COMMENTARY by BRAD ROLLINS
Up until January, Jude Prather had never voted against a development, either on the city council or on the planning and zoning commission before that. Since Jan. 15, he hasn’t voted in favor of one.
He voted against student housing at Cape’s Camp, against low-income apartments on Hunter Road and — perhaps most surprisingly — against entitlements for the Lazy Oaks Ranch subdivision on Ranch Road 12. Even John Thomaides voted in favor of that last one.
Prather’s 180-degree turn is particularly interesting from someone who has put himself on the record as explicitly supporting a landowner’s right to do just about anything with his own property.
In March 2011, when a developer asked to rezone the Weatherford tract for what would become The Retreat at San Marcos, Prather said he didn’t care if the landowner wanted to build a parking lot there. The new Jude Prather sounds a lot like the old one:
“I hate that I’m up here on the dais [as] part of the nanny state, telling you this is how you can run your business. If you wanted to take your business and make it as a dog kennel, with dogs barking until 4 a.m., I wouldn’t like that but that’s still your right to do that,” he said on Feb. 19 in reference to the Zelick’s Icehouse-Crystal River Inn feud.
But his votes don’t square with the rhetoric. Prather says his sudden, recent change of heart is in response to the 2,000-plus citizens who signed a petition — more than a year ago —opposing the rezoning of single-family property to multi-family. The clamor has not subsided much since then and Prather says he is just trying to find common ground with the city council’s detractors.
“The development community is frustrated. Citizens in our community are frustrated. Their frustrations are similar. They’re frustrated about the development process and the lack of predictable outcomes with it,” he said on Sunday from Washington D.C. where he was attending a National League of Cities conference.
I pointed out that neither Cape’s Camp nor Lazy Oaks Ranch involved rezoning single-family property for apartments. He acknowledged as much.
Obviously, nothing Prather’s saying or doing in this area makes any sense. Since I’ve long been friends with Jude and Kathy, I’m quite sure there‘s something up here beside the requisite election year repositioning. It’s a sign of the foreign forces at work in San Marcos affairs.
A few weeks ago, Prather called me up and started talking about a forthcoming leadership vacuum in San Marcos. He said that “we” — meaning me and him and some of our mutual friends — would be the obvious ones to fill it. I honestly didn’t know what he was talking about at the time but now it is coming into focus.
To quote resident Jay Hiebert, in a much different context at a recent council meeting: “There is somebody behind the veil, kind of like the Wizard of Oz, who is pulling the strings.”
I think Hiebert’s right and I think they’ve gotten to Prather.