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

The Hays County commissioner writes that a proposed 2,031-acre master planned development presents opportunity to an impoverished city by expanding single-family housing and offering corporate employers a campus where they can be proud to set up shop 

GUEST COMMENTARY by  WILL CONLEY

Economic opportunity for all of San Marcos’ citizens is an issue near and dear to my heart. Although we have grown at a quick pace over the last two decades, some of our main economic indicators have remained stagnant. The two that stand out the most to me are the number of citizens living at or below the federal poverty line ($23,550) and the median household income in our community ($27,360). Thirty-seven percent of San Marcos residents live in poverty.

These figures are long standing in our community, for the most part, and create a tremendous liability for future stability and quality of life in the San Marcos area. There are many things that must be done in the private and public sector to break this pattern. Fortunately, many things are happening today to solve these problems and to establish a diverse community that is sustainable and provides opportunity for all.

One of our known shortcomings is the availability of middle income and executive housing. This has been well documented by many experts. As chairman of our economic development organization, the Greater San Marcos Partnership, I can tell you it is a persistent major challenge to our recruitment and retention ability for job creation and investment in the San Marcos area. Almost all inventories along these lines are gone in our community.

The issue must be addressed if we are going to have future success in building a strong diverse community. Fortunately, we have before us today a handful of projects that may potentially help us resolve the housing liability, thus giving us a better opportunity to compete in a global market for the San Marcos Area.

One of those projects is called La Cima. La Cima is a proposed innovative live-work-play community located at the intersection of Wonder World Drive and Old Ranch Road 12. It is an evolution of the Lazy Oaks development proposal into a larger master planned community that would have a combination of middle income and executive housing, an office/corporate campus component, and community commercial space.

In addition, the project would provide for new transportation solutions that are needed in the area, with a proposed landscaped boulevard road that would bisect this development starting at intersection of Wonder World and Old Ranch Road 12 and running all the way all the way to Centerpoint Road through Paso Robles. Finally, the proposal would include plans for the largest park/ preserve in Hays County history.

The project would provide the necessary area for the county’s preserve requirements under our Habitat Conservation Plan, creating many acres available for park recreation and trails. It would simultaneously provide connectivity to Centerpoint Road and over to our Purgatory Creek Natural Area in the city. This is a significant opportunity for our community to work with many in the private sector to provide economic security, safeguard our natural environment, and improve traffic flow. It is a unique opportunity for our community to build something special in the San Marcos area.

Let me be clear and transparent about the process. Various stakeholders began to meet with the Precinct 3 office and relevant county staff just a few months ago. I applaud their efforts to come to the county early to discuss conceptual possibilities. They have been candid and open about their qualifications and desires. They have provided the county with all the information we have requested in order to develop this concept. No official request or paperwork has begun. We have simply been working collectively on ideas that would potentially make future developments a true asset to our community.

You may ask why this dialogue was initiated at the county level, to which the answer is very straightforward. First, most of the area we are discussing is in the extra-territorial jurisdiction of the city of San Marcos, but still in the unincorporated area of the county. Second, and most importantly, the county is the local representative of most of the citizens in the adjacent area. The stakeholders believe, and I concur, that it is vital to have the county at the table when potential development may be occurring in an area where almost all adjacent properties are represented by county officials.

For example, through this dialogue we have been able to address potential issues and concerns for citizens who live in The Settlement neighborhood. We have been able to ensure that there would be no direct impact today or in the future to citizens living on or around McCarty Rd and the Quail Run area.

The county has been able to express clearly the needs for our preserve requirements and our desire for preserve/parkland connectivity for this entire area from Centerpoint and Hunter Road through to the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. The Precinct 3 office and county staff have also initiated discussions about environmental concerns and economic possibilities associated with the development. A final pertinent point regards the county’s participation in developing a plan that should basically replicate the original agreement created by many city officials and other stakeholders for the original Lazy Oak development agreement.

I look forward to the formal part of this endeavor to begin. This will include a county process and a city process. It will include discussions with the community and stakeholders who are involved in different respected fields of interest. I believe where we are conceptually is a wonderful beginning. I look forward to presenting this opportunity to my colleagues on the Court and to working with my friends and colleagues at the City of San Marcos, as well as those in the private sector, to see if we can take these ideas and put them to work for a better community.

I believe we are at a unique point with the housing market, the level of private investment, and the ability to master plan thousands of acres of land in this general area. We have an opportunity to stand out in central Texas as a community with one of the best combinations of residential/commercial development, parks/preserves, and transportation improvements in a generation.

Read more

La Cima concept plan [pdf]

La Cima vicinity map [pdf]



Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner WILL CONLEY is serving his third term on the Hays County Commissioners Court and is board chair of the Greater San Marcos Partnership and of the six-county Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

COVER: Conley at a Hays County Commissioners Court meeting in 2010. HAYS FREE PRESS FILE PHOTO by CYNDY SLOVAK BARTON

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8 thoughts on “Will Conley: La Cima puts economic transformation within San Marcos’ reach

  1. But why does this have to be built over the recharge zone? I know the developers love the hills, but do the owners of the $250,000 to $1 million homes have to endanger the environment? So they got what they wanted last year in a misguided decision on the part of the city, so now they are going for more and bigger with a more and bigger environmental footprint? As the 1970s song said, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Take paradise and put up a parking lot.”

  2. What? You identify the problem as being 37% of the people living in SM live in poverty…and your solution is a development of “middle income and executive housing?”

    And where is the water going to come from for the houses and businesses?

  3. “The two that stand out the most to me are the number of citizens living at or below the federal poverty line ($23,550) and the median household income in our community ($27,360). Thirty-seven percent of San Marcos residents live in poverty.” All this development will do is bring in wealthy/successful individuals from other areas and edge the statistics on our average/median income. It won’t help a fraction of those people who are just trying to get by month-to-month.

    Can’t argue against needing new areas of growth, that’s simple, but for the love our city and the environment, why does all of this have to go on over the recharge zone!?!? Please grow in the less sensitive parts of our city/county instead!!

  4. I’ve lived in many cities over the years and in every one of those cities the “leadership” (developers, realtors, bankers, and store owners, etc.) declared that development was essential to the city’s well-being. Never was there discussion that all those previous developments did not solve existing problems and, in fact, led to higher taxes, clogged infrastructure, and in general a decline in quality of life. Development is a totally false promise.

  5. Yeah, let’s not bring in any wealthy/successful individuals to pay taxes. Let’s raise taxes on the poverty folks who live here. Much better idea.

  6. Bottom line is, we need housing to bring jobs. We have businesses pass up San Marcos all the time because we lack necessary housing for employees. I guess 800 acres of the development being turned into parkland isn’t enough? It sounds like a great development that San Marcos needs.

  7. I agree that we need to shift away from retail jobs and apartments. If a developer believes they can sell single-family homes at this scale, let ’em. It might help attract employers.

    Unfortunately, it seems like developers have been wrong in this regard before. I’m still waiting to hear why people who can afford to buy homes here, choose to commute instead. It would not seem like a difficult task, to survey people at our larger employers.

  8. Many valid points made here. There is a need for houses and there is also a need to develop sustainably. Are there other less sensitive tracts of land that would be better suited for this type of development? Is this a neighborhood designed in the 90’s or is this a neighborhood designed to meet the demands of a San Marcos of the future where the population will be doubled and resources in higher demand? Are the building codes adequate to address the specific issues of wastewater lines in sensitive recharge areas? What would an environmentally sensitive neighborhood plan look like, how can you design around the most sensitive recharge features, to what extent would said plan be economically feasible to the developer, to what extent would said plan be environmentally feasible to the longterm health of the surrounding ecosystems including the aquifer? I think it is important to work with with a capable developer who can handle this design/building model. A survey of anticipated employees/homeowners might shed some light on the actual home features people are looking for. Is the typical American neighborhood business model going the way of GM, is it evolving quickly enough to account for new demand trends? There are many capable companies out there that can design sustainably in terms of environmental impact, water, and energy consumption. It is not cheap on the front end but the end product is much better quality. Is San Marcos trying to out compete neighboring towns for low cost, poorly constructed homes, is San Marcos trying to offer quality homes that have minimal impact on the environment? I would argue that if you are trying to develop over the recharge zone and contributing watershed of the river that the development requirements be substantial enough to reflect that. Affordable housing clauses make sense and are socially sustainable, other counties and cities have implemented them with marked success. This plan should also pay close attention to the flood plain maps as the current FEMA measurements are out dated. The higher the quality of living San Marcos provides, the higher the demand will be for people wanting to live here. I think we should proceed with caution and make decisions that are informed and are protecting what we deem most important.

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