Plans for a new student housing complex to be built on the controversial Buie Tract have been shelved, though the reasons why are unclear.
Lisa Wheeler, spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the commission received notification Jan. 14 from Ramsey Engineering that the company is withdrawing its construction project for “The Cottages of San Marcos” located on the Buie Tract off Craddock Avenue and Bishop Street. The developers did not return calls for comment on whether the plans were withdrawn for environmental concerns or business reasons.
Dianne Wassenich, program manager for the San Marcos River Foundation, said the 174-acre Buie Tract is a recharge zone for the Edwards Aquifer and has environmentally sensitive features such as faults, crevices and caves.
The original plan for the apartment complex has been withdrawn, but Wassenich said it does not necessarily mean the project was scrapped.
“Developers are quite persistent, and when they find an environmental problem they try to find a way to deal with it and just redesign their project,” Wassenich said.
Wheeler said the developer can resubmit the building plan at any time, but she does not know what the future construction strategies are.
Wassenich said the foundation prompted the commission to inspect the property for a missing cave that has caused controversy in the past. Contentions arose after the building plan for The Cottages of San Marcos came forward, which included a large parking lot surrounding the apparent location of the cave.
Wassenich said a cave was noted on an early geological report of the Buie Tract conducted by the landowner. However, she said the owner filed a second report with the commission failing to recognize the cave.
“The guy in the second report said he couldn’t see it,” Wassenich said. “We don’t know what was wrong with his eyes.” The San Marcos City Council approved the rezoning and development of the tract in 2010 before the missing cave had been recognized by the commission.
Melissa Derrick, San Marcos resident and former city council candidate, said she had participated in a comment period with the commission and voiced concern for the missing cave.
“My comments were that there had been multiple geological surveys on this land, and it needs to be looked into more closely because one shows more features than the other, and something kind of smells rotten,” Derrick said.
Wassenich said the foundation’s major concern was runoff from the proposed parking lot going into the cave and polluting the aquifer.
“That’s why we have been tracking this case,” Wassenich said.
Additionally, Wassenich said in a foundation newsletter that a sewer line on the building plan for The Cottages of San Marcos would have gone directly through the once-missing, now-found cave.
“Sewer lines always leak, and that sewage is going to go straight to the aquifer, and it will come out of streams,” Wassenich said.