San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

San Antonio developer Darren Casey addresses the San Marcos Council about his proposed high-end residential and retail development across Sessom Drive from Texas State University. PHOTO by SEAN BATURA

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.

Downloads

» Original environmental assessment by Horizon Environmental Services [pdf]

» San Marcos River Foundation’s engineer report [pdf]

» Ramsey Engineering rebuttal to River Foundation report [pdf] Email Email | Print Print


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61 thoughts on “Council votes down Sessom rezoning as hundreds protest

  1. It would be great for the city to come up with a meaningful way to conduct some sort of impact analysis for requests like these. It seems terribly flawed, to have the developer and SMRF hiring dualing engineers, for example.

    Would it be that expensive to contract with experts, to evaluate the environmental impact, the impact to neighboring property values, etc? The same 3-5 concerns come up with every request. Why not tackle them head-on?

    Perhaps the developers could foot that bill, giving them an added incentive to get it right the first time, or develop on the land we have already selected for MF/commercial/etc.

    As it stands, I do not believe that we have the expertise to identify a truly compatible development. In the past, I would have cited Sagewood as an example, but that is ancient history (although not history I would like to repeat). The most recent example is Zelick’s and the B&B.

    I’d rather these decisions not come down to a question of whether the developers are more convincing than the citizens are angry, and I’d rather their successful integration into the neighborhoods come down to more than a coin flip.

    This looks like a great development, and I love the idea of more “stuff” within walking distance of our house. I was never convinced that anyone really had a good sense of what the impact on the area would be, much less whether the right steps were being taken to address those impacts.

  2. I wasn’t present, though I had emailed council members. I just think that with so many questions, it’s best not to proceed. Once the area is developed,the deed is done, and the citizens are left to deal with the impact. The council voted to support the concerns of its residents. Great. I would like to see a study to better balance the city with a mix of single family and apartments/condos. But that means a balance in jobs too, and so far, we’re lacking the kind of jobs that lead to good single-family residential expansion.

  3. I would call this the first major council victory for the NIMBY’s since opposition moved the convention center, and first time I remember them winning over votes from Daniel or Kim. It is either a triumph for the democratic process or mob rule — time will tell. The super majority requirement of the neighbors’ petition is anti-democratic as were John T.’s efforts to bind the hands of future elected leaders. It would be interesting to see where the mayor would have broken on the vote if he was breaking a tie instead of joining the majority; it would have been harder for him. I hope all the people who opposed it are around to support a good use of that property in the future. I hope they aren’t just trying to use the government to keep green space which they are not willing to buy for fair value from the owner.

  4. Well that puts the property owners is a crummy position. They can’t sell their single family homes due to poor marketibilty because of the close presence of the university, can’t develop the land due to this fiasco. What can they do now. Free firewood? Clear the land and sell to the university would really option I can see.

  5. apologize..last sentence should have said. Clear the land and sell to the university would really be the only option I can see.

  6. I will Kate on this. I’d like to see more evidence that this thing would not effect the river. Until then I know three people who wont be getting my vote next time around.

  7. @Skeptical..Efforts are in play to line up resources to aquire these properties when they are avilable, and the land owners choose to negotiate, after DC and CM take their hands off of them, of course. Several fund raisers are being planned, various venues, and hopefully the best use of this land will prevail. yes, time will tell how this all plays out, the citizens of San Marcos do care about this issue, and about the welfare of the land owners as well. Let’s all pray that good reason shall prevail. JLB 🙂

  8. Yea!!!! Kudos to Nancy Moore, the organization she spearheaded, and the people of San Marcos for all their hard work and determination in their successful opposition against the ‘barbarians at the gate’. May God grant you the strength and perseverance to continue the fight against greed and corruption we are now faced with at every stratum of society.

  9. The business people who sit around bitching because there’s not enough investment in this town and then sit on their hands while the mob runs big investors out of town ought to be kicking themselves.

  10. While I will refrain from using hyperbolic words like “tragedy” to describe what happened last night, it is a damn shame just the same. This development would have been a good thing for San Marcos, both economically and socially.

    I just hope other developers weren’t watching to see how Casey was treated by the citizenry during this whole process – if they were, San Marcos may find it tough to attract upscale development like this in the future. But we’ll always have Wal-Mart, and that’s enough for some people around here I guess.

  11. Skeptical: Do we want rules or not? Do we want to honor zoning codes which are in effect contracts with the community or not? And if we break them, who gets to decide and how do we determine which should be broken and in which situation? Are the people not able to speak against something and use the lawful process to enforce it? How is it undemocratic to get a petition to force a more stringent process to get a change approval (we can quibble over the 20%, but I think it is set up that way because the burden should be on the people requesting the change, not those opposing)?

    Would you also say it was undemocratic for a developer to get this changed against the will of 1000’s of people because they had a few council members on their side, especially when, to say the least, there were some pretty gaping questions in the merit and impact of this project?

    In my mind, if anyone can be charged with being “undemocratic’ I would say it would be those who voted for this change even though it was pretty obvious that a wide swathe of the people (you know, the “demos” in democracy) were against it. Who is sovereign here again?

    If anyone was being undemocratic it was Prather in his attempt (I’m not sure cowardly is the right word, but whichever word applies it is it is surely not democratic or flattering) to table the whole issue because there obviously were not enough votes to pass. If any action spoke volumes last night about who understood democracy and who could maybe use a refresher on on the subject this was it. I certainly hope we have long memories come the next election when maybe the democratic process could be put to use again (well, those of us who bother to get off our butts and vote…sigh).

    The point is we have a process and I believe the people were well within their rights to act as they did. And the property owners are still perfectly welcome to sell their land for as much as they can get — but, I think it is a pretty undemocratic argument to deny the people the right to ask the city to stick to the established plan about what can be built there IF THEY BELIEVE IT NEGATIVELY IMPACTS THIER LIVES AND/OR INVESTMENTS.

    And to simply dismiss the people (and if you were at the any of the meetings during this process you would have had to have been blind not to see this for yourself) against this project in this place as NIMBY is either an unjust or specious argument. As specious as the sentiment that everyone there could be dismissively categorized as no-growth alarmists, even though there were plenty of businessmen present.

  12. Don’t forget the outlet mall.

    I don’t think the real problem is that “the mob” got this project killed.

    The problem is that the city seems to be incapable of instilling the population with any confidence in their abilities to choose good developments over bad. That someone would have to look back to the conference center, to find a NIMBY win, speaks volumes. Just about everything has been approved. Hell, Stone Creek was supposed to “bring a different level of business” to San Marcos.

    There has been largely a development rubber-stamp at P&Z and City Council for some time now, despite the angry mobs, and we’re still pretty close to where we were 20 years ago. Blind allegiance to developer interests is just a different brand of no-growth, since it doesn’t actually move the city forward in any meaningful way.

    What we need, is people who will rationally, and realistically, evaluate each proposal that comes along, and who can be trusted to understand them, and make the right decisions for the city. When we start to see the city moving forward in a meaningful way, and good developments outnumbering bad, the “no-growth” contingent will have far less support.

    I see no difference between people who support every proposal, and people who oppose every proposal.

  13. @ Ted. You always sound very logical. S when are u going to get on the P&Z board or run for city council?

  14. Well that puts the property owners is a crummy position. They can’t sell their single family homes due to poor marketibilty because of the close presence of the university, can’t develop the land due to this fiasco. What can they do now. Free firewood? Clear the land and sell to the university would really be the only option I can see.

  15. @ Moneyhags..not knowing whether to refer to you as Mr or Ms, I will just say, you toss out some pretty harsh condemnations of some very responsible professionals in our town! Pleeeeeeeeease, MOB RULE ???? Perhaps the real mob are the ones that force their designs upon those that do not wish to be put upon! Happy Wednesday, thank God the process worked last night, at least for the moment. JLB 🙂 PS- I have great cause for pause, when dealing with a person too cowardly to use their real name in a public forum!

  16. Well that puts the property owners is a crummy position. They can’t sell their single family homes due to poor marketibilty because of the close presence of the university, can’t develop the land due to this fiasco. What can they do now. Free firewood? Clear the land and sell to the university would really be the only option I can see

  17. SS: I’m guessing they can find a buyer for the property because of its location near the University. And Moneybags, I’m guessing people will still come invest here if they think a profit can be made. Austin development’s get protested all the time and it has not seemed to hurt their ability to attract investors. If there are demand someone will find a way to supply it. I hardly think our town is going to be short of investors in the future. But, maybe if we are 90% apartments at some point that investment may not be the one that can sustain a very livable city for families and such…

  18. @Keith Cunningham. The super majority is an impediment to representative democracy. Give things a straight up and down vote. The people who opposed the development still would have won but it would have forced tougher votes for some. I am not going to defend Jude but I don’t know what his goal was either.

    I still don’t know if the loud voices represent a majority of the city. They never win an election with the exception of John. LMC can talk about the next election; that is what she does after every zoning fight only for her or her candidate to lose.

    I have nothing against those who opposed the project. I just wish they would hang around and be engaged in some things that affect the whole city and not one piece of property. The schools could use some of their passion. The fact that we have many living in poverty could use some of their attention. So when the numbers only come out to argue over letters on a map (it is not a contract, it is legacy baggage from prior leaders) and don’t care about the things that affect the whole city, I figure they are NIMBYers — probably not all, maybe not you from what I have read that you have to say.

  19. @Curious, if you’re asking me, not anytime soon. I work in San Antonio, so dedicating a meaningful amount of time to anything in San Marcos would be impossible. Even then, I’m not sure I am the right person for that position. Knowing what needs to be done, and having the expertise to do it, are two different things. 🙂

  20. Ted, I’d vote for you. Not because we necessarily would agree on everything (from what I have read in these pages if I can label them such), but because you seem honest and have a sense of how to logically build a principle. I assume this would carry over to a potential political stint and that you would therefore be capable of transparency due to both your adherence to WHAT you actually believed was ethically correct (what a F’n concept) and the mental ability to know WHY you believed such (I’m not sure if MANY of our fearless leaders — at all levels of our Republic) have much of a clue what this stuff means, nor far too many of those who vote/don’t bother to get off of their butts do so.

    Skeptical: sorry if I came across as angry, but this whole thing has got me a bit riled up. I respectfully disagree that the supermajority is undemocratic. The rules were already in place for the area to be zoned one way and the process was in place back when it was zoned for protest to happen if it was going to and obviously it did not (or not enough to make a difference). So, I believe the burden should be on the other side to prove their point beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe this is very much the same sort of logic in place for why we have different levels of “certainty” needed for grand and final (or whatever you call them) juries. I view them as a check on the government’s powers (because I inherently do not trust power).

    Basically, I feel the status quo should win out, unless there is a clear right being violated (such as what was happening during the 19th or 24th amendment debates).

    Note, if I had been on the council and opposed this project, but a good chunk of my citizenry had felt moved to get up and show that they were for it I would have felt obligated to approve it over my best wishes. Although we are a republic and all that entails, if you actually represent the people and they make a point in such an exceptional manner, I do not see how you can in good conscience oppose this. How many times in San Marcos have we seen such behavior by the citizenry? Who is in charge here? Who actually matter?

    Per the NIMBYer’s, I still say if you were there at any of the meetings it would be disingenuous to categorize this as a small segment of our town or a NIMBY group. Perhaps they have been in some cases, but not now. I would say such dismissals are rather akin to saying all Occupy Types are stoned Hippies and all Tea Party Folks are in the KKK (and yes, I know people like such neat dichotomies because they can wrap their heads around them). Such simplifications do little for the discourse needed to get this country back on track, however.

    And, as another part of the problem I fear that far too many of those currently involved will disengage from the process now that their pet project has been supposedly dealt with. I hope this does not happen, but past history says it will and that is a HUGE problem that we all should own. And I could not agree more that we should be WAY more concerned about the state of those around us and what such entails for us all. Indeed I think this is basically the cause this whole thing was concerned with and it would be nice if we would expand such logic to other issues…

  21. Keith,

    How can the landowner find a buyer for the property now? We JUST established that the neighborhood goon squad won’t allow for commercial of multifamily development of the property under pretty much any circumstances. These same people used the argument that residential development doesn’t fit that close to the university….so who is left to buy it?

  22. Someone who is looking for a middle-upper class single family residency…maybe work for the University…enjoys convenience of being in town in nicely treed, established neighborhood …can buy with confidence, knowing that the city will protect their long-term investment…
    Just throwing some ideas out there.

  23. I would buy it if I were a professor that wanted to walk to work and live in a nice neighborhood that stood a good chance of staying that way in a town that l wanted to live in because they actually cared about stuff like this and did not want to become RoundRock or Plano or Katy…

  24. I’m sure that the landowners would be able to sell their homes on the open market very quickly IF they put them on the market at a reasonable price.

    In 10 minutes using Google and the county Tax maps, I was able to find expired real estate listings for 3 of those properties, and their assessed tax value. The difference between the two numbers is quite interesting.

    One property is listed on the tax rolls at 169K and was listed on Zillow and elsewhere for sale 439K. And according to the owner, it is a house in disrepair! I’d venture to guess that, listed at a reasonable HOME price, someone would have bought it. The other two empty properties were listed together for a total of 695K. Again, if listed at a reasonable price (which is determined by similar properties in the neighborhood), I suspect they could easily be sold for *homes*.

    Curiously, both properties appear to have been taken off the market in Aug 2011. Wonder why??

    Spot zoning, anyone? Seems to fit one of the 5 criteria (excessive benefit to the landowner) that was presented last night.

    Now, before I get slammed for harshing on the landowners — they have the right to sell their property, of course. But it seems to me that they got some mighty poor advice from their original realtor. And the houses didn’t sell (assuming they were actually intended to. Does that then give them the right to claim they can’t move the houses because of proximity to the university. NO.

  25. I’m also disturbed about comments made last night and in this thread about how “outdated” the master plan is, or how it doesn’t apply to us today.

    Baloney.

    The whole purpose of a master plan is to give shape to the future. And I and other homeowners bought into that future – old as it is, it has validity for us. Now – should it NEVER change? Of course not. But the proper process for that change is an extensive review, with adequate time for ALL citizen’s to discuss and weigh in on the next twenty years.

    Going through these rezoning requests holds us hostage to aggravation and uncertainty. Not good for growth or confidence. It is an inefficient use of all our energies, that could be put to use drafting the new master plan, and fixing the inadequacies in regulations and enforcement. Lets take a hard look at what good urban mixed use really is, because I’ve seen it, and it’s not the Sanctuary lofts – or eve, really, what Mr. Casey presented. Where was a grocery or proximity to one? where was the housing and play scape for families of the grad students, post docs, and visiting professors that will come here if/when TX State achieves R-1 status? These are future needs that we have to talk about FIRST, before rezoning “here and there”.

    I say, lets review the master planfirst, before *any* more zoning changes from lower density to higher density. Let’s put our house in order with regards to stricter environmental rules (like the Austin code brought up last night) and make sure we have the staff with the knowledge and manpower to enforce them. We can end up with a great end product, I’m sure, after seeing the energy last night.

  26. Brad, are there any photos, people are still taking about the massive citizen turnout!!! I’m sure everyone will remember come election time who voted for this boondoggle! We all know now who really loves San Marcos and who actually LISTENS to the voices of the residents here in our community!!!

  27. Cori I was just talking about the exact same frustration last night. All the comments about an oudated Master Plan from CC just made NO sense. Would a new Master plan have changed any of our arguments throughout this whole process regarding the protection of single family neighborhoods and our streams and rivers? Will a new Master plan call for the deliberate encrouchment on our single family neighborhoods by mult-family/commercial? Will a new Master plan say that we have now decided that money from developers should take presedence over protecting our streams and rivers?

    I too hope the involvement of the citizens doesn’t wash away after this small victory, but I can tell you first hand it’s exhausting fighting P&Z and the CC when they move SO fast! The citizens have totally lost trust in the city to make decent decisions regarding zoning, and I think the whole process should be slowed down so that better decision can be made, and citizens have a chance to learn about proposed projects before the bulldozers are at their door. A friend and fellow Protect San Marcos memeber made a comment at one of our meetings that really sums it all up. He said you could literally go on vacation for three weeks and come back to find that apartments going up in your in your neighborhood and there is nothing you can do about it.

  28. @ Shane… Once the property is available, people are lined up to negotiate the purchase with the intent tyo preserve it properly! no worry, tried to explain that several times, no worry, the land owners that desire to sell will be adequately compensated for their unwanted properties! please, come to reason, this is not a personal vendetta, etc, i have personally expressed over and over, these lands can be preserved, please comne to reason, and let us know ASAP when Casey/ Morris take their hands off of it, or, can you disengage from the offer now??????? We are ready to talk now, today, ASAP, and will secure the land for the next 10,000 years so we never have to do this again. Reason shall prevail, if all will just welcome it. Sincerly, JLB 🙂

  29. I’d like to correct the quote from the very end of Kim Porterfield’s comments, as I was sitting in the chambers in the second row and heard her very clearly.

    As quoted above: “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,

    What she actually said, and it was lost in the noise of the crowd, is this:

    “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, AT THIS
    TIME.”

    Please note, she is NOT convinced and I would not be surprised to see her flip her vote in the future.

  30. The listing price vs the tax roll value is easy to answer. The asking price is heavily influenced by the realtor. Maybe they have a client looking for that type of property with a lot of cash. Maybe they just want a larger commission.

    Why staff is in favor of the development and Council voted it down is equally easy. Council faces more scrutiny from the public than staff. Any of you recognize staff on sight? Ever seen them at lunch with Developer A, or more likely, the Developer representative.

    Yes, it’s a jaundiced view; but it’s also true.

  31. One of the properties discussed above, now empty, is a beautiful ranch home on a sweet piece of wooded land. It has lovely wood and brick floors and a great layout, even a cool little kitchen complete with fireplace.

    In the back yard is a shed/workshop surrounded by a cement curb. Written into that curb are the names of two little girls, along with imprints of their tiny feet and hands. The date, if I recall correctly, was 1952. That doesn’t add one red cent to the property value, but serves as a reminder that families have made their home there for more than half a century, and they could continue to do so again, easily and probably quite happily.

    Knowing nothing more about it, this home struck me as very marketable, particularly to someone who works at the university or downtown and would want to walk or bike to work.

    As for Cori’s concerns about the appraisal amounts listed on Hays CAD vs. actual asking and sale prices, it’s been my experience that the two almost never match up. The real-world market value of properties very frequently leads the market value pegged by the appraisal district, although the gap can close considerably once the property changes hands.

    I’m glad the rezoning was voted down, primarily because nearby residents objected so strenuously to the development and because the potential environmental impact still seemed questionable.

    My suggestion would be for the developers to buy out the owners of the blighted duplexes on Bracewood Circle and build there. Talk about room for improvement.

  32. Tax appraisals have limited application here, for sure. Comps would be interesting, though. I know that the recently discussed property at Craddock and 12 is listed for 2x (conservatively) what comparable homes are selling for in the area.

    No wonder “nobody wants to buy it to live there.”

    I don’t know anything about the properties in this particular case. It should be fairly simple to get the square footage, acreage, etc., and put some comps together.

  33. Finally a victory for the people. This development was a bad idea from the get go and it took a lot of peoples effort to make it apparent to those who have to vote on it. If only city counsel would have listened to the citizens on the other property zone changes in the past this city would be better off. It makes sense to listen to the tax payers since they are the ones who vote you in or out. As I see it, Jude Prather is on his way out… what a cowardly move. He was the kid who cried when his little league team lost.

    We need to keep San Marcos in a nice balance between university and families.

    As for the marketability of those properties… no problem. Sell them for what they are really worth and everybody walks away happy. Hell, I would love one of those places if they were listed at what they are worth, perhaps $210k.

  34. I am still up in the air with this project. On one hand…it is inevitable that something will occur there. Will the University buy it, who knows? But Casey has his name on an athletic building and has purchased one of the luxury suites at the football stadium. It would not surprise me if the whole plan was to be able to easily flip it to the University. On the other hand, there are far too many questions that were left unanswered. If anything, the developer should have slowed down and taken the time to resolve the issues. Dueling engineers with completely differing opinions, questions regarding the traffic analysis, upset neighbors who may or may not have been willing to negotiate a scaled down project, the appearance of improprieties and conflicts of interest, and the list could go on. The Council did do the right thing, AT THIS TIME.

    Single family will never be successful on this property for the same reasons that multifamily is a bad use. You couldn’t sell a single family home on Sessom because of traffic and you couldn’t develop it as a traditional single family subdivision because of the slopes and environmental issues. Why do you think 2 of the 4 houses that are currently on the property sit vacant? No one will buy them to raise a family and the only renters would be students (in violation of the occupancy restrictions). The ultimate question is what truly is the highest and best use given all of the property constraints?

    Regardless, I have some issues to raise regarding the arguments from the opposition. The opposition seems to be contradicting themselves. If you’re truly concerned about the environmental impacts, you would want multifamily next to the university. Why put more multifamily out on 35 where the students drive to the stadium parking lot to park and walk to campus? Or the University would have to add more buses to serve those remote areas. Aquarena is already bad enough. Add more students out 35 and you have more cars and bus trips. What comes with cars and bus trips? Air pollution!! Save the river at the expense of my lungs. Not sure which poison is worse.

    Single family in this area would be far more detrimental for the river. A single family developer would not have to abide by any water quality standards and could submit construction plans and a plat tomorrow. And there is no way to regulate what single family home owners do on their property. I will admit that I’m one of the violators. I don’t have the time to treat my garden and yard organically and I can’t afford to pay for it. I don’t need the full bag of weed and feed or fertilizer but I put the whole thing on. I don’t want to have to worry about keeping track of the remainder of the bag. Not to mention the things I’ve seen my neighbors do such as dumping things directly down the storm drains.

    I’m no engineer but I did look up both engineers that testified. Both are respectable engineers and have a significant amount of experience. However, I do find it odd that the Casey team agreed to develop in accordance with the Austin Environmental Manual. The SMRF engineer helped write the Austin manual being used by the Casey team but says that the project cannot achieve the standards of the Austin Environmental Manual. So basically the SMRF engineer doesn’t even believe in the rules she wrote. On the other hand, the Casey engineer couldn’t refute the SMRF engineer’s determination of erosion. And where was the so called expert third party engineer the City said they had review it. Why didn’t Council ask that engineer to be the tie breaker?

    And don’t even get me started on a certain representative of SMRF who was the former owner of a restaurant on LBJ. It sure was easy to overlook the impacts on the river when it was their money at stake (money, money, money, greed, greed, greed). But they made their money, sold their business and now they can worry about the impacts on the river.

    You better believe the greater Austin/San Antonio area was watching this project. It made the news in both areas. I have personally spoken with several real estate brokers in town and they all have clients who were waiting on the outcome of this meeting before bringing anything to our fair City. Many of these people are looking at the downtown area for redevelopment of the County properties but fear public outcry about any proposals. Given the fact that the Council just drew a line in the sand regarding whether they will support good developments if there is any controversy, I wonder if any of them will come. There are no easy properties left in San Marcos. The ones already zoned for multifamily are restricted by the aquifer or the river or some other development constraint. All the rest require a zoning change and are in difficult areas. Even the commercial properties are difficult. If it were really that easy to develop Springtown, don’t you think someone would have done so? I have heard that there are issues with deed restrictions or something that are tying up that property.

    Just to clear something up, contract zoning is illegal in the state of Texas. To even indicate that the Master Plan or the zoning codes are a “contract” would be completely unfounded. Zoning is established and controlled by the Legislature and they allow zoning changes to occur. They also require the democratic process that the City follows. The City of San Marcos’ process for zoning changes is no different from any other City in the State because it is established by the legislature. And the Master Plan IS outdated. Those plans are required to be looked at every 5 years to determine consistency. If it needs to be updated it should be. If it doesn’t then the Council needs to say so. When have we ever done that? And arguing that this is spot zoning is ridiculous. Spot zoning is completely dependent upon who is answering the questions. I could answer them in a way to make the case both ways. Staff did a poor job of answering this question.

    To call for a moratorium on multifamily until after the Master Plan is completed ridiculous. A complete rewrite of the Master Plan will take well over a year. Austin took several years. You may as well just call for a moratorium on all development in the City until the Master Plan is complete. The Council also has the difficult decision on what to do with applications currently approved or in process. A moratorium could end up in court and could cost a significant amount of money.

    In the end, I don’t believe any of the Council Members took this decision lightly nor did they dismiss the masses that were present. I believe each person had their own opinion of the project and voted as such.

    That being said, I firmly believe the vote would have been much different if not for the super-majority requirement. The end result was simple politics. John Thomaides has never supported any controversial project and has never gone against neighborhood groups despite what he said. When Kim Porterfield said she could not support the project, that busted the super-majority and gave Shane Scott and the Mayor their easy out to vote against the project and look good to the masses. Shane Scott made the motion to approve the project!!! If you don’t support it, why make a motion to approve it. If you came in believing one thing and changed your mind during the process, withdraw your motion. That would have been the proper thing to do. And if they wanted to deny it, why not second Thomaides’ motion to deny it. If Kim Porterfield, Shane Scott or our Mayor were actually against the project, why didn’t one of them second Thomaides’ motion. It’s because they didn’t really want to deny it but they needed to CYA themselves politically. I applaud Jude Prather, Ryan Thomason, Wayne Becak and John Thomaides for being honest and voting consistent with what they believed and stated throughout the meeting. When it came to his vote, Ryan Thomason even laughingly said it really didn’t matter but still voted in favor of the project because that’s what he believed. Whether you were in favor of the project or opposed to the project, these 4 Council Members at least were honest with us on their positions. Shame on the others for not being strong enough to stand by their beliefs.

  35. If investors think there is demand (and there is with tens of thousands of students) and that they can make a profit, they will come. I also disagree that the master plan is not akin to a contract — obviously its not in the pure legal sense — but it is a public statement by the city that this area is intended to look one way and that area an another and citizens make decisions based on the good faith of such plans and the burden should be on the side seeking the change if those who believe they are going to be impacted make their opposition heard. I also do not think you would be saving much car traffic by building this here. To think the students will walk anywhere else but school is delusional. It would, however, greatly increase gridlock on Sessoms and Comanche, I think we can say that for sure. Other than those points I pretty much agree with most of what is very well written above. Although I would say that the attitude of “I know this is harmful but I don’t have time to mess with it” is pretty hard to defend. If you are self-aware enough to know something you are doing is harmful to others, how can you still do it?

  36. Personal Opinion,

    Your post was thoughful, well-informed, and rational. Therefore, I have concluded that it does not belong here.

  37. Admitting the improper use,disposal and/storage of an herbicide means PO’s post is not at all well informed, nor rational.

    Add to that the insanity of Paragraph 5. Because the project can not meet the standards, the standards are wrong.

    Thanks PO, your bovine feces about “I’m up in the air about this” with your tirade about how the project should proceed ring hollow.

  38. I still have my own personal doubts as to whether this project would have ever been built. If Concho Commons (same developer) can’t get off the ground after 75 years (or however long it has been…I may have exaggerated some) how is this project, which is at least double the size of that one, ever going to get off the ground. I’m no expert but the economics just don’t seem to be there (in my humble opinion).

    This was a major project that was, in size, scope and committment to quality, far beyond anything that has been proposed in San Marcos before. What developer has ever come in and agreed to follow Austin’s environmental guidelines? This could have been a project that would have set the bar for all other projects following it. If this project had passed, others would have had to follow suit which may have turned some lesser quality developers away.

    The City Council’s denial of this project sends a message that you don’t have to commit to being the highest quality project, just don’t go somewhere that is controversial. With the county moving from downtown and leaving significant buildings and land areas vacant, and our ordinances allowing for redevelopment of existing properties with virtually no detention or water quality controls, what can we expect for redevelopment in downtown? What standards will those projects be held to? And what neighborhood will be there to oppose it?

    I’m still up in the air on the whole SmartCode but the City already took care of the zoning for downtown redevelopment so it’s directly on to non-discretionary, staff approved development permits. Is that really better?

    And where does all of the runoff in downtown drain to…directly to our precious river. If you thought 85% treatment of stormwater wasn’t good enough, how does 0% sound. At least it won’t create an island by Salt Grass!!

    Central Texas is still the hot bed for multifamily development…it’s the only type of development that can get financing. And with the University within walking distance of downtown, it’s a huge return on investment. And therefore…it can be built.

    We have to stop looking at projects on an individual property by property basis and start evaluating the situation as a whole. Read what is actually in our City’s development regulations. Take the time to understand. If you don’t know or you don’t understand, seek out someone who does. And then think outside of the box.

    Was this necessarily the right location for this project? Probably not. Was it the “highest and best use” of the property? That’s subjective. Did this project commit to things that have never before been seen in the City of San Marcos? Yes. Will other projects be reviewed and held to the same standards? Not likely.

    And for that reason alone, Mr. Casey should be granted a little respect…regardless of whether you like the project or not.

    Dano – ROFLMAO!!!! My apologies. For fear of disturbing the delicate balance of all things blogosphere…I will attempt to refrain from further comment. Thank you…and Goodnight!

  39. You are of course correct Winchester. Using the entire bag of weed & feed when only 3/4 of the bag was called for is an unpardonable sin and that fact alone completely negates the value of anything else that person might say. I forgot how difficult it can be to deal with the lawn police in town…..remind me never to discuss my lawn care routine online then…..

  40. PO

    Why exactly can’t future projects be evaluated and held to the same high standards?

    They should be- and I certainly hope they will!

    The fact that our standards were found lacking, and folks tried to find solutions, is great. We need to keep moving forward in that direction for the future.

  41. We have a lawn police? They don’t seem to be doing a very good job judging by all the amazingly green lawns certain neighborhoods boast around here during our summer droughts. They don’t seem to be making life too difficult for many other people I’d say…

  42. I think we just established a standard for future high end development in San Marcos – if I remember the slogan on the sign correctly, it’s “Not here. Not now. Not ever.”

  43. Actually there is a deal in the works to put this same project down where the armory and city hall are and move the new city offices to the old justice building. Virtually everyone I have talked to who was opposed to the project on Sessoms is thrilled about the same project in this location. It is simply false to categorize people’s legitimate concern with the shape of the community we live in with no-growth. Hopefully this new ideation will come forth soon so this simplistic, false dichotomy can be put to bed and we can spend our energy actually coming up with more of a reasonable consensus of the direction we want our town to move.

  44. “In the end, I don’t believe any of the Council Members took this decision lightly nor did they dismiss the masses that were present. I believe each person had their own opinion of the project and voted as such”

    Actually, when Jude voted to table the issue that was exactly what he was trying to do, dismiss the masses!

  45. I like the Mayor’s quote in the University Star’s article covering this news:
    Guerrero said the strong public dissent was telling and a contributing factor in his decision to vote against the plans. Guerrero quoted Margaret Mead when he recited, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

  46. @ Dano, are you really so very dense that you can not understand that it is not developement, but STUPID developement, that is undesireable to the majority of our citizens? Wake up, I personally make my living in the construction business, and , we are very busy wiring buildings all over town right now, but none are in environmentally sensitive areas, or where infrastructure can’t support them! Just the facts, like they say, you can lead a horse to water, but it must be smart enough to drink, or it will surely perrish form thirst. JLB 🙂

  47. KC; that plan would put property back on the tax rolls, which would be great. But how much renovation would the Justice Center need? At least there is parking.

    Any one heard any rumors about the other now vacant County buildings?

  48. I am unsure about the renovation and what it would entail…I’m guessing (with nothing to back this up other than having the experience of spending official time over there and its configuration was not very well suited for that sort of usage) that they would raze the building and start from scratch…there was discussion of a parking garage included as well…

  49. I think they might have to do just that. I’d have to see a very thorough inspection, to be cinvinced otherwise, after all I have heard about plumbing problems, mold, mites, HVAC problems, etc.

  50. The think the City Offices relocating to the site of the old Justice Center would be fabulous, although I can’t see that building being reutilized. It seems clear the city is outgrowing the current city hall.

    I have heard rumors for old tax office at the corner of LBJ and San Antonio. That building is an architectural gem. Can’t say what the rumor is, but if it pans out I think most everyone will be pleased.

  51. Indeed Larry, it is a gem. Hopefully who ever buys it shares our opinion. Of the three it holds the greatest promise for redevelopment, IMHO.

    And KC, I believe you’re correct; take the Justice Center down to the ground.

  52. I asked Shane Scott why he voted it down. He stated that new information was brought to his attention, and it did not meet the test for rezoning and should not have been passed by the planning dept.

  53. It appears that there may be light at the end of the proverbial tunnel in our local city government? Thoughtful, legal precendents will stand on their own, hopefully. jlb 🙂

  54. The city does not need to move – to the county building or anywhere. There’s plenty of room on their existing property to add a building IF they need it. The building where planning is located is designed to accomodate a third story. Let the county building go to the private sector and back on the tax rolls.

  55. Whatever happened to “Open San Marcos.” I stopped receiving the emails once the last round of City Council campaigns went into full swing. What happened to the updates? What they are up to and who is running the organization now? Best! LMC

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