COVER: Anthropology professor Jim Garber speaks against a proposed mid-rise in the North Campus area of Texas State University at a planning and zoning commission hearing in May 2013. A series of fiercely fought battles over apartment developments catapulted a number of neighborhood and environmental advocates into elected and appointed positions at San Marcos City Hall, including Garber who was appointed as a planning commissioner in December 2014. FILE PHOTO by JON SHAPLEY/SAN MARCOS MERCURY
by BRAD ROLLINS
The San Marcos City Council’s new majority — a bloc of members who regularly profess wariness of real estate development and developers — moved closer to cementing control of the planning and zoning commission with their appointment this week of a retired Texas State University procurement officer.
Douglas A. Beckett, a Blanco Gardens neighborhood resident who spoke forcefully in 2012 and 2013 against development of the Cape’s Camp property on the San Marcos River, was appointed on Tuesday to fill a position previously held by planning commissioner Brian Olson. Nominated by council member John Thomaides, Beckett won support from council members Jane Hughson, Scott Gregson and Melissa Derrick. Mayor Daniel Guerrero and council member Lisa Prewitt voted for Betseygail Rand, a Texas Lutheran University math associate professor, and council member Jude Prather voted for Johnny Finch, the proprietor of a downtown bar and a heating and air conditioning service company.
For three consecutive election cycles, the city’s voters have tilted in favor of candidates who align themselves with neighborhood and conservation interests — the “smart-growthers” or “no-growthers,” depending on whether one generally associates real estate development with economic progress or with community and environmental degradation.
Between 2008 and 2012, mayoral and city council candidates endorsed by the San Marcos Area Board of Realtors or its successor, the Four Rivers Association of Realtors, won 10 of 13 races. Since 2013, however, Realtor-endorsed candidates won only two of seven races. Put another way, Guerrero and Prather are the only remaining council members who took office with substantial backing from real estate, development and related interests.
(In their most recent re-election bids, Guerrero and Prather successfully campaigned as relative moderates on development issues, each having sided with the smart-growth camp in two pivotal battles of the city’s epic, ongoing development war. Guerrero voted against a proposed luxury residential mid-rise on Sessom Drive and Prather voted against the sprawling Woods of San Marcos student apartment complex at Cape’s Camp, the one hotly protested by new planning commissioner Beckett.)
With city council control changing hands, change is certain to follow on the planning commission, members of which are appointed to three-year terms by a council majority. Resignations last year from Olson and commissioner Amy Stanfield have accelerated the planning commission shakeup, however, and Beckett makes the fifth person appointed to the nine-member P&Z since December 2014.
More change is certain in February when council members routinely restock boards and commissions depleted by term expirations. P&Z vice chair Kenneth Ehlers and commissioner Angie Ramirez will be eligible to serve three more years if reappointed, but chair Chris Wood is blocked by the city charter from serving a third term on the panel.
Douglas A. Beckett
|Retired purchasing agent, Texas State University’s Alkek Library|
|Retired finance professor, Texas State University|
|Real estate agent, Century 21 Randall Morris|
|Owner and business consultant, Growth Advisory Group|
|Family law attorney|
|Manager, U.S. Postal Service|
|Owner, Finch Mechanical Contractors and Chances R bar|
|Owner and loan officer, Blue Sky Mortgage|
|Math associate professor, Texas Lutheran University|