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

This revised concept from one of Darren Casey’s more recent development applications is No. 22 in a series of proposals from the San Antonio developer and Texas State alumnus. CLICK TO DOWNLOAD IN PDF


On the eve of what was to be a final drive for City Hall approval, San Antonio developer Darren Casey abruptly withdrew a package of requests related to the luxury student apartment complex he wanted to build on Sessom Drive.

The San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission had been scheduled to consider Casey’s applications for a planned development district, land use amendment, rezoning request and right-of-way abandonment at its regular meeting this evening. On Monday, however, consultants working for Casey asked that all the requests be taken off the table.

City Manager Jim Nuse and the city planner working the case said they don’t know if the late hour withdrawal means that Casey is abandoning his multi-family plans altogether. But they did say Casey asked that the planned development district and other items be withdrawn outright, not merely delayed.

“On Friday, we heard that he wanted to postpone and on Monday they asked to completely withdraw. I don’t know what this means. I haven’t talked to anyone in his group and I don’t know details,” Nuse said this morning.

Casey has not returned a phone call for comment this morning.

In January, the San Marcos City Council rejected Casey’s plans for an upscale 1008-bed student housing complex with 17,000 square feet of retail space on about 14 acres across Sessom Drive from Texas State University. Since then, he has proposed a succession of scaled down versions with the most recent calling for 743 bedrooms between 332 units.

Planner Alison Brake said Casey’s representatives asked that all four of their pending requests be withdrawn but did not indicate what their next steps would be.

“They withdrew it. That could mean that they have something new in the works. I don’t know one way or the other,” Brake said.

It is also unclear if Casey intends to pull out of the San Marcos market completely. The Texas State alumnus and major donor has previously announced plans for a 316-unit apartment complex on the Thorpe Lane site of the former county hospital as well as the residential/retail Concho Commons mixed use development on Guadalupe Street between Texas State and downtown San Marcos.


P&Z material related to Sessom Drive project [pdf]

Updated 1:36 p.m. Aug. 28: In a phone interview, Darren Casey said he walked away from his multi-family project because he was being unfairly thwarted by city staff. But, he said, he will move forward with development of the project as a single-family residential subdivision which he says he is already entitled to build.

“We still have every intention of developing that land. City Hall — i.e. the city manager and his staff — has chosen to interpret my project very contentiously. They have different rules for our Sessom project than they do for any other development.

“They basically wrote the staff report in a way where the P&Z commissioners couldn’t vote for it and there was no sense to go through all that nonsense tonight when it had already been voted down via the city manager. In 25 years of doing this, I’ve never experienced a city or a city manager getting involved in this way.

“We’ll continue to evaluate our options and decide what we want to do next,” Casey said.

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33 thoughts on “Updated: On eve of P&Z vote, Casey withdraws Sessom request

  1. I wish that Mr. Casey wopuld move on to potential projects in acceptable locations. We told him this numerous times, and assured him that those that opposed the destruction of Sessom Canyon were not simple anti-growth, but in fact, anti-bad growth. I would not be surprised if he is simply doing some variation of yet another end-around to force his ideas on the citizens of San Marcos, instead of working with them in a productive and acceptable manner on projects that make sense. 🙂 jlb

  2. Give it a rest, Jaimy. We all know what you’re pushing. You can’t even last a single sentence without casting aspersions on Mr Casey’s intentions.

    He made multiple attempts to revise his development and made concession after concession in his plans to develop responsibly – only to be told repeatedly “not here, not now, not ever”. I don’t blame him for not wanting to battle that kind of noise any longer.

    At this point, I almost (not quite, but almost) hope Mr Casey just proceeds to develop that property with the densest single family population that he can get by with. The resulting eyesore of a neighborhood can be a constant reminder to our community of the dangers of not dealing with developers in good faith.

  3. Dano, It is truly people with narrow little minds like yours that are destroying our world, one little piece of woods at a time. It is unfortunate that those in our town that could help, are joined at the hip with each other, and that this kind of destructive developement also includes the SF6 nightmare that one of our former majors cursed our LDC with. This SF-6 will be one of the first things that need to change after the changes on the council dias in November. Sessom Canyon needs to be preserved,and if by no other means, eminent domain may be the only viable solution. See ya in the pictures 🙂 jlb

  4. Brad,

    Is there any chance you could score an interview or get some comments from our city planning staff? I’ve heard quite a different story than what Mr. Casey presents here. It sounded like the staff was doing exactly what they are paid to do – check that codes are being met in the design phase – and that Mr. Casey refused to correct many obvious problems. Repeatedly.

    Now, to be clear – I heard this second hand, and though I trust the source, I wonder if it can be confirmed by anyone at the city. Thanks!

  5. Sorry Brad – I wrote that last comment without realizing you had posted an update from earlier today. Guess the City isn’t talking about details; perhaps they can’t, legally. Too bad though.

  6. Pulling this plan seems like a good idea initially. I gather the below grade stuff is pretty serious excavation, judging from the development on Comanche across from Pennington Funeral Home. Watching that, I wonder what happens to Sessom Creek in such a situation. Negotiations are not over if development plans continue. It seems it is hard on both the developer and the neighbors to have lots of money combined with little appreciation of the natural beauty of the site. I will do what I can to help preserve the natural beauty. Let me know if efforts are needed.

  7. Citizens of Sessom Creek, enjoy your new crackerjack development! You could have had something really nice there, but you blew it.

  8. This is a discussion item that Councilman Prather and I have asked to be on next Tuesday’s council agenda: The City Council will hold a discussion on limiting applicants for Planned Development Districts that fail to receive a majority vote of the City Council to one refiling of an application on the same property for one year.

  9. Yes, because San Marcos isn’t already a difficult enough place for developers to try to do business….let’s tell them that they only get two tries to navigate not only the city’s arcane development code but also the NIMBY crowd – or else they have to eat a year’s worth of carrying costs on the property.

    Then we can all sit back and wonder why we can’t attract better development partners in this town.

    In a few years, when we want to know why cookie cutter strip malls and apartment complexes are all we have around here, it’ll be because the more visionary developers will have gotten the message quite clearly – “not here not now not ever” indeed.

  10. What proof do you offer that San Marcos is a “difficult place to do business” for developers? That’s almost a laughable assertion.

    In the five years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen a tremendous amount of development taking place. Some of it has even been opposed by residents (the Buie tract rezoning and the Retreat, for example)and still passed by town officials. Darren Casey himself has several other projects going on in town right now. How is that “difficult”?.

    This particular project required rezoning. The developer took a gamble that he’d get it and didn’t; with a quarter century of experience, I’m certain he was aware of the risk.

    “Not here, not now, not ever” refers to a very specific piece of property, not the entire town of San Marcos – and that’s been clear from Day One.

  11. Cori nails it.

    “In a few years, when we want to know why cookie cutter strip malls and apartment complexes”

    We already have those, they have killed the downtown businesses one by one until only a few are left standing. This is from the lovely policies implemented by past city councils. The same crew that fund current candidates.

    BISM (Born in San Marcos) rules, that is how the cookie crumbles in San Martia.

    I’d like to see those so righteous anti-development to also take some time to reflect on the amount of blight in San Marcos. Mr. Thomaides perhaps you can do something about that metal building over there on Camacho. It is just as much of an eyesore as that development over for Sessom would have been. AND YET NO ONE SAYS A WORD.

    And, maybe someone can tell me why the Victory Garden’s voting box is now permanently Missing In Action. FOR SHAME! Again, NO one says a word.

  12. The mere fact that you refer to the Sessom development as an “eyesore” undermines the credibility of your entire post.

    The empty Springtown Center is an eyesore.
    Having food trailers shoved into every empty 4×6 space downtown is an eyesore.
    Pretty much everything on the I35 access road between 123 and WW is an eyesore.
    Having that crap growing out of the river all through Sewell is an eyesore.

    The now-dead Sessom development would have been many things, but an eyesore is not one of them.

  13. I asked Casey what his intentions were with the Concho Commons and Thorpe Lane properties and he pretty much said that their future remains to be seen.

    Even though Concho Commons and Thorpe have already been entitled as far as zoning and land use, he essentially said he wasn’t confident that building permitting etc wouldn’t be withheld and delayed out of spite. He seems to think — and this is just my interpretation based on my conversations with him — that city staff is trying to make an example out of him.

    “The good news is [that Concho and Thorpe] have already been approved but I don’t know whether [staff] will continue to be obstructive in the process. Staff is set up to administrate the process and follow the rules and they have chosen to take an activist role.”

    He said his experience with Sessom will discourage future development investment in the city.

    “It’s not just me. It’s other developers. They’re watching and it certainly doesn’t look good to my counterparts in the development community to see such a subjective process. You can’t make investments in those kind of conditions.”

  14. That thing flew through P&Z and City Council almost three years ago, with the blessing of the planning dept and the slightest handful of protests from people like me, who thought (and think) it is incredibly stupid for the city to be approving under-parked developments.

    There was no resistance. There was no activist (at least not anti-developer activist) anything.

    The sign on the property leads one to believe that construction was imminent back then. If you’re taking today’s alleged “activist role” by the city as a valid explanation, without any further digging, I am disappointed.

  15. The question I was attempting to answer was: What’s going to happen with Concho Commons? I asked one of the people in the best position to tell me that and relayed what I was told. You know by now that, in the age of digital news, these stories unfold little by little over time. There will be plenty of time and opportunity for city staff to rebut the claim that they were acting to kill the Sessom deal before it came to a vote.

    You asked why Concho Commons hasn’t been developed yet. I don’t even have to ask anyone that question for a big part of the answer. Concho Commons was entitled as a retail/office development in fall 2008 as the world was falling apart. (A residential component was added to plans in 2009). Nothing was getting financed for years, especially unleased retail and office space. So the real question isn’t why it wasn’t it built in 2008-2010 but why it hasn’t been built in 2011/2012 when there is clearly financing available for multi-family housing.

    Also, it is not accurate that Concho Commons sailed through without opposition. I clearly remember that key downtown interests were opposed, citing parking and other issues.

  16. Come to think of it, Rick “Free Market” Skiles, also petitioned to stop Concho Commons. He owns that retail center across University Drive.

  17. “Having food trailers shoved into every empty 4×6 space downtown is an eyesore.”
    P-lease, those food trailers are awesome and they should be giving rebates like COSM does to multinationals.
    The fact that you don’t see the Camacho as an eyesore, and refuse to even consider blight…undermines the credibility of your entire post “Danno.” Who knows which developer you are because you don’t have the guts to post your real name.

    So it was Casey that killed the Suzie’s Vegetarian Restaurant. Nice job putting a hard working woman who is from San Marcos out of business. And, then sitting there with the property like a little monopoly game. Maybe y’all should write that into your next ordinance.

  18. You’re clearly passionate about the topic, LMC. But either your reading comprehension skills need work or you’re so passionate about the topic that you insist on putting words in my mouth to try to make a point. Either way, you’re way off base.

    First, I never said anything about Camacho. That’s your pet peeve of the month.

    Second, I never said that I refuse to consider blight. In fact, I offered up several examples of blighted areas in San Marcos that could use some work. But given that the two-bitter sat empty for who-knows-how-many years before someone could do something with it, I would say that our town’s record on dealing with blight needs improving.

    Third (and I’ll take responsibility for this one) I didn’t mean to imply that I was against food trailers in general. Several of them actually have tasty food. But I AM against throwing one or two trailers up in every empty parking lot across town. Set up a place for them (like the old Gatti’s location) and make them all stay there, but otherwise it just looks tacky to have them scattered about.

    Finally, I assure you that I’m no developer, Lisa. If that is your real name….after all, on the internet we have no assurances.

    And on a new point, Casey didn’t “kill” Suzie’s place – he bought the property she was renting and tore it down. That’s a risk any tenant runs anywhere you go. She’s been free to open up somewhere else since that day – maybe in a food trailer?

  19. When Concho Commons was first proposed there was an insane amount of resistance. Chris North and Theresa Hobby were on the P&Z and a few other no growthers.

    As to lmc and the warehouse, you’ve got to be kidding. Private property and its been there forever.

  20. Wasn’t Chris North on P&Z like a decade ago? I can’t keep track of all the projects and faces, but that seems right, and I suspect that predates Mr. Casey’s involvement and the Concho Commons project.

    Either way, it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on why the property was not developed when P&Z, Council and Staff all happily supported it. I’ll buy the economy, to a degree, but I am still not seeing the anti-development “activism” at the city. In fact, my recollection of the departure of the last city manager, and the arrival of his replacement, would lead me to believe the opposite.

    If Jim Nuse is pushing back, I think it is worthwhile to dig into why that would be.

  21. Thanks for the time invested in your response and clarification Danno. I’ve agreed with some of your advocacy in the past and given props. Good to know you are not a developer!

    My point is that we need to focus on blight just as much as development or anti development. We need to fix what is broke.

    SMsince95 if you or i have a yard that is an eyesore we get a ticket. And that ticket has implications if it is not resolved with a fine. Why has Mr. Pollock not been cited? I’ve been calling this in since spring break. Please help me understand why you don’t think it is dangerous that a 4X8 piece of sheet metal that is hanging by a thread way at the top. This property owner is getting special treatment and that building is most def environmental racism.

    Oh, and its me, the real LMC because I report those who post under my identity to Brad ASAP.

    WAY TO GO COSM!!! You are rocking the house on this issue!

  22. The Henrys choose to do nothing with the Two Bitter for their own reasons; and it had nothing to do with the development regulations for that piece of property. It was their intent for it to fall apart.

  23. Whatever he says, I’m pretty sure Casey hasn’t developed the Concho property because he’s waiting for the university to make him an offer for it. That piece of land and the catholic student center lot make more sense for university expansion than any other area in town.

    This doesn’t stop the property from being an annoying eyesore in the meantime.

  24. This quote from Mr. Casey in Brad’s post above is why I wish that the planning department’s review process was more open to the public:

    “The good news is [that Concho and Thorpe] have already been approved but I don’t know whether [staff] will continue to be obstructive in the process. Staff is set up to administrate the process and follow the rules and they have chosen to take an activist role.”

    What Casey is calling “obstructive” and “an activist role” is what I call the planning department doing their job and making sure mistakes aren’t made. I’ve never gotten the feeling in the couple of conversations I’ve had with members of the staff that anyone is interested in “making an example” of him.

    These are two *interpretations* of what is going on, but if the process were more transparent, then future developers could judge for themselves what the atmosphere is in San Marcos.

  25. hippie, it does not surprise me. We had a Mayor for 8 years who said the same thing. She is now running for a congressional seat where she would have a vote on issues like this.

  26. If you put a picture of the river today up next to a picture of how it looked in the early 90s, 10 out of 10 people would say it was better looking back then.

    The wild rice may have some deep ecological meaning, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not ugly as hell.

  27. DAno, What is under the surface of the water is much more important than any innane argument you may attempt to make about aesthetics! JLB 🙂

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