UPDATED 1/20/12: Downloads of three engineering reports added below
by SEAN BATURA
The San Marcos City Council voted 4-3 against a rezoning needed for a 1,008-bed apartment complex on land along Sessom Drive Tuesday evening after more than 200 people overflowed City Hall in opposition to the project.
City staff, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the city’s economic development director recommended the council approve the zoning change. City planning staff said the project calls for adequate traffic and water pollution control measures. Most residents near the proposed project who came to City Hall Tuesday appeared unconvinced of the efficacy of proposed traffic control mitigation measures, and the San Marcos River Foundation and its hired engineer say the project would increase pollution in the river.
Sessom Drive runs along Sessom Creek, which drains into the ecologically-sensitive, spring-fed San Marcos River. Engineers differ on what impact the project would have on the health of the river with one hired by the San Marcos River Foundation predicting ruinous results and one hired by the developer anticipating little to no impact.
“Out of an abundance of caution and struggling with this over the last couple of months has led me to believe we should not approve,” said council member Kim Porterfield, who was joined by Mayor Daniel Guerrero and council members John Thomaides and Shane Scott in voting against the rezoning. Council members Jude Prather, Wayne Becak and Ryan Thomason voted in favor.
Just after the council voted down a motion to rezone the property, the project team indicated its intention to withdraw their rezoning application. Council member John Thomaides immediately made a motion to deny the rezoning, which would have prevented a similar rezoning request from being considered for one year. His motion did not carry for lack of a second.
This means another rezoning request can be submitted, though the council would not hear the matter again for a few months if the request is refiled. The project’s developer, San Antonio resident and Texas State alumnus Darren Casey, was not immediately available for comment and his development team declined to indicate whether a rezoning request will be refiled.
At one point when it was clear that the the project was going to fail, Prather made a motion to table the issue, to which the audience responded with loud boos and objections, and the motion died for lack of a second. The various positive and negative reactions from the audience inside and outside the council chambers was at times loud enough for Guerrero to ask for protestors not to disrupt the meeting.
Council members deliberated and cast their votes after hours of testimony from about 75 people, the vast majority of whom were opposed to rezoning most of the 14.228-acre project area from single family to mixed use. The turnout at City Hall was the largest in recent memory.
The high-end $63 million project would include 17,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, and, according to its proponents, would provide an estimated 125-150 interim construction jobs, 84-106 post-construction, permanent on-site jobs, and greatly increased tax revenue generated from the property.