An updated analysis presented to city council members Jan. 5 showed that the construction of a controversial student housing complex worsened the flooding of Blanco Gardens, an adjacent subdivision.
Giving consideration to the analysis, city council resolved to take action to mitigate flooding in Blanco Gardens in the future.
Halff & Associates, a regional consulting firm that focuses on engineering and architecture, presented an analysis of the record-breaking Memorial Day weekend flooding that left hundreds of Central Texans to rebuild their damaged homes.
The analysis demonstrated that The Woods apartments, a student housing complex located near I-35 and River Road, caused as much as 2.3 feet of additional water to enter homes along River Road.
The Woods was still under construction at the time of the flood and outspoken citizens expressed concern that an inadequate drainage system at the development site was to blame for worsening flood damage in the surrounding area.
Michael Moya, a Halff & Associates representative, used a 2-D model to demonstrate the flow of water during the May flood. According to the presentation, properties further north of River Road were less impacted by the development while all of the houses north of Clair Drive were unaffected by the Woods.
Councilwoman Lisa Prewitt, Place 1, said she believed the apartment complex impacted the severity of flood damage across a broader area and that she wanted to ensure the information was as accurate as possible.
“We’re going to have to make huge decisions about developing in (Blanco Gardens), leaving development as it is, doing buyouts in that neighborhood,” Prewitt said. “So let’s make sure this data is totally perfectly correct.”
The conclusions of the study overturned those of a 1-D analysis presented to city council in September by Moya. The initial analysis showed that the Woods development had little to no impact on flooding in Blanco Gardens.
“Now that we know exactly what’s happened here, what’s going to happen again, The Woods apartment complex should step up to do something,” said John Thomaides, Place 3 city councilman. “I don’t know what yet. They clearly, in my opinion, exacerbated the flooding in that neighborhood.”
Council members expressed interest in discussing flood prevention strategies with the Woods’ developers in the future.
Moya said city officials could implement short-term, relatively inexpensive adjustments that would help the area around the Woods to better withstand average flooding. Long-term options to mitigate damage caused by natural disasters, such as the Memorial Day flood, will be more expensive.
“There’s clearly a moral obligation to help alleviate this situation,” Thomaides said. “We need likely to do some short term things now while we’re on the process of accomplishing the long-term project.”
Councilman Scott Gregson, Place 5, said he questions how developers were given approval to construct the Woods initially, and that he wants to improve the permit process.
In the next two months, city council members will hold a workshop to discuss possible changes to the San Marcos’ land development code in order to further regulate developments within the floodplain.
“We’ve got to formulate a plan and start working it because we’re going to be back in this situation likely again,” Thomaides said.