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

by BRAD ROLLINS

A Canadian company is asking the San Marcos City Council to create a public improvement district to help fund development of 495 acres on Centerpoint Road near the outlet malls.

A public utility district, or PID, would be empowered to levy its own ad valorem tax on those who buy property within the development, which is being called the Gas Lamp District.


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Representatives of Calgary, Alberta-based Walton Development & Management say the additional property tax — estimated to be somewhere in the range of 39 cents per $100 — would be used to build infrastructure for a high-quality, mixed-use project that would include single-, multi-family and senior housing; an office park; and a corporate campus intended to attract research and development firms.

“We know that the city only grants economic benefits — public financing benefits — in very special situations. We think we can demonstrate to you that this project is unique in terms of its location, quality of the project, use of the SmartCode and its potential positive impact on city revenues,” land use attorney David Armbrust told council members at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

Alexa Knight, Walton’s regional vice president for Texas, said early phases of the development would focus on building homes designed to appeal to young homebuyers in the $175,000 to $200,000 range.

Council member John Thomaides seemed skeptical that the company would be successful in marketing homes that carry an additional tax burden — about $800 on a $200,000 home — to first-time homebuyers.

“You’re asking the city to allow you to charge 40 cents on top of our 53 cents tax rate. For a $200,000 product, that’s going to bring your city [and PID] tax alone to $2,000 a year. So you’re going to get young, first-time home buyers to pay $2,000 a year in city tax plus the school district tax plus the county and road tax? That’s your plan?” Thomaides asked.

Rick Rosenberg, a principal in Austin-based Development Planning & Financing Group Inc., said total tax rates for property in the Gas Lamp District are project to amount to $2.73 per $100 in assessed property value, which he said would position the Gas Lamp District below other Central Texas competitors developments funded through add-on taxes like municipal utility districts.

“One of the things we look at is, once the assessment is put on the property, that the tax rate is market successful. The last thing we want is a tax rate that is so high that nobody will buy the home,” Rosenberg said. “In doing our analysis for this project, we projected that a 39-cent tax rate puts this project in the middle of the competitive market. There are projects this will be competing with that will have a total tax rate over $3.”

The district’s creation would not take away from taxes collected by the city of San Marcos, Hays County and San Marcos CISD, officials said. But if the city wants to build water, wastewater and street infrastructure sized to accommodate expected future growth in the area, it will need to invest an estimated $5.3 million to oversize those facilities beyond what Walton need build to service only the Gas Lamp District.

The Gas Lamp District would be the first full-scale development in San Marcos to be built under the optional SmartCode ordinance adopted in April 2011, which emphasizes bike- and pedestrian-oriented communities in the New Urbanism school of city planning.

A very basic PowerPoint presentation shown to the council at its meeting last week shows a mix of land uses arrayed around network of streets and public parks. Walton representatives said more details would be publicly released as the proposal makes it way through city approval processes.

The San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission is scheduled to hear a presentation on the project at its meeting tomorrow with public hearings tentatively scheduled for Aug. 14 before the planning commission and Sept. 4 before the city council.

Walton Development owns a total of 8,400 acres in Hays and Caldwell counties, Knight said, including large holdings along the route of the Texas 130 bypass around Austin and San Antonio. In a previous meeting, council members were told that Walton is interested in becoming a partner in the Hays Caldwell Public Utility District — made up of Hays County’s corridor cities and the Canyon Regional Water Authority — to provide water to its planned Caldwell County development. The Gas Lamp District, however, would be on city of San Marcos water, council members were told on Tuesday.

Located less than a mile from the sprawling Premium and Tanger outlet centers, the Walton property at the intersection of the Old Bastrop Highway and Centerpoint Road has been slated for development before. Most recently, the council heard plans from a California company for a commercial and residential development that never materialized.

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» Presentation to San Marcos council on Gas Lamp District [pdf]

COVER PHOTO: This conceptual site plan, floated to San Marcos council members last week, shows a proposed mix of residential, office and commercial uses for 495 acres on Centerpoint Road owned by Walton Development & Management. The developer is asking the city council to approve a public improvement district which they say would add 39 cents to the tax rate for people who buy property in the future development. COURTESY IMAGE

CORRECTION: This article originally referred to the Canyon Regional Water Supply Corp.; it is the Canyon Regional Water Authority.

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22 thoughts on “Canadian developer has big plans for Centerpoint Road acreage

  1. It’s my opinion that large-lot developments like Settlement/Fox Ridge (lots >2ac) are much less stressful or damaging to the native environment than sardine can developments like this one.

    Camino Real is tight, and this plan looks no different. Squeeze as many suckers into the neighborhood as you can so that developers get as much money as physically possible.

    What about all the unsold homes over by the airport? Blanco river vista or some other nonsensical name….Those lots are so tiny you can fart and rustle the curtains of your neighbors home!

  2. I’m not sure acreage sites would work out that close to the outlet malls. People who want acreage usually also want peace and quiet to some extent.

    FWIW, I don’t think a residential development that close to the outlet mall is a good idea no matter how they set it up.

    Are they really planning to promote the mall’s proximity as a selling point? I guess there may be some who are eager to live that close to such a mammoth retail operation, but count me out of that group.

  3. Well, I don’t know if there’s enough demand for it. I guess they must think there is.

    Also, it doesn’t look that pedestrian friendly to me. These curvy street layouts look nice on plans but generally just add distance for pedestrians trying to get from point A to point B. I’m not sure what’s in the Smartcode that makes something ‘pedestrian friendly’.

  4. It wouldn’t surprise me to find there are some residual entitlements from a previous plat that make developers keep trying to shoehorn residential onto this tract. It’s a treeless wasteland served by an undersized county road. Are you really going to come in and out everyday through that outlet mall traffic? I’ll bet a case of Moulson’s Golden that it never gets off the ground, eh?

  5. I’m guessing there is demand, judging by all the developments alongside 35 in Buda and Kyle. Common sense would suggest that people would not want to buy a house where you can admire the traffic of thousands of cars buzzing by at 75 mph every hour, but they obviously do. I suspect the same would apply here.

    In Dallas (and probably elsewhere; I’ve only seen Dallas) they are starting to build apartments on top of outdoor malls and there is sufficient demand. And that undersized county road would be expanded rather quickly if this gets built I’d reckon.

  6. I’ve only approached the outlets from west of I-35, so I can’t speak to the traffic on Centerpoint Rd. out to the east. Surely there’s some, but would there really be that much? I suppose you’d have shoppers coming off Hwy 123, but nothing like the traffic flowing from I-35.

    My guess is the residents of this development would see more traffic impact from the high school just up Old Bastrop Road, because the morning commutes to school and work both overlap. In contrast, the outlets don’t open until 10 am, at least an hour after the traditional morning commute wanes.

    It’d be nice to look at a larger version of that proposed development map.

  7. There’s the issue of increased traffic on Centerpoint and 123. There’s the higher tax rate to pay for the PUD (remember Circle C) There’s the blackland clay soil and the issue of slab stability. I’ll throw in some nice IPAs with SM95; don’t see it working out.

  8. Zach, the large lots you promote in your second post are consistent with urban sprawl and are anathema to most environmentally conscious planners. Have you studied sustainable building practices? What is it about lots>2ac makes them more desirable, environmentally speaking?

  9. In the case of settlement/fox ridge, which is the only development I have promoted, the lots are for the most part left natural. There is only a very small percentage of land that is non-porous. From my personal experience the permeable ground and natural environment attract LOTS of wildlife.

    “Discussions and debates about sprawl are often made unclear by the uncertainty of the meaning associated with the phrase. For example, some commentators measure sprawl only with the average number of residential units per acre in a given area. But others associate it with decentralization (spread of population without a well-defined centre), discontinuity (leapfrog development, as defined below), segregation of uses, and so forth.”

    ^I think this is most definitely the case here.

    To be clear: I’m promoting a minimally developed, less dense form of neighborhood, where the natural inhabitants can coexist with humans.

    I don’t know any environmentally conscious planners or what is anathema to them. I have not studied sustainable building practices. My education is limited to first hand observations while house-shopping in the area.

  10. Imagine every house in San Marcos on 2 acres. How big would the city be and how much driving (air pollution) would occur as a result. How much infrastructure (roads, sewer, water, electrical etc) would have to be placed to sustain that model?

    I’ve done a bit of reading on the topic and it’s pretty well accepted that density is preferrable. Maybe not to the consumer, but to the environment.

    Fortunately we live in a country with great freedom and there are a variety of housing products on the market. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  11. There is a time and place for everything. Large lot and small lot subdivisions. Out in the unincorporated portions of the county, it’s large lot by definition; wells and septic systems require same. In the incorporated portions of the county, it depends. Large lots with a minimum of impervious ground cover are warranted on areas where a great deal of runoff could occur. Whereas on flat areas with minimal runoff, density is warranted.

    @MMac, not a growth/ no growth issue. It’s a, will this development work issue. If you wish to frame the discussion as growth/no growth; my response would be, I don’t want to participate in the subsidizing of this development by having tax payers build the roads this will need, let the developer do that.

  12. ^I can agree with both you gentlemen. Density is useful in certain situations, and it’s great to live free in America.

    ^^I don’t want to subsidize developers either.

    Enjoy the weekend

  13. One of the great complaints about San Marcos is lack of quality neighborhoods. We also have the highest impact fees allowable by law. Maybe we should think about subsidizing a developer who will bring in a product that fills a void.

  14. Mostly I was just squirting some gasoline on the discussion. I don’t know exactly what the void looks like except that the ideal neighborhood would probably be heavily deed restricted against college rental. A start might be to look at what neighborhoods people are choosing when they live elsewhere but work in San Marcos. That is, if the school issue doesn’t overwhelm the topic. For myself, I wouldn’t mind having a neighborhood pool. I don’t like the houses in Blanco Vista and the lots are too small. Otherwise they did a great job.

  15. Neither pro nor anti growth, just a real world observation. The MUD tax, roughly $300 a month, would mean a buyer would need to make $1200 gross more a month to qualify for a loan; if the lender includes escrows in the qualifying income. Starts to limit the purchaser pool. If the lender doesn’t take escrows into account for qualification, the foreclosure rate will sky rocket. Great for the developer, they’ve made their money; bad for those who either lose their homes, or are stuck in a neighborhood with diminishing property values.

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