by BRAD ROLLINS
The San Marcos City Council on Tuesday strongly signaled interest in buying Cape’s Camp, part of the largest undeveloped tract of land on the San Marcos River within the city limits. If talks with the seller are fruitful, voters could be asked to weigh in as early as November.
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After meeting for two hours behind closed doors in executive session, Mayor Daniel Guerrero said the council had instructed its staff to contact landowners, Robert Thornton and his family, about buying the 98-acre property. Council members also moved to commission an independent appraisal and prepare ballot language for a possible proposition election in November.
In addition, the council said staff should start preparing to trade or sell acreage it owns on Leah Avenue in the medial district near Central Texas Medical Center. Council members have suggested that apartments planned for part of the Thornton tract might be better suited for the Leah property.
“There are a lot of moving pieces to this particular puzzle but we do intend to have additional conversation in the future,” Guerrero said.
An Athens, Georgia-based developer wants to build student apartments on about 23 acres of the Thornton property, including the area known locally as Cape’s Camp. That development proposal would involve donation to the city of a dozen or more acres of waterfront property, including manmade Thompson’s Islands on a part of the river wrestled into submission 160 years ago by an enterprising Louisiana transplant and his slaves.
Parkland and environmental advocates — backed by a group of residents from the nearby Blanco Gardens neighborhood off River Road — have been appearing before citizens’ boards and commissions this summer to argue that the city should buy all of the land, not just parts unsuitable for building apartments.
On the west side of Interstate 35, the city owns more than 100 acres of parkland on both sides of the San Marcos River starting near its spring-fed headwater. On the east side, Texas Parks & Wildlife already owns 4.7 acres of Thompson’s Islands, which the city operates on behalf of the state as Stokes Park. The Thornton property would connect the two.
“This is not a quick, reactionary thought that people are expressing. A lot of thought is going into it,” said Angie Ramirez, who represents Blanco Gardens in the Council of Neighborhood Associations. “It’s important for me that you all understand how invested the people on the eastside are in the project. We’re in it for the long haul.”