by BRAD ROLLINS
Editor and Publisher
Developers who want to build a mixed-use project that includes 456 residential units on a forthcoming extension of Craddock Avenue cleared another hurdle on Tuesday when the San Marcos City Council approved a package of controversial rezoning requests and land use map amendments.
In a marathon meeting that stretched almost to midnight, council members heard from nearly two dozen detractors of Austin-based Craddock Avenue Partner’s plans for the recently annexed 174-acre Buie tract. About a half-dozen residents spoke in favor of the project, including the president of an adjacent subdivision’s homeowners association.
The council voted 4-3, with Mayor Susan Narvaiz and members Kim Porterfield, Ryan Thomason and Fred Terry in the majority to rezone three tracts totaling about 44 acres from very low density residential to either mixed-use or higher-density multi-family residential. By the same margin, they approved three other rezoning requests related to the Craddock Avenue development’s first phase on property totaling about 45 acres. Council members John Thomaides, Gaylord Bose and Chris Jones opposed the changes.
Praising the project as an example of New Urbanism design that integrates a variety of uses in a walkable environment, Narvaiz said the project affirms decades of public input through programs like Envision Central Texas. Earlier in the meeting, Matthew Lewis, the city’s Development Services assistant director, was heckled briefly when he said the project complies with goals of the city’s Horizons Master Plan.
“Nope, nope, nope!,” said Camille Phillips, a former Council of Neighborhood Associations president who helped organize opposition. She was quieted by Narvaiz and the meeting continued.
Emotions coursed through dialogue on both sides of the issue.
At one point, former council member Pam Couch produced a flier that she said contained innuendo about why she and husband Bucky Couch, a planning and zoning commissioner, supported the rezoning.
“I take this very personally. This crosses a line,” she said.
Several of the throng that turned out to oppose the development referenced Texas State University students who they consider likely to occupy apartments in the development.
“Since we’ve had students who have moved in the last few years, there has been a terrible degradation of our quality of life … it’s changing the character of our neighborhood,” said Jeanette Passty, who lives on Ramona Circle in the nearby Castle Forrest neighborhood.
Developers Gordon Muir and Rick Coleman, represented by San Marcos-based Baker-Aiklen and Associates, have said their development includes no more residential units than they are entitled to under the old very low density residential zoning.
The entire 174-acre property would accommodate 459 units under the old zoning which allows for about three homes per acre, engineer Steve Ramsey said. A development services agreement signed as part of the city’s annexation of the land stipulates that the property will eventually be developed into no more than 456 units, though the residences will be clustered along the Craddock Avenue extension at a higher density than would have been permitted without the rezoning.
Lewis said reducing the footprint of the buildings and requiring they be at least three stories tall reduces the environmental impact on property that is home to at least three mapped caves and a number of karsts and sensitive geological features.
Craddock Avenue Partner’s overtures to sound design, however, did not win many converts within neighborhoods known for well-organized opposition to new development in their sector.
Many of the same residents have pre-emptively opposed development of the 45-acre Weatherford tract at Craddock Avenue and Ranch Road 12. As recently as October, Castle Forest residents successfully opposed a homeowner’s request to allow office/professional uses on his property which fronts heavily traveled Craddock.Email | Print