by BRAD ROLLINS
Residents who opposed Darren Casey’s Sessom Drive development because it required rezoning single-family properties to make way for more apartments can declare victory.
On Monday, engineers working for the developer applied to plat the property for single-family use — 52 home lots on 14.2 acres — in a less dense neighborhood of cul de sacs being called Sessom Court. The proposal would dedicate 1.2 acres as parkland.
Casey had proposed 420 apartments and 17,000 square feet of retail space in an upscale complex expected to cost about $63 million; under his earlier proposal, he would have dedicated 4.5 acres as parkland on the bank of Sessom Creek. He has five homes under contract to buy on Sessom Drive at Loquat Street, across the street from Texas State University.
His original proposal was met with gales of opposition, much of it from homeowners in the area who saw the rezoning as an encroachment of apartments into established neighborhoods. Moreover, it became a symbol of San Marcos’ ongoing apartment-building frenzy — a national trend magnified here by the presence of a booming university. Casey’s proposal sparked a petition drive insisting on a moratorium against zoning single-family property for multi-family use; at last night’s city council meeting, activists said they had collected more than 2,000 signatures representing people who live across the city.
The San Marcos City Council last month declined 3-4 to grant Casey’s rezoning request.
Assuming the plat submitted by Casey’s agents complies with technical requirements of the city’s land development code, it will not require a council vote to be enacted much less the public hearings that gave voice this winter to a potentially enduring movement in municipal politics. Residents who still oppose Casey’s efforts — despite his making the ultimate concession of switching to much less profitable single-family — appear at first blush to have few options for blocking Sessom Court.
“It’s not a negotiation. [With platting], you set your standards and if they are met, under state law, they are statutorily approved,” said Matthew Lewis, the city’s Development Services director. “They are not asking for a land use or zoning change and they say they are not asking for plat variances or subdivision variances.”
Lewis said the city’s low-density residential zoning allows six homes per acre as long as lots are at least 6,000 square feet, at least 50 feet wide and have at least 35 feet of street frontage.