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

COVER: A swimmer rests on the tip of Thompson’s Island at Cape’s Dam on the San Marcos River during a summer afternoon in August. A developer has his eyes on 45 acres on River Road for a project that would include donation of 20 acres of the property — including Thompson’s Islands — for a public park. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONALDO


An apartment developer looking to build student housing on part of Cape’s Camp has sweetened his pitch to the city, roughly doubling the amount of riverfront acreage he says he’s willing to donate as a park.

Athens, Ga.-based Dovetail Development wants to build a 306-unit apartment complex called The Woodlands on a portion of 45 acres owned by the Thornton and Stokes families on the north bank of the San Marcos River, just east of Interstate 35.

As part of a deal that includes the zoning and land use entitlements he needs from City Hall, Dovetail Development’s Dave Mulkey has proposed transferring ownership of about 20 acres nearest the river to the municipal government for parkland. The proposed gift is more than six times the 3.21 acres of parkland dedication that would be required under city development ordinances.

The donation would include 10 acres that make up most of Thompson’s Islands as well as uninterrupted river frontage on the north side of the river running the length of the tract. The proposed park adjoins 4.6 acres the state of Texas already owns and the city of San Marcos operates as Stokes Park, the only legal public point of entry into the river in eastern San Marcos.

The developer’s initial proposal to develop 39 acres of the land — before the company had an option to buy the Stokes tract — included about 11 acres of public parkland. But the plan also would have cordoned off four acres alongside the river as a private retreat for the apartment complex’s residents.

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113 thoughts on “Developer adds parks acres to Cape’s Camp proposal

  1. Why is it always for student housing? Don’t non students need a place to live also? And why is city council and P&Z allowing all this multi family growth? Last I remember reading the mayor had initiated a moratorium against mult family complexes. Maybe I read wrong.

  2. I don’t know why it has to be student housing. Maybe there is more demand for that. What’s really not clear to me, is why “student housing” is PC, but “non-student housing” is not. Both exclude people.

    Apartments in general are pretty much at capacity, which is why more keep getting built. The mayor proposed a moratorium, and it went nowhere, if I recall correctly.

    A better solution, would be to look into the demand side of the equation, and see what is keeping people from buying more homes here.

  3. Ummm, no, the mayor didn’t propose a moratorium on multifamily projects. Several thousand residents did ask for one via an informal petition last winter, until the Master Plan could be reviewed and reworked to designate appropriate sites for that type of high density housing. That request was denied.

    In my mind, the question for this project is whether any version of multifamily housing – or even other intensive development – is appropriate for this property, which sits in a floodplain. I’m told there are some serious drainage issues to consider. In addition, there may be a chance to turn this property into a very unique, much needed park (which was discussed way back when, in the old Master Plan), which will provide more river recreation area for residents, and bring tourists into town. A wide swath of apartments between the road and the river might not be the wisest choice if that is to happen….

    The Parks Board meets tonight, at 5:30 pm, in the parks and rec building – if you want to comment on this proposal, come on down.

  4. I’m almost 100% positive I have heard him bring it up, more than once, prior to that petition.

  5. May, 2011

    “We need to slow this down, and I don’t know what that’s going to take—whether it’s a moratorium [on multifamily development] or something else,” he said.

    I’m fairly certain that is not the only time I heard him bring up the idea.

  6. I’m happy to hear that! I wasn’t ever at meetings prior to that, so I wouldn’t know. Thanks for the correction, Ted.

  7. Putting ANY housing on this piece of property is short sighted. This land will be developed only once in our lifetime. I think the next generation will shake their heads if they see that we as citizens and leaders in 2012 thought that the best use of the last and largest piece of undeveloped riverside property in our City is student housing. The potential for this property is SSOOO much more than that. I’ve heard it said and believe that this could be the Central Park of Central Texas! Weddings are a growing and lucrative business and Hill Country weddings are highly sought after. This would be the perfect place! Recreational Tourism is constantly talked about in Economic Development groups and most will agree that our landmark facilities are already reaching capacity. This would enhance what SMTX has to offer tremendously! Neither of these options will be feasible if apartments are put anywhere on this property. The full potential of Cape’s Camp cannot be realized with the construction of apartments. Save Cape’s Camp! Email P&Z and your Council to delay the vote on on this until after the citizens have voted in November!!

  8. It doesn’t matter how many acres of parkland developers promise to reserve, and it doesn’t matter what concessions the developers are willing to make to make the development an asset for San Marcos…..people like Cori, Melissa, and their kind will find a reason to oppose it. Whether it’s “protect the neighborhoods” or “protect the river” or “protect whatever”, they’ll find a reason that it should be “Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever”.

    The mere suggestion that a moratorium on multifamily development should be considered at a time when the economy and lending environment are preventing people from buying homes AND the University is growing to record enrollments each and every year is beyond preposterous and speaks to the true intentions of these civic minded folk. These people are, despite their efforts to convince people otherwise, hell bent on denying just about any attempt to find ways to house a whole community who lives here (same as they do).

    Not everyone can afford to buy a house. And this is a college town for a booming University. As much as those concepts are anathema to some, they are our reality and we HAVE to plan for it. I agree that we should find ways to bring better jobs and more homebuyers to San Marcos…but until we find a way to do that, we have to live in the reality that we currently face. And that’s multifamily housing.

  9. Dano, get with the program! Decades before I moved here, San Marcans indicated that they wanted to set aside river land for parks, an idea which has been confirmed in the recent citizen comments on the new master plan.

    Apartments can be built responsibly in many areas of San Marcos. No one has EVER said that they shouldn’t be built in that case!

  10. I haved lived with the reality for the past 18 years. I co-exist with the reality that TX ST is every year a record enrollment. I live in R1 zoned division, which has failed. Let’s just roll over and live with the reality that as home owners and tax paying citizens, we really don’t have a choice so take it as it is…?

  11. Until we get a moratorium on Texas State enrollment, there will always be increasing demand for student-oriented housing. I’ve heard it said on a few occasions that Texas State plans to expand enrollment up to 50,000 (comparable to UT and A&M) within 15 years. Not sure if this is in their master plan or just something stated by the BOR.

    So, where are those 15,000 extra students going to live? If current trends hold, about half of them will live in San Marcos, and the other half in neighboring cities (NB, Kyle, Buda, Austin, etc). 306 units is a drop in the bucket compared to future demand.

  12. It’s not even a convenient spot for student housing: It’s not within easy walking distance of campus and it’s not on a university bus route (the closest route goes down LBJ… I guess they could walk to the bus or bike to campus?)

    Also, I wonder how much of the ‘generously’ proposed parkland is in the floodplain and therefore not available for construction anyways. Parkland should be for the enjoyment of the community and having it blocked off from the surrounding neighborhood by an apartment complex misses the point.

  13. TSU (sorry Ted, TXST) will be like A&M at some point in the not too distant future. And if anyone has been to College Station it seems like they have done a pretty good job of managing tons of student housing while maintaing the integrity of neighborhoods for permanent residents who don’t fancy living next to students. It can be done. I would offer up the U of Missouri as another fine example if anyone has been there.

    And to claim that simply because some people resist building in certain areas means they are against all growth is a classic “a monkey eats bananas, I eat bananas, I must be a monkey argument.” Can we stop that nonsense pretty please? Nuance people, nuance. Look it up. Its really quite a handy concept to add to one’s personal philosophy.

  14. The entire property is in the floodplain. The parkland offered is in floodway or the buffer zone which means it is not buildable. If it gets developed by anyone, that portion will be parkland/open space. The question is whether it will be open to the public or reserved for the residents. My guess is that the developer is trying to appear cooperative in hopes of getting a sweeter land swap deal if the city decides to buy it for parkland. If the city decides not to buy it, the developer hasn’t lost much in terms of the appeal of the property to potential residents. I bet the liability insurance bill on the developed portion drops considerably with that tract being city property.

  15. The university changes bus routes all the time. There would almost certainly be a shuttle to this location.

  16. And, I can also promise a recall petition and we will deliver the signatures. Think about your votes elected officials because your seats are not guaranteed, even after the election – with your early voting shenanigans.

  17. Brad, do you know when this picture was taken? I was told there is a sign at this location to detour tubers and kayaks to the more stagnant part of the river to avoid the TxDot bridge construction.

  18. Ted:

    I kind of doubt that. They most certainly do not change bus routes all the time… at least not to this extent… especially not for a single complex. It takes a lot to have a bus going somewhere every 8 minutes. There are currently seven residential bus routes and the inclusion of this complex would almost require an eighth. They haven’t included the new complex out on wonder world/hunter (though they might because they do at least go out to wonderworld)… and they’ve never included the complexes out on hopkins and the 35/80 intersection. If the developers really want to market this to students then they should be coordinating with university transportation. In fact the planning department should be coordinating with the university on this. It’s in both student and non-student interests to have complexes concentrated on easily bus-able routes.

    Are they actually planning on marketing to students? There’s nothing in their presentation that says so, but it is in the article.

  19. TMAC thank you for the 411. We just got back and were SHOCKED there is road construction in such an environmentally sensitive area. We have snapped photos of both entrances blocked off. Now, we will be calling city hall to obtain copies of environmental impact studies, presupposing there are some.


  20. TMAC, the photo was taken in early August. It was before the bridge construction started so there could now be a sign there.

  21. SH, very good, not too many people are aware of the Super Fund site in their own backyard. I would have thought it had been cleaned up by now, but one never knows for sure.

  22. It appears that the property owners/ developer are making an extremely fair offer to basically hand the citizens of San Marcos a large tract of riverfront property in this deal. Yes, it is in a floodplain, which makes its use as “Controlled Access” parkland a very good idea. Yes, I said ” Controlled Access” because the last thing we need in San Marcos is to waste taxpayer resources on another park like Rio Vista that is virtually unuseable for families that choose not to be confronted with unacceptable behavior from the crowds of intoxicated and often offensive vistors, many that are not even San Marcos residents! Parks with cotrolled reserved access would solve this dilemma, allowing residents to secure sites with barbeque pits , etc, and know that they could spend a day at the river without the unacceptable intrussion of dangerous and offensive social behaviors. This would be the best use of any further expansion of parklands on the river and would safely ensure that ALL citizens could enjoy our beautiful river, without being forced to deal with the undesireable negative aspects presently available at other public parks on the San Marcos River, Yes, you will probably need a valid ID to reserve a site in a well maintained park such as this.

  23. As I remember it, and it’s been a while since I had reason to do so, please correct me if I’m wrong SH; it’s northeast of River Rd, between Linda Ln and Smith Ln. The nature of the contamination I never knew.

  24. Actually, Maggie B., I think there are ten residential shuttles and the Wonder World route comes within a mile of this development.

  25. As I recall, it is suspected but not definative that the source is the Old Chuck Nash car lot and extended to the river. If not to the river then the property across from old Capes Camp. The Super Fund for all intense and purposes is bankrupt, overwhelmed really. There is no money from the Feds to correct this local problem and never will be. This is all from my memory and should in no way be considered facts. Now if I could only remember where I put my computer?

  26. I was thinking it was the undeveloped tract of land just north of FedEx/UPS (whatever it is) but will not swear to it. Oddly, the Chuck Nash site was for years prior to being a car dealership, vacant due to screwworm infestation.

    I’ll pass on swimming or eating anything caught downstream from there.

  27. Ted:

    The extra three services you’ve got are combinations of the seven routes… these combos only run during the evenings when there is less demand. Here is a map of the seven routes:

    Here is an article with statements from university officials explicitly stating that they don’t cater to individual apartment complexes and that they have turned down requests from other complexes to be included on the bus route:

    The nearest current bus stop would probably be at Garcias and involves a walk of a little more than a mile along non-pedestrian friendly streets like the I-35 frontage road.

  28. The bus routes are run by the University according to it’s needs, including the need to pay for the expensive parking garages on campus. Unless transportation agreements are in writing between the Town and TX State, I would hope that no development decisions are made based on the idea that “there would almost certainly be a shuttle to this location”.

    We have no guarantee of that, at all.

  29. Conversely, the university seems to be very adept at getting students to campus.

    To limit options for student housing to undeveloped property, within walking distance of campus (and not near single family neighborhoods), or on an existing shuttle route, and presumably already zoned for multifamily, would seem to lend credibility to Dano’s opinion of the opposition. It would almost be easier to find a piece of property to build a strip club.

  30. I think the property that you are all talking about with the toxic waste ( seems like it was dry cleaning chemicals??) was actually more to the south, along where the resturaunts and hotels are now, up close to IH35, not near the river, could be wrong though. I would imagine the university bus system will accomadate most any thoughfully placed housing complex, especially when on a major thoroughfare like the Ih35/River Rd area, 4 lane major artery road system the entire length of the proposed project.

  31. No no no, you misunderstand me Ted. I’m not saying development should be limited to existing bus routes. I do think though, that if the town believes a bus route is critical for the success of a proposed project, it shouldn’t blindly “trust” that good sense will prevail and the University will put one there.

    What I’ve read and heard from students is that it’s just the opposite – the University is *not* all that adept at getting students to campus. Bus routes are overcrowded (students get left by the side of the road at certain times), they don’t go to major student housing developments, and that the roues were cut back this year. (I don’t know whether that is temporary or permanent, however.)

    I understand that funding the buses in town is a very complex task, involving many agencies and requirements, but I hope the town and University are working together towards developing a better system. The last college town we lived in had a fantastic bus service. It was open to residents and served all the apartments, grocery stores, the library, and even major shopping areas. It was primarily run by the university, which worked very closely with the town. TX State seems to act more unilaterally from what I see.

  32. One of the chemicals noted in the above link is an industrial solvent used primarily in the cleaning of steel which is often times coated in heavy grease or oil. I am very familiar with its uses since as a kid I was given it to clean heavy metal beams prior to the fabrication of metal stands. As far as a bus route is concerned, there used to be not one but two different routes that went through that area of town some years ago. But if memory serves me right there is some prime vacant land on Belvin street that would provide ample room for a multi story student apartment complex…just saying.

  33. Thank you Winchester for that link!!

    “July 2011, the TCEQ sampled monitoring wells in the plume management zone and sampled two surface water locations in Willow Springs Creek. Samples were analyzed for tetracholroethene (PCS), trichloroethene (TCE), cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cis 1,2-DCE) and vinyl chloride.”

    These substances remind me of the PCE / PERC Daniel Scales called in to TCEQ and that is why there is no longer a moldy building with barrels of the stuff in the heart of downtown. (Behind wally’s) { tetrachloroethylene perchloroethylene PCE tetrachloroethene PERC} These are used in dry cleaning business.

    If you walk down West SA near Harvey you can still smell the stuff those women used to dump down the drain from their beauty shop. They should have been fined for what they did.

    And, those are monitoring sensor wells right now behind Wally’s. Why big trucks are allowed to park there who knows? We’ve reported it to elected officials who actually read our correspondence and respond.

  34. Can’t help but just look at that photo and think, “That view would look so much better with a giant honking apartment complex in the background.”

  35. Realizing that all the land in the flood plain along the river, including everything within sight of the river picture above, would remain as is, or improved only with park facilities( no buildings in the floodplain most likely ) , etc.,as parkland donated by the developer to the city ( 20 acres) . It may be a good idea for one to know some facts, before speaking untruths. The only land proposed for developement is the empty,treeless farm field along River Rd. . Aside from this fact, I do hope the city can find a way to buy the land with taxpayers money if they agree, and possibly create a safe, usable park, unlike the debacle at Rio Vista, for the public to utilize and enjoy with their families, across from the existing apartments,gas station, and commercial properties that presently line the adjacent side of the street( Just took some pictures). Time will tell. A nice safe, controlled access park would be a great asset to San Marcos, as we presently do not have one for citizens to safely enjoy without invassive elements, with the exception of the childrens playscape park, and parks owned by the state .

  36. Jaimy – not sure where you are getting the idea that this would be a “controlled access” park. These are the options:
    1. Current proposal where developer buys it. Donates the island and strip on north side of river to city.
    2. Previous proposal where developer buys it and donates island to the city but keeps strip on north side for use by apartment residents only.
    3. City buys it and entire park is open to all.
    4. City buys it and charges an entry fee for use.

    Option 4 is sort of controlled access but those “invasive elements” can pay the entry fee just like any one else.

  37. I think you may have missed the point of creating an actual beautiful park that loving families could enjoy, pristine riverside parkland that I personally have only stood on twice since 1959…so, be smart instead of headstrong and illogical…JLB 🙂

  38. Oh, by the way, none of us have permission to ever stand on this land unless those that own it decide to allow that through their thoughtful decisions as to its potential future use…JLB 🙂

  39. Oh, one Rio Vista is enough taxpayer burden gone wrong, Suzzane, thanks…I doubt there is an actual need for more of the same, really….:-) jlb

  40. Opposition to this plan baffles me. 20 free acres of prime park land for the City amounts to a windfall for San Marcos.

    This is on property that is NOT in a single family neighborhood, it’s accessible through major roads, and the plans make it look like a fairly attractive development.

    Yet, here are people threatening recall elections if it goes through. Absolutely stunning – and I don’t mean that in a good way.

  41. One last thought, does anyone remember how unmanageable 5 Mile damn park area became before the county reworked it and made it more family friendly, with what I referred to as controlled access type entrance, limitations on useage, etc.? Something similar would be great in this area, to avoid a mess in an otherwise beautiful part of the San Marcos River. I just hope people realize what a great oppurtunity this would be for a a park….JLB

  42. Or, Jaimy, we could have no restrictions on this new park and restrict the heck out of Rio Vista. I’d go for that. One thing to worry about with this new park is where do you put the cars. I believe river corridor restrictions prevent new impervious cover.

  43. the eminent domain…i don’t agree with that…love my Mother Earth, but property rights r property rights – if the city can’t step up – then how dare we take land from a citizen (via eminent domain) to protect it with the mechanism of the park, if you can persuade me on this caveat, then i’ll vote for the proposition

    Otherwise I am voting No on the proposition.

  44. The odds of it becoming a true eminent domain case are slim since you have a willing seller. In eminent domain the land owner is compensated a fair market value or negotiated value, usually in the seller’s favor.

  45. Maybe since the state gets to build their cobblestone parking lots wherever they please apparently( Salt Grass rear parking area, new lot accross from the old Reds Texaco Bldg ) the city could get a variance for one of similar style, eco friendly, etc. I just hope that rational minds prevail, and an amicable agreement between all parties can be reached, neighborhood residents included. Imagine, having access to a park area that has otherwise been off limits my whole lifetime( exception being if in a boat on the water )The near condemnable apartments accross the street could be replaced with updated housing, a win/ win for everyone if all seek solutions that are compatible.

  46. One more thought. I remember how beautiful it was when the community came together and put together the Childrens Playscape park years ago. What an awesome event, the citizens that love this beautiful place building lasting monuments to the love that they poured out for others to enjoy. If destiny should bless our community with a another awesome park area, I truly hope the community can find some overdue healing in the process, by making this dream a reality with whatever they can bring to the table, including good old fashioned sweat equity. Sorry if I get a bit wound up sometimes, please forgive me if my words tend to cut to the bone now and then, I mean no harm, really. JLB 🙂

  47. I have fought the Casey Session Creek plan since day one and I will continue to fight it. But I am beginning to like the apartment developers proposal for River Road/Capes Camp. That 20 acres is beautiful. I’d love to spend a sunny afternoon down there, but it’s not currently possible. Apartments already line River Road. Perhaps the developers plan would be a win-win for the city, the river, and the developers. I’m still agnostic, but I could become a believer.

  48. The non-binding propositions on the ballot break eminent domain out into a separate item.

    Prop 1 – Shall the city council be authorized to acquire the Cape’s Camp area of 70 acres, more or less, for parks and recreation purposes, at a price not to exceed fair market value as determined by an appraisal?

    Prop 2 – Shall the city council be authorized to use the power of eminent domain, if necessary, in order to acquire the Cape’s Camp area of 70 acres, more or less, for parks and recreation purposes?

    Prop 3 – Shall the city council be authorized to raise property taxes, if necessary, to acquire the Cape’s Camp area of 70 acres, more or less, for parks and recreation purposes?

  49. Thank you Suzanne!!!

    Clearly its been way to long since been to that wonderful spot in San Marcos!! Had no idea about the bridge, the questionable conduct, the trash. It used to be such a quite peaceful and serene place to go to.

    Best, LMC

  50. So the way to vote on the propositions is “no-no-no”, then?

    It’s absurd to ask the City to spend $5 million on park land when a developer is about to GIVE them the peachiest part of the land for FREE anyway…..

  51. Dano, I’m curious as to where you saw the actual plans that make it look like “a fairly attractive development”. A main reason the parks board delayed their decision on Tuesday night was because NO PLANS were available to look at.

    No one could say how many bedrooms were to be built. No one could say what the footprint of the buildings was to be , or exactly where. No one could point to any roads etc, and discuss drainage issues through the proposed parkland. All that was given to the Parks Board and the public on Tuesday night was a map delineating the boundaries of the donation.

    If you have access to actual plans that can be shared, please do so!

  52. Dano

    The election results will be very instructive on what this community wants for that property.

    Everyone living in the city limits will have a chance to vote for or against the proposition Nov 6th. Will you?

  53. LMC, my understanding of eminent domain is that the owner is PAID market value of the property – it is not taken or “stolen”. Please correct me if I am wrong on this. Despite this, please consider that a public park will benefit the entire city, and is precisely the type of project that might merit it’s use, in my opinion. N

    Even if you don’t agree with the eminent domain possibility, the Proposition is broken into THREE separate parts, and you can vote Yes to a park, while voting no the eminent domain. The proposition is non-binding, and will be a way for the council to visualize concerns such as yours.

    Please, Vote Yes for the park acquisition!

  54. So many real issues, so little time.

    As to the development. Impervious groundcover issues spring to mind. Not only what is allowed there, but upstream as well. Drainage, same thing. Nonpoint pollution rears its ugly head.

    As to the election (which I can’t vote in, don’t live in the City of SM any longer) eminent domain is an interesting animal. I’ve never seen a case go to trial, and it will, where the landowner got nothing less than 125% of FMV.

  55. Is the property currently on the tax roll at any where near market value? I’m sure it’s in Ag or Open Space Valuation, but the market value should be market value. I rather doubt that it is.

    As to the “developer” do they own the property now; if not, why should the City deal with them at all?

  56. I could not get a FHA loan for a house on Barbara Dr. because it is in the floodplain. The federal government does not see this property as a good investment for housing. The developer does not care. The students will love it until their cars are buried in mud 100 feet down river. Then the city will pay for the “free” land by cleaning the river, and rescuing second and third floor apartment dwellers. The Casey Development on Sessoms seems better than this. But many of the people supporting this project in this comment thread live close to Sessoms project. “Not here, not now, not ever” send it to someone else’s backyard; send it to the BROWN side of town.

    I hope the students enjoy the smell of the waste water treatment facility that is 1/8 of a mile down the road. Vote yes to Prop 1! vote yes ti protect ALL residential neighborhoods.

  57. Suppose Detail Development insists on pursuing their plan and the city insists on having all the property as parkland. I suppose that’s a scenario where eminent domain could be used. Now won’t that be fun to watch? Won’t that make you proud to be from San Marcos?

  58. This project is SO far removed from something that eminent domain should EVER be considered for….I can’t believe they would even put it on the ballot. It’s beyond absurd and someone in City planning should be ashamed of themselves.

    I just hope the ballot language is sufficient to inform voters that their choices are to vote “no” for a FREE park or vote “yes” for a park that will cost a MINIMUM of $5 million.

  59. Dano-Do you ever use Rio Vista park? There were homeowners who were forced off their land thru ED 40 yrs ago and had to re-locate. The city and the river are better off now for that decision.

  60. @Dano. $5 million? Seriously? Is that all? $39 million for a bridge on aquarena so the university can keep trying to become a football school but $5 million to add park space is too much?

    Overcrowding at parks should not be seen as a bad thing. It says something wonderful about our community. Instead of finding ways to keep people out of parks (alcohol/bbq ban) we should see this an ignored community need and make it a priority. Buy it all and start looking for more downstream!

  61. Eminent Domain is what you use when roofies & tequila have failed. Then you go ahead and leave $500 on the nightstand anyway.

  62. @ SOMEONE, your baseless innane comments are truly interesting. Destroying the watershed and carving the top of it off like the Retreat was done , compared to building housing in a treeless, lifeless farm field across the street from not one, but two apartment complexes that are nearing a condition that may neccisitate condemnation,is no comparrison whatsoever. And for faceless cowards, like you, to start ” racebaiting” this topic surely shows your infantile intellectual capacity. No one that I know that was involved in the Sessom Canyon battle has any desire whatsoever to see ANY neighborhood damaged by developement, period. The positive attributes of gaining access to a beautiful park, otherwise inaccessable by land, and the positive enhancenments that this developement would set precedent for, even possible improvements to the long problematic drainage issues in this flood prone area, far out weigh the divisive non-sense that some may find reason to make issues of where none exist. If you think that you, or your constituency of citizens, have serious interest in these issues why is that your apathy shines so clearly in your absense at city hall the past year as many citizens have been engaged in finding alternative solutions to poorly planned developements, etc? Why is it that you hide behind made up names on public comment tabloids like this? Why is it that you offer no solutions and only bark with empty rhetorical nonsense about how you are being disenfranchised by imaginary racists that only exist in your hateful opinions? How much of your personal time and money have you bellied up with in the past yewar to try and find solutions that are viable for our entire community? Do you realize that if your narrow vision of clearcuttingh the watershed above the San MArcos river were to be allowed, that we very may well be pulling the dead bodies from the flood debris down river from the very place you purport to be so concerned about. How about all the poisons that would be added to the river from the Sessom watershed, that feeds into the San Marcos River, maybe you like to eat toxic fish, and swim in polluted water, personally, i will pass! The smallness of your inflamatory comments simply baffle me. Try cashing in 8 weeks of your vacation pay to do something for this community, try spending every Tuesday night at city hall for over 4 months, and cooking free food in the parking lot for the brave and honorable soldiers that ACTUALLY GAVE THEIR TIME AND ENERGY to the cause, instead of offering empty,baseless bloviations, and no solutions. Try spending literally thousands of your own personal dollars for the good of all,as some benevolent people have chosen to do. Try being larger than the tiny box that you have painted yourself into! Happy Trails:) jlb

  63. I’ve been to Rio Vista once, and won’t go back until people learn to act like responsible adults and not animals. That place is an absolute mess. It’s debatable to me whether it’s “good” for San Marcos or the river at this point.

    A couple points, though:

    1. The fact that our city fathers overreached on eminent domain to obtain river property years ago is NOT justification for doing it again. It’s unconscionable to use eminent domain to seize private land for parkland.

    2. The mentality that it’s “just” five million dollars is a perfect example of what is wrong with America today. Why on earth would anyone want to spend $5 million on something that’s being offered to them for FREE? Keeping traffic flowing around the trains is a real and viable need for San Marcos. Insisting on buying something that’s already been offered for free is just stupidity.

    3. This location is NOT in a residential neighborhood, and it is NOT on a piece of property that is zoned residential.

    4. What part of “20 acres of free riverfront parkland” isn’t sinking in?

  64. I agree with Danno. “1. The fact that our city fathers overreached on eminent domain to obtain river property years ago is NOT justification for doing it again. It’s unconscionable to use eminent domain to seize private land for parkland.”

    Agreed. I just don’t want to see this becoming a precedent and something we do as a course of public policy, over and over again. Why can’t our elected officials have a non-development mindset? Why is it always the citizens having to get organized to stop these sorts of environmental boondoggles? We don’t get the $500.00 stipend after all. We are always having to push back.

    Best, LMC

  65. @ SOMEONE, To assert that water will be 15-20 feet over IH35 is truly a laugh, needed that today, in light of the real issues facing our town, county, state, and country that if not resolved will make all of this a mute conversation…:-) jlb

  66. “Why can’t our elected officials have a non-development mindset?”

    I really hope you didn’t mean that the way it sounds – because it sounds ridiculous. Our elected officials can’t have a non-development mindset because it’s not realistic, it’s not in the best interests of our City, and it’s not economically feasible to do so.

    Our population is growing and we MUST grow with it. We need more housing, better roads, and more infrastructure and we dare not elect officials who will say “no” to every development that comes along.

    San Marcos is no longer the town it was in the 80s or even the 90s. Stifle the growth, and all you get is a stale, dying blip on the map along I-35, begging to be swallowed up by Austin.

  67. Dano is right, our city is growing, and will continue to do so – no matter what anyone may wish. That is yet another reason to acquire parkland NOW….we’ll need to accommodate the recreation requirements of that larger population. Once property is built on, it is very difficult to go backwards.

    When the language of eminent domain in the Proposition was debated at City Council, no one was necessarily pushing to use it. Members of the council expressed a desire to be fully transparent with the public as to the legal possibilities, and wanted to know the citizen’s desires.

    If ED is the issue, vote no on that – but don’t confuse it with the greater question of park acquisition.

    Jaimy brought up the decaying apartments that are across the street – seems to me an opportunity ripe for RE-development.

  68. @ Smsince95: You are truly one sick bastard. To equate rape with eminent domain? Realy? No wonder you hide your identity, your mama would probably slap you upside the head if she knew you think that way.

    As for the subject at hand: The Supremes have decided that eminent domain may be used to promote private for profit business over landowners rights. Currently, there is a major pipeline being built using a form of eminent domain where a Corporation is taking private land for that effort. If not for the public interest when is eminant domain acceptable?

    For the record,I am against private business being vested with this power only slightly more than for government exercising the power.

  69. You keep saying “parkland acquisition” and ignoring the fact that the currently-proposed development plan includes 20 acres of free parkland.

    In fact, the area proposed for parkland (20 acres) is larger than the actual area to be developed (19 acres), according to the story.

    Say no to wasteful spending by our local government – vote no on all three propositions, then go enjoy our free 20 acre riverside park in a couple years!

  70. If option #1 were “should the city accept the free gift of 20 acres of riverfront property” it would get the highest percentage of votes. That option is not on the ballot, because the vote is designed to provide political cover for a council who intends to purchase the entire property, even though we don’t need the whole thing and can’t afford $5 million.

    Take the free gift, and turn it into an open public park for anyone who wants to come without reservation, and we as a city can pay to have the park appropriately policed and to clean up the trash and damage done to adjoining and downstream neighbors. More free, open parkland on the river will relieve the burden at Rio Vista, but access controls are designed to keep people out. Why would we want to do that? Isn’t it a public park? There are private river options for those who are uncomfortable mixing with a parkgoing population who looks like our town.

  71. Dano has a point. Why spend money on something that is being offered for free? Then that $5 million could be used to better the city in other ways.

  72. @ Skeptical, please don’t equate looks with behavior,one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Behavior should determine social acceptability, not looks. Check out the improvement at 5 mile damn ( Dudley Mooore Park now I think ) after it was cleaned up and some limited crowd control rules along with regulated entrance and use techniques were implemented, I do believe the rapes, assaults, drownings, knife attacks, etc are less frequent now. If taxpayer monies are spent for public facilities, that means all law abiding taxpayers should have access, regardless of their other potential options. Let’s not start miming our failed class-warfare/race baiting/ isolationist president now, or may I may have to turn loose the sword of truth on you:-) World peace, nice thought….JLB

  73. IF this were to go to ED it would only be because the city wants to buy out Detail Development’s contract in which case we’d have a Kelo v New London scenario. And then the $5 million will look like chump change compared to the city’s legal fees. It will be fun to watch. And think of all the money the national media will spend here while they cover the story.

    We have transportation issues where the $5 million would be better spent. Settle for the free parkland.

    Vote no on all three items.

  74. Not only that, but remember that 20 acres is being given free – and that it’s the best part of the land anyway.

    What you’re left with in the differential analysis is whether it’s worth $5 million for the City to pick up that other 19 acres that isn’t waterfront and the stuff on the other bank.

    The entire property, per the story, is 69.79 acres. Take away the 20 acre gift, and then ask yourself….is the remaining 50 acres worth $5 million (that’s $100K per acre)?

    I say no way.

  75. Let me preface this by saying I do not know how I will vote one way or another in my role on P&Z when we see this. The thing that is interesting about this debate is it seems like the development will give us the best of both worlds. We get a lot of great parkland for free AND get to increase the tax base significantly by allowing development on the boring part. If the city were to buy the whole parcel, the entire thing will be taken off the tax rolls. Something to think about at least!

  76. I hope it all works out well for all parties involved, especially ALL the citizens of San Marcos, etc. “Skeptical”, my retort to your divisive assertion that having reasonable controls on a potentially publically owned treasure was probably a bit harsh, but necessary. It has nothing whatsoever to do with class position, race, or any other imagined reason other than the fact that humanity often requires restraints to avoid chaos. I will be extracating myself from the entire public forum I have chosen to engage in for the past year, as I am actually am introvert that was forced from my observant place in life, and now feel that it is time to return there, in order to avoid the consequences. Happy Trails All, May the winds of destiny bring the sweet fragrance of roses to thy nostrils:-) jlb

  77. Mr Seebeck, the property is almost certainly in agricultural valuation, so the tax roll issue is mute, until improvements are made, but please see next paragraph. But let’s try this on for size. Revenue bonds used to purchase the land would eliminate the potential tax rate increase for the citizens of San Marcos, and give Jaimy his restricted access.

    BTW, since the County is in the process of selling its downtown SM property, the tax rolls will increase no matter what happens. Unless the County sells to the City or another exempt entity.

  78. There was a time when race-baiting might tilt the debate in your direction. Those days are gone. At this late date, if even heard at all, you sound like nothing so much as Charlie Brown’s teacher– wawaa-wawaa-wawaa.

    There should be a Godwin’s Law for race-baiting that says once an accusation of racism is made, the thread is finished and whoever made the accusation has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

    If your intention is to win people to your point of view, insults won’t help. If your intention is intimidation, that golden-egg laying goose is long dead.

    So, as I said before, I am open-minded on the Capes Camp development. I drove around over there yesterday. My intention was to discuss the proposal with people in the neighborhood, but it started raining and no one was to be found outdoors.

    In my mind, the most important considerations are the impact on the nearby neighborhoods and the effect on the San Marcos River. I want to hear from the San Marcos River Foundation and I hope the people who live there will make their voices heard.

  79. Mr. Winchester,

    My point was that if the city buys the entire property, the entire property will be taken off the tax rolls. If the development is built, the river portion will still be taken off the tax rolls of course but the boring part of the land will be improved significantly and have a big increase in the tax rolls. The ag exemption is not relevant in my observation other than if the city buys the entire property, the reduction in the tax rolls will not be significant due to the ag valuation. The development portion will certainly be off of ag and will be valued much higher than the current raw land giving us the best of both worlds from a tax standpoint.

    Now, I am not saying that this kind of decision should be made based solely on tax rolls and valuation so please don’t think I am going there. I was just making an observation. Like said, I don’t know how I will vote on this issue and will not know until I see the complete proposal and have been presented with all of the information from both sides.

  80. This is just my 2 cents, but the “boring “part of the property could be very useful to have for a park –

    Ball fields
    Picnic shelters
    Barbeque areas
    Restroom facitlites

  81. I can’t imagine wanting to camp in the shadow of I-35…..we have ball fields elsewhere….and picnic/BBQ/restrooms/parking facilities can all be integrated into the FREE 20 acres…

  82. Mr Seebeck, the valuation doesn’t change until the use changes, please note 3rd clause first sentence. Many is the piece of property under ag valuation that has been sold to a “developer” and the use not changed for many a year. So, until the development begins, there is no increase in the tax base, hence, it is until that point in time a mute issue. As for the reduction from ag to exempt; that, at least in my mind, has always been mute.

    SM, I’ve not seen Hays CAD do a roll back when property went from ag/open space valuation to tax exempt, so I rather doubt roll backs would be collected on the 20 acres, under the donation scenario, or the entire tract, under the City purchase scenario. On the other hand, the change of use in the “boring” portion, would result in substantial roll backs. Wonder who is obligated to pay those under the sales contract?

    Personally I see the tax roll change as a stalking horse. Doesn’t matter that much to me as the County is about to sell all, or a significant portion of their real estate holdings in downtown SM, so those commercial tracts will go back on the tax roll.

    And again, please consider the use of revenue bonds for the purchase.

    And BTW, as before, it’s simply Winchester, no Mr. Ms, Dr, etc need be added.

  83. Moot Point – A debatable question, an issue open to argument; also, an irrelevant question, a matter of no importance.

    Mute – silent; refraining from speech or utterance.

  84. Per Texas Tax Code – Section 23.55. Change Of Use Of Land, it looks like there would be no rollback taxes on the portion the city takes. If the developer buys the 19 acres they will have to pay taxes and interest on the land for the previous 5 years. Assuming it has been in ag use.

  85. I live in the neighborhood. A couple of dozen concerned neighbors met when this development was first proposed. The general consensus was that we are against more apartments. We already have the sewage treatment plant, a lift station, 3 adult oriented businesses, a housing project, and some of the roughest apartment complexes in the city. We cannot take any more. Just because there are crappy apartments nearby is not a reason to put more of them here. You are kicking us when we are down.

    We all agreed our top choices for this land were leave it as a hay field or turn it into parkland. We respect the right of the Thornton family to sell this land that they have inherited at fair market value so we decided the best course of action was to ask the city to buy the land. None of us had any idea how to make that happen so a few representatives from the neighborhood met with leaders from the city, SMGA. and SMRF to find out what the process should be. From there it went to the parks advisory board that is why this measure is on the ballot this fall.

  86. OK, what if this developer helped turn the corner on crappy status of the adjacent apartments, maybe bought them too and changed to neighborhood shops, nice, with low density housing as a buffer. And, completely reworked the drainage of the streets that flow towards the river best they can, being falt, and through the property on to the river. Maybe even a huge rainwater collection that would be available for neighborhood use, etc. It can be like the old story, what kind of heated swimming pool do you want,perhaps? Unforutuantely DC that was pushing Sessoms, never really even tried to listen to viable concessions that might have made a real diffference. I wonder if the developer on the project is any different? What if a redevelopement aggreement that greatly enhanced the area was offered? Neighborhoods and the people that live in them certainly matter the most, no matter where they are located. Unfortunately this neighborhood adjoins land that has been M-12 I believe for many years, and adjoins IH-35, etc, in a disytinctly commercial zoning area. 50 something years ago my parents first house is actually on IH-35, where the fortune teller now resides. Interesting fact. JLB 🙂

  87. SM, there are roll backs, technically, upon the sale, or change in use of the land. As to who pays the difference between the market value, and the agricultural value, for the five years preceding the change in use. plus interest, that is controlled by the contract. Have you seen it? Would wager not. If so, there are confidentiality issues we need to discuss.

  88. Taxes would have to be paid, is the point. It really doesn’t matter to me, or most voters, who pays them. If the city takes al the land no taxes would get paid. How about you go to hcad and estimate the taxes we will forgoe if we don’t allow the development.

  89. If the property is not developed, there is no change in use, hence, no additional taxes, so there is no change at all. Perfect status quo.

    I would suggest the issue is what is the fair market value of the property now? Is it anywhere near the sales price? I rather doubt it.

    The tax issue is a straw man. The tax roll will increase no matter what happens to this property. More homes are being built, more property other than this is being moved from ag/open space to market.

    But, to paraphrase your post, 9/20 4:49, the developer pays; not true. It depends on the contract. I’ve seen it go both ways. And I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    I’m more than willing to calculate the roll backs, done it before, but it’s not my job. You want to estimate the addition to the tax roll of the county owned land in SM that is being sold now? I doubt it.

  90. The important point regarding property taxes is that if this property is allowed to be developed, it will create additional property taxes for the City – both from the rollback (whoever pays it) and from the increased developed property value going forward. And that’s a huge point in favor of the development. If the property is purchased by the City, it goes off of the tax rolls and the City loses revenue.

  91. The tax roll increase argument is at best, questionable. As to this specific piece of property, it hinges upon if and when there is a change in use. At worst, it needs to include all of San Marcos.

    Personally, the 20 acres sounds like a good deal, but only if there are variances granted to the developer, and they are held to strict liability as to run off, both before and after construction,

  92. Mr Seebeck, since your post, 9/28, 6:31 PM raised the tax dollar issue; what is the amount of money the City would collect? Most of the taxes would go go SMCISD, but what’s the number for the City?

  93. Again, who pays the rollbacks is irrelevant. So is anything the county does with their property. If anything is a red herring it is using the chance that the county property MAY be coming back on the tax rolls. This city seems to be ok to jump to making a park out of any land where a controversial development is proposed. Here we have a chance to get a decent development (plenty of parking and good occupancy restrictions) plus 20 acres of free river front. We need to quit pretending like there’s a bottomless pit of money for stuff like this. We can still have a great park and not spend a penny.

  94. SM, the county owned property is being sold, period, end of discussion. To whom, remains to be seen. That it is commercial property is also with out doubt. If and when roll back taxes will be paid on the property in question east of I35 remains unknown, and I agree, doesn’t matter who pays them. (but when is a different issue)

  95. To approve a development in a ecologically sensitive area based upon a suggestion of what the increased tax revenues may be is …

    Again, the 20 acres sounds like a good deal to me, Would accept the use of revenue bonds to buy the entire tract.

  96. Like Jaimy, it’s been my pleasure to be on the land in question on a number of occasions, none recently. It, like every other piece of land, is unique.

    From a professional standpoint, it’s an interesting piece of land. Lots of engineering issues, lots and lots of them. Drainage, runoff, damn it’s a tough piece of land to develop. I’d have to suggest to a client that they run the numbers several times before they bought into that land.

  97. BTW, assuming a donation of land, who pays for the little things like any improvements of any kind?

    Impervious ground cover issue? Non point source pollution?

    Just projecting ahead.

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