The San Marcos City Council is largely ignoring resident pleas and silencing the overwhelming public vote by going forth with plans to allow the Cape’s Camp land tract to become future student development.
According to a Jan. 15 University Star article, the city council approved zoning changes to permit a new apartment complex called The Woodlands of San Marcos to be developed on Cape’s Camp. The 5-2 vote sparked opposition from many of the more than 75 percent of voters who said they wanted the 45 acres to be bought by the city and used as parkland. These votes were cast on the Nov. 6 ballots in a non-binding referendum, which means the final decision on the matter is left to the city council regardless of the voting outcome.
Most voters also said they did not want the city to get the land through eminent domain, the state’s ability to seize private property without the owner’s consent, or by raising taxes. However, the city still could have acquired the property as parkland through other means such as applying for grant money.
If the city ignored the public’s opinion on those two voting outcomes and raised taxes to compensate the developer for land, it would have been equally unresponsive.
The location of the Woodlands of San Marcos would be an inconvenient distance from campus, which would negatively affect the target audience: students. The increase of student transportation and traffic in the area would likely flood the surrounding neighborhoods with student vehicles and trams. This may fuel the fire between permanent residents of San Marcos and students housed near them.
Natural beauty is a key feature of San Marcos’ charm, and the city council and residents must do everything in their power to protect it. City officials need to draw the line regarding the limits developers have in proposing future construction projects. The river will not remain one of our main recreational resources if development around sensitive waterfront areas continues.
Although Texas State enrollment is growing at a fast pace, developers do not necessarily need to keep constructing numerous housing complexes at an equal rate. If every bed in every apartment complex and campus residence hall was full, then it may be acceptable to develop in parkland areas. However, the current amount of student housing in San Marcos seems adequate. Plenty of new apartment complexes have opened in recent years, and several commuters come in from the Austin and San Antonio areas.
For members of the opposition who say outdated student housing is detrimental to residents, older housing establishments are affordable and can be more beneficial for low-income students. The Woodlands at San Marcos may be nice, new housing, but the complex will likely be expensive for students with tight budgets. The money the city will get from property taxes on the apartment complex will likely pale in comparison to the profit the developers will be making off of students.
San Marcos officials, who are supposed to be the voice of the city, should try harder to align themselves with the ideals of the residents they were elected to represent.