San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commissioners, left to right, Jude Prather, Bill Taylor, Curtis Seebeck and Sherwood Bishop. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
The planning and zoning commission (P&Z) in San Marcos voted to postpone a decision on whether to change the concept plan for Blanco Vista subdivision Tuesday in a meeting attended by several of the neighborhood’s residents who wished to face the commission directly.
The concept plan change requested by developer Carma Texas allow hundreds more multi-family units and townhomes in more locations within Blanco Vista.
In letters to the city and in the last two public meetings on the matter, Blanco Vista residents have overwhelmingly opposed changing the concept plan to allow more multi-family units. Residents opposed to more multi-family units have said more tenants would lead to more traffic, crime, and safety hazards, especially for children.
Blanco Vista lies on about 575 acres just north of the Blanco River near Five Mile Dam Park in San Marcos. About 102 homes have been built there so far.
Blanco Vista resident Melvin Burklund, who spoke during the public comment period at Tuesday’s P&Z meeting, said he purchased a home at Blanco Vista in February 2009. In recent weeks, Burklund said, he has called the police on rowdy college students, smelled marijuana in the neighborhood and cleaned up glass and beer after parties.
“If this is what’s going to happen with the housing the way it is now, I definitely don’t want to see any master plan changes where we have multi-families out there, with a bunch of college students out there,” Burklund said. “I don’t need that for my family. I didn’t sign up for this when I bought this house. I bought it because it was an investment and a good place to live…keep the master plan the way it is.”
Carma representative Walt Elias asked the P&Z to postpone a decision in order “to allow us to meet with the homeowners groups, City Staff and the P&Z Commission to formulate a consensus of comments to better address the needs of the community,” stated Elias in a Sept. 23 email to city Senior Planner Sofia Nelson.
At the Sept. 14 P&Z meeting, Carma representatives requested a concept plan amendment involving an increase of 180 to 900 allowable multi-family units. Carma also asked that multi-family uses and commercial uses be allowed in more places, and asked that the 70-unit cap on allowable townhomes be removed. Commissioners deferred the issue to Tuesday night, at which point they deferred it again.
At a Blanco Vista neighborhood meeting last week, Elias apologized to residents for not notifying them before requesting a concept plan amendment. Most of the residents who spoke at the meeting opposed changing the concept plan to allow more multi-family units. Some residents opposed any multi-family units at Blanco Vista.
The latest proposal would have increased allowable townhomes from 70 to 450 and would have increased allowable multi-family uses from 180 to 450 units. The proposal would also have allowed multi-family uses outside the current tract to which they are restricted — a wooded, 50.5-acre hill in the northwestern corner of the development. Carma representatives said the 50.5-acre tract is furthest away from roads and utility infrastructure, in the most difficult place to build, so it is not an appropriate location for multi-family uses.
Carma has identified four possible tracts suitable for multi-family units, though Elias has said that multi-family units could be isolated by restricting them to the north side of Yarrington Road/future FM 110, in the northeastern tip of the development. According to Elias’ proposal, all single-family homes would be south of Yarrington Road/FM 110.
While postponing a decision Tuesday, commissioners expressed the desire that Carma apply for a Planned Development District (PDD), rather than continue with only a concept plan. PDDs are intended to allow the city and developers to collaborate more closely throughout the development process.
City staffers have said the current concept plan poses administrative problems and does not provide enough predictability for the city or Blanco Vista residents. Nelson told P&Z commissioners Tuesday that city staffers have expressed a preference for a PDD in Blanco Vista’s case. Nelson said Carma has opted to stick with a concept plan.
P&Z Commissioners Bill Taylor, Jim Stark, Chris Wood, and Jude Prather voted for postponing action on the matter until Dec. 14, and Commissioners Sherwood Bishop and Curtis Seebeck cast the dissenting votes. Seebeck expressed an inclination to vote against approving any concept plan amendment for Blanco Vista.Email | Print
Thanks again to Curtis and Sherwood for casting a “no” vote. There was no reason to postpone. It’s a bad idea, and as Curtis said, we could send a strong message by voting to deny to Carma and others who aren’t making money fast enough to suit them. It’s called real estate speculation, not real estate “sure thing”. And shame on the City of San Marcos for providing an environment that promotes greed and quick ‘fixes’ at the expense of our neighborhoods and our environment. And shame on Jude Prather for voting for this and the Buie tract rezoning. He is on the ‘wrong side’ of these issues, unfortunately, and if he is elected to City Council in November? Well, shame on us.
Carma can more than afford to wait for the market and the economy to ‘come back’, and it should not affect the folks who invested in a community development in good faith. We need to protect our citizens.
I agree with you Chris. And, thanks again Curtis and Sherwood for your votes for reasonable zoning in San Marcos. Everyone is always talking about how to attract new residents to our town….. the way to attract new folks is to treat our residents already here with respect and honor the commitments made to them when they chose San Marcos…. keep the single family neighborhoods what they were planned to be! It seems that the San Marcos “wave of development” has become instead of a convenience store on every corner, we need an apartment complex on every corner! When will it stop!
Our ‘leaders'” blatant disregard to the Master Growth Plan and the devaluing of established neighborhoods sends a stronger message to prospective businesses than a cutesy slogan.
We need less apartments-not more. The apartments we have now are not full, yet we are adding hundreds more all over the city. To improve the quality of life in SM – we need more owner occupied housing, not less.
According to an August 2010 study by the National Association of Realtors:
“The positive social benefits from homeownership and stable housing are compelling. There is evidence from numerous studies that attest to the benefits accruing to many segments of society. Homeownership boosts the educational performance of children, induces higher participation in civic and volunteering activity, improves health care outcomes, lowers crime rates and lessens welfare dependency.
Owning a home is different from renting. With the home purchase comes the pride of ownership and the sense of belonging in a community where one has a financial stake in the neighborhood. Perhaps, homeowners are “happier” just from having achieved the so-called “American Dream” — a sense of accomplishment, a milestone. Also, ownership entails greater individual responsibility. As discussed above, homeownership requires a large (if not the largest) financial outlay of a person’s life and often requires the responsibility of a mortgage spanning 30 years. Therefore, it is a long-term commitment, which may alter human behavior.
Given such an opportunity, public policy makers would be wise to consider the immense social benefits of homeownership for families, local communities and the nation.”
The city should consider giving a homestead tax exemption. This would make San Marcos housing more affordable and attractive to new home buyers. All of the benefits of owner-occupied housing would improve the quality of life in San Marcos for both current and future citizens.
Thank you for the information.
Would you please give the source of this article – name of publication, date, page number, volume number, and authors? Or if it was published just on the web, how we can find it there?