The San Marcos Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) hosted a debate which provided an outlet for citizens to directly address the candidates. Issues ranging from the job market, extension of bar hours, transportation, and favorite place to locally spend their money, were brought up and contested. CONA concentrated their questions for the candidates on three key issues: the downtown master plan, single family housing, and small businesses.According to CONA the downtown master plan will soon be adopted by the city.
“I would vote for code changes that embrace Mixed Use/Compactness, Form Based Codes and support policy to create a parking management system to include purchase of property near the proposed rail station for a parking garage,” said incumbent Mayor Susan Narvaiz. She said she would create the downtown master plan infrastructure line item in the budget, where increased sales tax revenue would be directed from revenue generated by new businesses that fall within the plan recommendations. “I will continue to work with Hays County to secure key building as part of a public/private partnership strategy to help realize the overall plan.” She said she is also committed to a utility upgrade plan.
Challenger David Newman took a similar stance on the parking issue, but added another element to his vision. He said the city should “construct two parking garages on opposite ends of downtown; the locations should be chosen based on the recommendations of the Main Street Board and the Downtown Association.” He said the construction of both the Concho Commons and the Texas State performing arts complex will kick start the downtown renovation. “From there, with the Downtown Master Plan approved, we can then determine the subsequent stepping stones toward the completion of the plan.” He said the implementation of the plan can not be easily pinpointed, “but the commencement of this project is essential.”
Challenger Daniel McCarthy said the biggest issue with the Downtown Master Plan is parking, and he feels there is no concrete solution to the problem. “What I would do, the Master Plan says we need some studies, I think we need some parking garages.” He said he would implement the Master Plan immediately if he agreed with the intent of its crafters.
The SF-6 limitation on the number of unrelated people living in a house in a single family neighborhood was a concern CONA addressed.
“Elected officials take a solemn oath to uphold the laws and ordinances of this city and this state,” said Narvaiz. She said she supports the limitation and has “worked with the city council to address the changes we have seen in our traditional single-family neighborhoods.” She said an increase in the SF-6 zoning can be traced back to the investment in these properties as rentals. “I have also supported a full focus on changing our ordinances to give them more substance to successfully enforce our SF-6 zoning by withstanding the legal process.”
Newman was also in support of the SF-6 zoning limitation. He said the ordinance “has not been fully enforced for years,” thus it will be difficult to contain. “A solution might be to move toward that objective as a function of time, as well as, zone portions of the city with new cluster zoning classifications to accommodate those who wish affordable housing.” He predicts this process will take between five and 10 years and he said citizen input will be highly solicited to research and explore all options.
On the other hand, McCarthy is not in favor of the SF-6 limitation. “It’s not the place of the city to come in and tell the homeowner who can and can not live under there roof.” He said if property value is the concern, then the city code needs to be clear on what specific structures can be built in certain zones; but he said if the concern is “obnoxious neighbors,” then he will work to ease the tensions between student/citizen relations.
Small businesses were a worthy mention for CONA.
“As Mayor, I introduced the idea of making San Marcos the Small Business Capitol of Texas,” said Narvaiz. She said she supported this goal by working with the economic development board and a policy development sub-committee to initiate the process for developing a new economic incentive policy. She said the City Council adopted the recommended policy in 2007, and an incentive category for Micro/Small Business exists for the first time. “I believe that key areas of focus when recruiting potential employers and giving consideration to incentive requests should be business sectors that reflect the degree fields or technical training of our future workforce interests, assuring human resource availability.”
Newman said San Marcos should encourage and attract small businesses. “In certain situations, a time-limited incentive or abatement could be in order, but not necessarily as a standard policy.” He said cases where incentives or abatements are necessary should be scrutinized “with a sense of responsibility to the taxpaying public, and be qualified in regard to their economic dividend to the city.” He said businesses are successful when they operate self-sufficiently at a profit. Newman said an advantage businesses have in San Marcos is the facilitation of commerce through the administration of city government at the department levels. “A prosperous business environment in San Marcos is the best inventive.”
McCarty agreed with Narvaiz and Newman that San Marcos should encourage and help small businesses that are currently in or may come to the city. “I’m a proponent of the free-market. If there is something that the city can do, whatever that is, if its tax abatements, if that is really really a concern, then I would say yeah we can waive them for a year as you start up.” He said that if after the year the business may still need help, then the city can look to see how they may further assist. “Something that needs to be promoted is local business, as opposed to national retail; that’s just cancerous growth.”
CONA provided citizens with a list of propositions one through five, adding a comment on propositions two and five.
by ANDY SEVILLA
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