City of San Marcos begins land development code update discussions

News Reporter

The City of San Marcos is in the early stages of updating and discussing changes for its land development code since the adoption of the city’s comprehensive plan in April 2013.

The current land development code for the city does not match the vision for growing development that is stated in the comprehensive plan, titled “Vision San Marcos: A River Runs Through Us,” said John Foreman, planning manager for the city.

“So in order to get the community that everybody said they wanted with the comprehensive plan, we need to do a really substantial change to our current code,” Foreman said.

Foreman said the current land development code was adopted in 2004 and amended in 2006. The biggest change since then was the adoption of the SmartCode in 2011, which dictates zoning, Foreman said.

“The changes that are going to be made to the LDC, most of it is based on the new comprehensive master plan,” said Angie Ramirez, planning and zoning commissioner.

The comprehensive plan describes ideal areas for development through low, medium and high intensity zones. The areas have fewer environmental constraints and a faster process to begin building. The intensity zones will be less expensive compared to development outside of them, Foreman said.

“In a sense, the community wants to make it as easy and attractive as possible to develop in the intensity zones,” Foreman said. “So for instance, you’re outside one of those zones and you want to do a development, you may have an additional process for environmental review.”

Foreman said the land development code will include specifications for everything that is built such as parking, building size and location, materials, lighting and landscaping. The land development code will be visual and provide more graphics and less text, he said.

“I think some big general ideas that we really hear that need to be in the code is it needs to be clear,” Foreman said. “We hear that from the general community and the development community—we hear that transparent code is important.”

Ramirez said the Planning and Zoning Commission has not yet discussed the specifics of the land development code, but has provided input for new environmental regulations. She said the commission is trying to identify how to handle zoning of current land developments.

“So we’re in this weird kind of limbo of we want to be better with development that will happen when we get the LDC written, but in the mean time, what do we do about zoning change applications that are coming,” Ramirez said.

Foreman said Planning & Development Services has not set a deadline for completion of the code. However, Foreman estimated it could take 18 months to be completed.    

“We essentially want to make it a better code for the community that is more understandable and that really works,” Foreman said.

Foreman said university development is exempt from the code. However, off-campus student housing will be affected by the changes in the land development code.

“There will be a lot of public input opportunities and there will be a lot of opportunities for citizens to work on committees and have a hand in drafting the code,” Foreman said.

Melissa Millecam, communications director for the City of San Marcos, said resident participation with planning and development is important.

“We are very involved in trying to keep to invite and encourage citizens’ input on our decision making processes,” Millecam said.