Decision on proposed development postponed to allow for public input

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A proposal for a nine-story development near downtown has been postponed to allow for more resident input on the project.

A proposal for a nine-story mixed use development that some say will determine the future of development in San Marcos was postponed by Planning and Zoning commissioners for the second time to allow for more resident input.

The Hutchison Mixed Use Redevelopment project proposed by Carson Properties would house 4,000 square feet of retail, two levels of parking, a community center and 79 living units containing 282 beds. The development would sit on land currently occupied by Triple Crown, Eskimo Hut and Cedars Mediterranean Restaurant. City staff recommended the approval of the development during the Jan. 14 P&Z meeting. The development would aim to create a “car free lifestyle” for its residents,

John David Carson of Carson Properties said the development will “enhance the urban fabric” of San Marcos with its “highly efficient use of land that prevents sprawl.” The decision on the project’s height, which is four stories above city regulations, was delayed previously so engineers could upgrade the materials being used for the building.

During the meeting, staff discussed concerns from fire department officials who said they could not adequately protect buildings above six stories tall in the event of a fire
Carson said his company has worked to ensure residents would be able to exit the building and firefighters would have access in case of an emergency. Three sets of internal stairs are expected to be accessible to residents, as well as ventilated corridors and a sprinkler system, Carson said.

Some residents voiced concerns during the public hearing portion of the meeting about the amount of input they have had in the project’s plans, especially in light of the magnitude of the proposal.
Jim Garber, Texas State anthropology professor, said he thinks less than 1 percent of San Marcos residents know about the project. While Garber said he was neither for nor against the development, he would like to see more forums for residents.

“This is the most important decision you’ll make as a commissioner,” Garber said. “This (project) will set the tone of downtown for the next hundred years.”

P&Z Commissioner Travis Kelsey said the project could change the way downtown development is viewed.

Resident Lisa Marie Coppoletta said the proposed development would “open the floodgates and change the character of downtown.”

Another concern voiced by some residents at the meeting is the newness of the city’s SmartCode, which only allows five story buildings in the downtown area, and the impact of granting a waiver for the

Resident Melissa Derrick, a former city council candidate, asked about the process for granting a waiver to allow the construction of a building almost double the size of regulations listed in the SmartCode.

After a motion to postpone the decision on the project, the commissioners asked Carson if he would be willing to keep his business plan in place if time was spent to receive more community input.

“I don’t know that I can continue with this project,” Carson said. “We’ve been very forthright and try to be accommodating. Our time frame doesn’t really have a lot of flexibility.”

Carson said two weeks is the longest time he can wait for approval on the project. Commissioners passed a two-week postponement with instruction to staff to gain more resident input.