by BRAD ROLLINS
A measure that lays the groundwork for a 1,750-home subdivision on the former Storey-Robinson Ranch breezed through San Marcos City Council on Tuesday.
» Lazy Oaks Ranch concept plan map [pdf]
Approved 6-1, the development agreement designates most of the 1,396-acre property off Ranch Road 12 for use as single-family residences and townhouses at densities ranging from three homes per acre to one home per 10 acres. The agreement sets aside 469 acres as drainage easements, parkland or open space, including areas around an earthen flood control dam, hills and canyons. The agreement expires after 10 years.
Jude Prather cast the lone vote in opposition with John Thomaides, typically the most skeptical council member of new development, voting in favor.
The development was opposed by nearby residents and by the San Marcos River Foundation which noted the whole property sits atop the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone where rainwater filters through porous rocks to replenish the subterranean reservoir.
“Water is so precious, and becoming more precious every day in Texas. If we are going to be able to serve our growing community in coming years, we cannot cause contamination of our own aquifer’s recharge zone. Our city is directly downstream of this recharge zone,” said Dianne Wassenich, the foundation’s executive director.
The final form of the agreement is “stronger and more enforceable” than earlier versions, assistant planning director Kristy Stark told council members.
Negotiations between the city and the landowners reduced the number of proposed housing units from 2,500 to 1,750 and includes a 100-foot undeveloped buffer between the Lazy Oaks property line and existing homes in the affluent Settlement and Fox Ridge subdivisions. A subcommittee of three council members added protections like the right to choose the firm that will map caves, karsts and other geographical features that ultimately will dictate where development can legally occur.
“Although I have not always been a fan of development agreements and voted against several of them, the reason [was] they didn’t have the broad representations of different viewpoints on a committee to help write them. They were written by very few people — maybe one on the council and the rest from staff — and there was very little input from anybody else. That didn’t happen in this case,” said John Thomaides, who served on the Lazy Oaks council subcommittee with Ryan Thomason and Wayne Becak.
Construction is not imminent. The property owners, members of an Austin law firm, must find a buyer who wants to develop the project and then must secure state and federal environmental clearance. Then the proposed project will re-enter the city process where the future developer must secure re-zoning to match the future land use designation approved as part of the agreement.
Some of the neighbors of the Lazy Oaks property have signaled that they might pursue legal action to stop the project. But in contrast to other recent controversial developments, the crowd was sparse with only four residents speaking on Tuesday against the development agreement.
“If we’re going to approve this deal, you really ought to think of putting a sign on each of town that says ‘We’re for sale.’ You can’t say you’re protecting the river if you approve this deal,” said attorney Charles Soechting, who lives off Pioneer Trail and tried to organize opposition to Lazy Oaks.