12:30 p.m. WEDNESDAY, JAN. 7: According to City Clerk Jamie Lee Pettijohn, the Concho Commons “height warrant” did not die with the San Marcos City Council’s tie vote last night. The council could opt for a do-over within three months without requiring Casey Development Ltd. to start over with the application process and without requiring another P&Z vote, she said.
“When a vote is tied, it means the motion dies so it does not dispose of the item one way or the other. The item can come back [for reconsideration],” Pettijohn said. “Under our code, the item will not require another public hearing if it’s on an agenda within 90 days. So if staff and the developer work out something to bring back something in 90 days, there will not be a public hearing. It will just go to a vote.”
9:08 a.m. WEDNESDAY, JAN. 7: Unable to muster a city council majority, developer Darren Casey was rebuffed Tuesday night in his request to add two floors to a residential high-rise he proposes to build between Texas State University and downtown San Marcos.
Under measures approved by the San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission in October 2012, San Antonio-based Casey Development Ltd. is already entitled to build up to 13 floors with 310 apartment units comprised of 585 bedrooms. Last month, planning commissioners voted to favorably recommend a new request from Casey to add two more floors to a reconfigured set of plans that make room for 326 living units with 766 bedrooms. Both the 2012 and 2014 versions of Concho Commons won lopsided support from planning commissioners, with all nine members approving the 13-floor version and all but one approving the 15-floor version on Dec. 9.
After more than an hour of periodically testy deliberations during a regular meeting Tuesday evening, council members tied 3-3 on a motion to approve an agreement that would have granted Casey’s “height warrant” in exchange for commitments that included requiring that Concho Commons meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards for energy conservation and environmental sustainability.
Council members John Thomaides, Lisa Pruitt and Jane Hughson voted against approval. Mayor Daniel Guerrero and council members Jude Prather and Shane Scott voted in favor.
Council member Ryan Thomason recused himself from the vote because the general contracting business he co-owns with Planning & Zoning Commission chair Chris Wood is engaged in the construction of a different Casey project, the Uptown apartment development on Thorpe Lane.
By right, property owners can build up to five floors in areas of downtown designated for future high density development under the 2011 “form-based” SmartCode, a set of ordinances that replaces traditional land use-based zoning in the 240-plus acre Central Business District. If they want to build higher, property owners must request a “height warrant” from P&Z and, as of amendments made earlier this year, from the city council as well.
It was not immediately clear where Tuesday’s split vote leaves prospects for Casey’s “height warrant.” The city charter specifies that four votes are required to approve or deny a motion before the council, regardless of whether a meeting is attended by a bare quorum of five members or a full dais of seven. Consequently, Casey’s height warrant was neither approved nor denied and council members offered differing assessments after the meeting about the conditions under which it could be reconsidered.
Proposed Concho Commons “height warrant” agreement between Casey Development Ltd. and the city manager’s office [pdf] | 01/06/15
Memo to San Marcos City Council on P&Z recommendation [pdf] | 12/10/14
Staff analysis recommending approval height warrant [pdf] | 12/04/14Email | Print
Still gathering information for additional updates on the Concho Commons height restriction story. Thomason, as reported, recused himself from last night’s vote and, after the meeting, said he was still seeking advice on whether his recusal is required.
Under state law, elected and appointed officials are required to recuse themselves from votes on business in which they have a “substantial interest” or when contemplated action “may have a special economic effect on the business entity or real property distinguishable from the effect on the public.” In such cases, the official is required to submit a sworn affidavit characterizing the nature of the conflict.
The criteria include:
1) ownership of 10 percent or more of the voting stock or shares of the business entity;
2) ownership of 10 percent or more of the fair market value of the business entity;
3) ownership of $15,000 or more of the fair market value of the business entity;
4) receiving funds that exceed 10% of gross income for the previous year; and/or
5) holding an equitable or legal ownership in real property with a fair market value of $2,500 or more.
Thomason said his business dealings with Casey — as a contractor of some form or another on Casey’s Uptown apartment development — do not fit any of those criteria but that City Attorney Michael Cosentino “strongly advised” him during a break in the meeting, just before the Concho Commons height restriction was considered, that other layers of ethics law could apply and that Thomason should recuse himself from the vote.
I have a call in to Cosentino to see if he’ll help flesh this out further.
Finally, here is the video of last night’s meeting for those want to watch for themselves.
Since it is apparently ethical for a council member to appoint his business partner to city boards and commissions I fail to see how allowing him to vote on a proposal that would favor a developer with whom he has a financial interest could be a big deal. Let him vote.
Ryan Thomason did the right thing; he should have recused himself. It’s good to see someone who represents the public do the appropriate thing and put the greater interest in front of their own.
If Thomason would potentially be working on this project, he has a 10% (or greater) interest in one of the businesses involved.
I also suspect that the “other layers” may involve the appearance of rewarding favorable votes with work, and vice-versa.
It is a shame that they could not get one more vote for this project, since it is a great location for it. Opposition has a “no growth” feel to it.
City Council score card.
At this 01/06/15 meeting John tried to get the builder to commit to this being a LEED certified building (Bronze or lowest level). Lisa asked if some of the units could be affordable housing, and Jane gave it a lot of thought and wondered why exactly we need to go from 13 to 15 stories. Do the other three members spend time and effort trying to look out for the voters? I wonder. Maybe a bit more sunshine is needed.
See the Facebook page of Conserve San Marcos for upcoming City Council score cards.
Clearly, John, Lisa, and Jane believe in a bigger, more intrusive local government — one that drives the cost of housing up with LEED certifications that aren’t otherwise required, but one at the same time demands some units be subsidized for those who won’t pay the actual cost of their own housing (make it affordable for one by making it more unaffordable for others), and a government that allows elected folks with no knowledge of real estate or the market to second-guess what developers and lenders feel the market can support (13 or 15 floors). This is the agenda of the local left, which i guess has a new name and a new Facebook page.
Well said skeptical.
Good grief! The height of the buildings has a great deal of consequence for our city as do the continuing conflicts of interest among our public officials. As for LEED certification, these apartments are going to cost way more than most students can afford anyway, so at least they should be environmentally responsible. This comes down to who owns San Marcos? Developers and special interests who have run the city without interference or questioning for decades or the people represented justly and fairly by Jane, John and Lisa with an occasional nod from a few others. If what Thomason and Wood are doing is ethical, then we might as well just elect the San Marcos Partnership Board of Chamber or Board of Realtors to the council and forget public input, transparency or anything else. Come on!
I still think the idea of some apartment building being the center of San Marcos is in of itself intrusive to the city and the small town feel. It would be an eye sore. Why on Earth would people want that big apartment building being what people think of when in San Marcos. San Marcos the town of apartment buildings. Daniel please represent the people and not the developers! You didn’t do a good job of this with those stupid room for rent apartments along the river! Good grief! Shame on you! It is obvious you are trying to get in the pockets of the developers and contractors! You know better!
@Imagin on – What is the difference between those hideous buildings Texas State has plopped down right on the street along University Dr and this high rise? Why the heck do we need MORE danged student/low income housing? There isn’t enough housing for those who don’t qualify in those two categories. Let’s stop kissing Texas State’s collective butt and think about San Marcos.
San Marcos will one day be full of low income housing and that is what San Marcos will be know for, a bunch of apartments and scattered tattered low quality businesses. That big apartment building will be its skyline! It is shameful for the community. And very tacky on so many levels. It is sickening to watch the council leave the public interest out Again!
Geez, first it’s “don’t build student housing here because it’s near a residential area”. Then it’s “don’t build student housing there because it’s near the river”. Now it’s “don’t build student housing in this spot either because it’s downtown”. And you wonder why you’re referred to with the pejorative “no growther”???
Also, to directly answer Grandma’s question: we need more student housing because there are more students coming every year. The last published study I could find showed apartment occupancy in San Marcos at 92% – which is I believe far above industry standards for “full”….and the school is growing by 1200-1500 students each year. Gotta have them live somewhere…..
I agree, Dano. The easiest way to make San Marcos bike/ped friendly, is to have a lot of housing where people work and play.
Homeowners who bought homes in quiet single family neighborhoods will be unhappy with businesses and apartments moving in next door, but I doubt downtown businesses will be unhappy with customers and employees moving in.
Assuming all the other requirements were being met – parking, landscaping, fee-in-lieu of parks, etc – I don’t see why 2 more stories (181 bedrooms) would make any difference. Seems like John, Jane and Lisa were making a statement and/or being obstructionists.
It is already to dang high in the first place! Geez wise up! It is tacky and will be the biggest landmark. Why would anyone want to be happy with that tacky mess? Others who have pretty river views will have to look at this thing. There are plenty of tracks of land in San Marcos Dano and Ted! You built the Target along one of them. Try more housing in the buildings down town! The fact is there will be a growth in students then other colleges will become more attainable and you all will be stuck with a bunch of low income housing for being over zealous! It happens all the time.
I can’t think of an example of a city where a university grew and developers built housing, then the university shrank, and there was insufficient demand for the housing. Imagine — if it happens all the time, could you provide an example? If we are in an education bubble, then we are all in trouble and this building will be the least of our problems, but you can’t live in constant fear of a bubble. College seems here to stay, and they must live somewhere.
Closer to campus keeps cars off the roads which makes a lot of sense. Obviously, the tax base increases over the long vacant lot. And I doubt this will be the sole tall building downtown forever. There will probably be a ten-story building down the street in a few years, then another up the road, and on and on just like other cities have grow. It doesn’t seem as if it would be much higher than some of the university buildings as you view it from entering town, because they are on the hill.
I usually find the anti-development arguments weak, but this time they are the weakest they have ever been. That is why the no growthers are focusing on process instead of facts and argument — if they can force the fourth “yes” vote to abstain when there appears little support for him to abstain, then they can win the issue without a good argument.
I didn’t build the Target, and I can’t control what other downtown property owners do with their buildings (although many, many of them already have housing in them).
This is mixed-use development on mixed-use land. If the only objection is height, I can’t get behind that argument.
Re: low income housing, God forbid the poor in San Marcos have a place to live downtown. I don’t see this turning into low income housing, but please, give me a break.
I keep seeing comments that we don’t have enough affordable housing options, and that poor San Marcos residents could never afford the rent by the bedroom apartments (probably true). Now we’re complaining that we will be “stuck” with affordable housing downtown?
There are just some vacant apartments in College Station alone. Go look. I think there is room for growth absolutely. Unsightly ones and stupid rent the bedrooms do not sit well with me. I was for the Convention Center to be built, respectful of the environment along the river. Who wants to stay in a Hotel along I -35? Or shall I say be excited to come back to after the first visit? Not a place people would think of as a nice to visit. Now these same people are supporting these stupid room for rent apartment buildings all along the river? Which will drive long term residents away. There are buses from Carts to The TX State buses to get people from point A to point B. People will have to drive for jobs so the traffic will be affected as well. Center of town is right along the river. There is no need to build monstrosities (apartments), along it when there are plenty of places to build! Feel free to screw up the pretty drive along Hunter rd to Gruene with a bunch of Dollar General looking buildings with the a/c units facing the street and every tree around it bulldozed. A bunch of tack metal buildings and apartments it is what San Marcos has to offer. I seriously doubt you have ever been concerned about the true well being of the actual poor in San Marcos.
To clarify the people griping about the convention center are now in favor of apartments is disgusting! Daniel please try to get some good architects for a change! Ones that will build with the environment and aesthetics of the Hill Country. Much money was spent of environmental studies in the past for other projects and they were shot down several years ago by many of these same individuals and NOW they appear to want to line their pockets and forget the public. (Please do not ask any developers/ investors for a lift of their private planes!).
You must not be talking to me. Doubt whatever you want. I have a long history of pushing for better jobs, better education, and better opportunities for the poor residents of San Marcos, and have plenty of actions to back the words.
I doubt you even live here.
As do I have much knowledge in these areas as well Ted. That being said a big 15 story apartment complex is irresponsible. To have that being set in an area where that will be what people look at when they see the downtown area. Not doubting your personal expertise on these matters at all. As I said not opposed to growth opposed to tacky. Believe me to have a debate you must be able to debate both sides :). Try thinking of why this is a bad idea, for what reasons would people possible think this. We know your side.
Looking at colleges if I may Sir. Do you need to question where I live or where people are considering sending their kids? TX State was always considered. Although it isn’t somewhere I would want to send someone to put their roots down. Since it is going in an undesired direction. Would hope planning and zoning would be more considerate apparently not.
Glad you didn’t give up any resources for information because then it would have been a law suit on the basis the Mercury did not follow it’s privacy rules! it would have been bad if info was leaked!! Now shut up you self assuring Know it all!