by BRAD ROLLINS
Despite the shock of learning it is home to about 20.6 percent fewer people than everyone thought, San Marcos appears unlikely to suffer major consequences for apparently falling below the 50,000 threshold, particularly loss of its claim to surrounding territory for eventual annexation, City Manager Jim Nuse said today.
Census figures that hit the papers this week put the city’s 2010 population at 44,894, about 11,670 fewer than the Texas Data Center and the state’s demographer’s estimate of 56,665 in January 2010. The census bureau itself estimated the city’s population as 53,205 in 2009.
“A 20 percent difference between what is perceived and what is recorded — that’s a big number,” Nuse said. “The bottomline for understanding this stuff is knowing who the people are we serve are and where they are. …. I don’t think we’ll see any real surprises, but we’re going to know alot more in a few weeks.”
The city certified its population as greater than 50,000 in July 2007, a move that, among other things, qualified it for federal transportation funds for small urban areas; entitled it to a voting board seat on the purse-string-pulling Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; gave the municipal court expanded authority and jurisdiction as a court of record; and enabled the police department to patrol Interstate 35 for routine traffic enforcement (although the police department had been doing so for sometime before July 2007 by agreement with the Texas Department of Public Safety.)
Maybe most significantly, reaching 50,000 residents allowed San Marcos to expand its extraterritorial jurisdiction by 1.5 miles, from two miles to three and one-half miles. Municipalities have land subdivision and limited land use authority in their ETJs, where they can also impose some environmental measures such as rules limiting impervious cover by restricting development near streams and rivers. Most basically, it also lays the groundwork for possible future annexation.
But the new census figures undermining that ETJ expansion doesn’t “trump” the city’s own certification of its population in terms of ETJ, Nuse said.
“That’s what I’m being told. That one’s not even in play,” Nuse said. “That would be one of the bigger ones if that were to occur but we don’t think the census trumps the other counts” in this particular case, Nuse said. “The preliminary information I have is that the [new census figure] doesn’t effect any of the triggers that happened when we reached 50,000 people. I mean, we clearly are a community that serves more than 50,000 people.”
Speaking more broadly, he said city staff have not yet found any instance where its areas of rights and responsibilities will contract as a result of the census count. Asked specifically about municipal court and police authority tied to population thresholds, Nuse said, “At this point, we don’t see those issues that you just mentioned as something that the census is going to have an effect one way or the other.”
Nuse said the real implication of the census data will be giving city leaders a better understanding of who the people are that make San Marcos and how many of them are out there.
“One of the things I’ve been challenged on myself is trying to understand the demographics of this community. I’ve always been a little puzzled” over how the university student and faculty population factor into the city’s makeup, Nuse said. “This will help us get a handle on who we are serving and where we are serving them and how we are serving them.”
About three months before the San Marcos City Council self-certified its population as 50,000 or more, Kyle certified its population as 25,000, which expanded its ETJ from one mile to two. A month later, New Braunfels officials declared their population as 50,000, expanding their likely future northern boundary past Watson Lane until it bumped into San Marcos ETJ’s southernmost stretch down the interstate.
Taken together, the three cities’ new population certifications then cemented a phenomenon long predicted by demographers — cities along the Interstate 35 corridor were rapidly growing into each other to form the footprint for a coming megalopolis. For the first time, someone driving from Austin to San Antonio on the interstate would not leave an incorporated city or its ETJ.
The expanded San Marcos ETJ also nearly swallowed the tiny city of Martindale in Caldwell County and opened miles of frontage on the future route of the Texas 130 toll road, a bypass-in-progress around Austin and San Antonio where planners expect a secondary corridor of development to spring up.Email | Print