating a petition that is a formal document submitted by citizens.”
In June 2010, principals of a proposed 174 acre mixed use development on the Buie tract on Craddock Avenue were facing a supermajority requirement for a portion of the rezoning they needed to make the project fly. A little more than 20 percent of surrounding property owners, however, had signed off on a petition opposing the rezoning and it appeared impossible that developers could muster six votes. By eliminating 2.23 acres from the rezoning request, the developer was able to knock just enough signatures off the petition to render it meaningless. The rezoning was subsequently approved 5-2.
Opponents who live near Casey’s proposed development across Sessom Drive from Texas State University have reached that magic 20 percent threshold and will require a supermajority when the San Marcos City Council votes on it Tuesday. Facing an uncertain fate in council, rumors have coursed through town for weeks that Casey and his advisers — former San Marcos planning staff organized as ETR Development Consulting — would attempt a similar end-run around the city charter.
The planning and zoning commission approved Casey’s rezoning and planned development district 5-2 on Tuesday and Morris told the Mercury later that week that there would be no shenanigans aimed at knocking the supermajority requirement back down to a simple majority.
“This project would be great for the city of San Marcos and will have a very small impact if any impact at all on the people who live in that area. We’re looking for approval based on the merits of the project. Anything that is less than transparent or above-board is not something Mr. Casey would like to do.”Email | Print