Residents voiced their concerns through emails, petitions and during the November elections, but it was not enough to convert the largest undeveloped property on the San Marcos River into parkland.
City council members voted 5-2 during their Jan. 7 meeting to approve zoning changes that would allow the development of a 306-unit, 1,000-bedroom student housing complex at Cape’s Camp called The Woodlands of San Marcos.
Less than half of the 45 acres approved for zoning will be donated by the Georgia-based Dovetail Development to the city to be used as parkland as part of the proposal. The 20 acres will include Thompson’s Island.
and councilmembers Kim Porterfield, Place 1, Wayne Becak, Place 4, Ryan Thomason, Place 5 and Shane Scott, Place 6, voted in favor of the development and the 20-acre parkland donation. Councilmembers Jude Prather, Place 2, and John Thomaides, Place 3, voted against the student apartments.
“I really wasn’t impressed with the 23 acres they were going to give us,” Prather said. “It looked like your typical apartment—nothing that wowed me or stood out. Nothing worth giving up that land.”
The vote followed more than four hours of public comment, most in opposition, at the Jan. 7 meeting.
Voters also voiced their desire for the property to be parkland in November. In a non-binding referendum on the Nov. 6 election ballot, more than 75 percent of San Marcos voters said they wanted the 45-acre tract property to be acquired as parkland. However, the two other resolutions, involving the property being acquired through eminent domain or raising taxes, failed to pass by a majority of the voters.
“The vast majority said we want this as parkland,” Thomason said at the Jan. 7 city council meeting. “The same percentage said ‘Don’t send us a bill. People really are all over the board on this subject.”
Kevin Romig, associate professor in Texas State’s geography department, was one of the 60 community members who spoke against the student housing complex and the zoning change of the land from a Multifamily 12 (meaning 12 units to an acre) to a Planned Development District.
Romig said there are other creative ways Cape’s Camp could be used instead of as student apartments that are an inconvenient distance from campus and will cost the city and university to accommodate them. Dave Mulkey, the developer of The Woodlands, did agree to provide shuttle service to Texas State from the student apartments.
Kate McCarty, member of the master plan committee, said residents of neighborhoods near the area will also be inconvenienced with the added traffic. Flooding may become a concern, as well.
McCarty said even though the developers are building up and the complex could act as a levee, the apartment structure would not allow the water to properly flow into the San Marcos River.
“I didn’t live in San Marcos when the ’98 flood happened. I lived close by out in the country back then, and I was cut off,” McCarty said. “I could go outside my home, but I couldn’t go anywhere because the roads were bad.” McCarty said the same flood severely impacted many neighborhoods in San Marcos, including those next to Cape’s Camp.
“One of the planning and zoning commissioners I talked to said ‘Look, the law says the new complex can’t add to the flooding problem,’” McCarty said. “But the real fear people have is that it really will add to the flooding problem.”
Steve Drenner, the apartment developer’s attorney, said Cape’s Camp “is not or will never be for sale to the City of San Marcos” during the Jan. 7 meeting.
However, the city is trying to acquire as much land on the other side of the San Marcos River.
The apartment complex is up for reconsideration during Tuesday’s city council meeting, but McCarty does not think councilmembers will change their minds. McCarty said the project goes against the master plan she is working on.
“Citizen input is very important, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the majority of people speaking on one side that that’s the side that will prevail,” McCarty said.