By ED MIHALKANIN
Amid the commotion stemming from a proposed neighborhood noise ordinance at Tuesday night’s meeting of the San Marcos City Council, economic development issues came from a variety of fronts to squeeze in several words edgewise.
Councilmembers discussed matters as remote as the city’s land development code and as immediate as an incentive for encouraging Texas State faculty to purchase homes in the city limits. In between, the council discussed a residential development targeted to low-income families, a comprehensive economic development plan and a possible future scenario for the Springtown Shopping Center, which is soon to be vacated as anchor tenants such as Target and J.C. Penny move to a larger shopping complex down Interstate-35.
On the last of those, Steve Metcalfe of Drenner & Golden, representing multiple property owners in the Springtown mall, presented a redevelopment proposal that would re-brand the facility as the Springtown Entertainment Center. Among the proposed attractions are a movie theater, a bowling alley/entertainment center, family entertainment venues, a sports bar and restaurants.
The property owners are requesting a conditional use permit, parking variances, sign variances and other variances as they may be needed.
Most significantly, the property owners are requesting a Chapter 380 Agreement with the city for 20 years, whereby the city would only receive 20 percent of the increase in sales tax revenue from the proposed project.
The property owners estimate that the economic impact through the first 20 years would include 451 direct and indirect jobs, with the city government receiving more than $16 million in revenues from taxes, fees, permits and other charges. The proposal will go to the Economic Development San Marcos Board (EDSM) for a recommendation before it is brought back to the council.
However, council took direct action on a $50,000 incentive program for qualified Texas State University professors to reside in the city, approving the measure by a 6-1 vote. Councilmember Gaylord Bose cast the only dissenting vote, arguing that the program assists people who don’t really need it. Under the proposal, the city would offer $5,000 towards the down payment on a home within the city.
As amended and approved by the council, all tenure or tenure track professors are eligible for the program, no matter how many years they have been employed by Texas State, so long as they haven’t owned property in San Marcos for three years.
By a 5-2 vote, council approved a petition for a development agreement with NRP Properties for Encino Point, a proposed 19.68-acre, low-income, multifamily development on Post Road just beyond the city limits. Bose and Councilmember John Thomaides voted in opposition.
Bose, Thomaides and Councilmember Chris Jones worried that a provision for a payment in lieu of property taxes would leave the city short of the amount that a for-profit corporation would pay in taxes on a similar multi-family housing development. Jones further wondered if NRP, a non-profit corporation, would be able to finish the project and make the promised payment to the city.
Speaking on behalf of NRP’s proposal, Capital Area Housing Finance Corporation partner Jim Shaw told council that “payment is guaranteed” because it “becomes part of the trust estate. It is part of the mortgage. It is a rock solid way of setting it (the payment) up. It is a guaranteed payment.”
Shaw also responded to concerns that NRP would sell the multifamily development to a for-profit corporation, assuring council that the “property must remain affordable for a 15-year period.” Shaw added that “our goal is to create this type of quality affordable housing,” promising “we’re not interested in flipping it.”
Also Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a contract with Market Street to prepare a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan for San Marcos, following EDSM’s unanimous recommendation. Furthermore, EDSM voted unanimously to recommend that all money contributed to the plan be placed in a dedicated fund in the city budget to be used for its implementation..
The plan will include a community assessment, target business and workforce analysis, organizational review, a comprehensive economic development plan and an implementation plan. All parts of the plan are scheduled to be completed by mid-September.
Charles Swallow, the city’s director of development services, presented an update on the city’s Land Development Code (LDC), reviewing a council-requested study by Dunkin Sekor & Associates comparing the San Marcos code with those of Buda, Kyle, and New Braunfels.
The comparative study concluded that San Marcos is most restrictive or costly in the areas of impact fees, watershed protection, permit process, arterial and boundary road participation, street right of way (ROW) and pavement widths, bike lanes, utility extension reimbursement and processing times.
After receiving the report, the city council directed staff to evaluate potential changes related to impact fees, utilities reimbursement, transportation, watershed protection and reducing the number of readings for an ordinance before adoption. The city staff already is reviewing impact fees and developing a pro-rata reimbursement ordinance, while revising the capital improvement planning process. The staff also is considering reducing ROW and pavement widths requirements, expanding off-road alternates to bike lanes, and implementing a concurrent instead of a sequential review process.Email | Print