Two Iconic Village and Vintage Pads buildings are to be reconstructed following a July 2018 blaze that killed five residents and displaced over 200. The new buildings will be up to the latest fire code and will include a memorial for the five killed students
After a months-long investigation, the deadly fire at 222 Ramsay St. was ruled incendiary by fire officials during a Nov. 30 city-held press conference. The San Marcos Fire Department is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that may lead to the apprehension of a suspect. Individuals with any information can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at 888-283-8477.
The over-40-year-old apartment complex’s fire safety equipment was grandfathered into code compliance, meaning it wasn’t up to modern standards but was given a pass. Now, the proposed two three-story buildings will feature 60 new units within the up-to-date fire code, meaning there will be sprinklers, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in every unit or every 75 feet in common areas.
Amanda Hernandez, development services manager for the city, said the new apartments will have to pass a fire inspection before it can be inhabited.
According to the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals’ Jan. 17 agenda packet, old units will be refitted with fire extinguishers, new smoke alarms and building alterations to slow a fire’s pace. These are the only concrete steps given for old units, but Matt Goebel, a representative for San Marcos Green Investors, the apartment’s owners, stated more change could come.
“The ownership is also committed to working with the Fire Marshall and other City staff to explore additional retrofit options,” stated the agenda packet, submitted by Goebel.
Goebel’s request on behalf of San Marcos Green Investors to request to the Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals for the right to rebuild the destroyed multifamily units was passed 4-1 on Jan. 17. Rick Henderson, board member and a senior political science lecturer at Texas State, was the only one to vote against the request.
Below: slide the cursor left and right to see the before and after proposed plans for the new buildings.
Elise Rosen, a former Iconic Village resident, urged the board to vote against the request during the Jan. 17 hearing, citing poor management.
“We were treated very poorly, especially for the amount we were paying,” Rosen said. “They don’t need more buildings on top of the people who lost their lives.”
At this time, Goebel said there is no timeline for the construction so far since no building permits have been submitted yet. Demolition of the burned-down buildings began in December 2018 and is ongoing.
Brian Kyle Frizzell, a former Iconic Village resident and brother to Haley Frizzell, said its “absolutely disgusting” the request was “approved in secret” and that families and residents were not notified.
“If my family and I had known, we would have fought this decision,” Frizzell said. “Now, the city of San Marcos is complicit in their treacherous money-grubbing tactics. I’m extremely disappointed in our city council and its utter lack of compassion for the students of San Marcos.”
A memorial space is expected to be created to honor the killed residents: Haley Michele Frizzell, David Ortiz, Dru Estes, James Miranda and Belinda Moats. The design has yet to be announced.
“The apartment complex thinks that ‘considering a memorial’ is enough to make up for their gross negligence but it is not. It never will be,” Frizzell said.
The memorial hasn’t been set in stone yet, according to Goebel, but the owners are expected to seek input and feedback from residents on what it should look like.
“The memorial idea has been discussed since the early days after the fire and has always been a part of our vision for the reconstruction,” Goebel said.
The owners are also requesting permits for non-conforming rights already in place prior to the fire to be reinstated. This would allow the reconstruction to exceed the base zoning density of 24 units per acre to 28 units per acre; the reconstruction and restriping of the non-conforming parking area; the reconstruction of the units reflecting improved, but not full, compliance with the current multi-family design standards; and to allow other minor areas of non-conformity to allow for the reconstruction indicated on the attached conceptual plan.
The University Star will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.