Building height approved

News Editor

Planning and Zoning commissioners approved the height request for a proposed nine-story development on the corner of Edward Gary and Hutchison Streets during their meeting Tuesday, despite opposition from some residents.

Commissioners approved a waiver allowing Carson Properties to construct a mixed-use development four levels taller than the city’s five-story regulation stipulated in the SmartCode. Commissioners voted 8-1 to pass the exception to the SmartCode, with Angie Ramirez casting the only dissenting vote after about two hours of discussion.

Developer John David Carson presented eight sketches depicting how the proposed project would be viewed from different locations around The Square and surrounding area to allow for a better understanding of the building’s scope.

“We put our best foot forward and are decidedly not swinging for the fences,” Carson said. “This is a high-quality, highly articulated structure.”

The height waiver for the proposed project, which includes one level of retail, two levels of parking and 95 units of residential space, was not voted on during the Jan. 14 P&Z meeting to allow for more community input.

P&Z commissioners, city staff and Carson addressed concerns residents voiced during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

Some residents such as Pam Couch spoke in favor of the project. She said the progress being made in San Marcos is a “great thing.”

“I am definitely in favor of this project,” Couch said. “If this project would have been built seven years ago I probably would still have my business downtown. I believe it’s going to bring a lot of economics back to downtown.”

Commissioner Carter Morris said he never thought he would see a high rise in San Marcos, but understands there is room for change over time.

“Someone said (the development) would stick out like a sore thumb,” Morris said. “Based on the pictures it won’t, but even if it did, it wouldn’t be long until it wasn’t sticking out. And being able to drive into San Marcos, Texas and see a skyline of San Marcos rather than the skyline for Texas State would be a pretty good thing in my opinion.”

Residents Melissa Derrick and Bridget Phillips shared their concerns about the project during a proposal on behalf of concerned citizens. The pair discussed how the development could potentially disrupt San Marcos’ skyline and its possible impact on the topography of the downtown area, as well as the project’s conflicting goals with the city.

Resident Jay Hebert said what aggravates him most is not the project itself, but the disregard of the Comprehensive Master Plan and SmartCode.

“Why don’t we work our plan?” Hebert said. “Why are we constantly being faced with management by exception?”
Commissioner Randy Bryan said the city’s master plan states proposed buildings taller than five stories have to be given a waiver so P&Z, city council and the community can oversee the project.

“It’s not like we’re breaking the law, or we have a plan and now we’re going against it,” Bryan said. “That was the plan, and we are working the plan.”

Carson also addressed a statement from the San Marcos Fire Department that said it could not “adequately protect buildings beyond six stories.”

Carson said the building will be equipped with fire defenses such as upgraded sprinkler systems that will help people exit the building and assist in extinguishing the fire. Ventilated corridors will be installed to manage smoke in case of a fire, three stairwells will be added in the buildings to help people evacuate and fire fighters can fight from the inside due to piping, he said.  

The development’s future is slated to be discussed further during the Feb. 18 San Marcos City Council meeting.