City Council Amends Parking Variance For New Amazon Facility

Staff Reports

On Tuesday, the San Marcos City Council amended a variance from certain parking requirements by changing one of the conditions they implemented for the variance’s approval.

During the council’s Dec. 15 meeting, the council voted to grant Amazon’s new facility a parking variance in exchange for a required list of sustainable design aspects.

The conditions included:

  • 100% solar panel coverage of the roof
  • Charging stations for 10 employee electric vehicles
  • 10 electric semi-trucks
  • Hydrogen fuel system
  • Over detention of site runoff
  • Grass-lined channels providing water quality
  • Designated ride-share drop-off location

The amendment to the variance aimed to resolve a miscommunication between the council and the developer.

According to Shannon Mattingly, Director of Planning and Development, staff interpreted the solar panel condition as approved to read that the panels must be shown on the building permit and installed as the building is constructed.

However, the applicant intended for the solar panel condition to require the construction of a roof structure that is designed to accept future solar panel installation but did not contain a commitment of when the solar panels would be installed.

The amendment to the variance changes the condition to follow the applicant’s interpretation.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the amendment, with Councilmember Maxfield Baker voting against the change.

Baker said he felt the developer was “splitting hairs to get away from the council’s actual intent.”

Mattingly explained that the requirements must be completed before the certificate of occupancy is issued.

“I don’t think that they’re meeting our intent or putting their money with their mouth for sustainability if they’re unwilling to” meet the requirement of having solar panels on day one, Baker said.

“The reason our land development code has requirements like these, with the opportunity for variances, is to give us as council members an opportunity to negotiate for something that’s better for our community,” Baker continued. “I think we are failing them by not asking for more solar panels.”

Councilmember Melissa Derrick said she knew the company was more focused on time and speed to begin operations.

“This is something that we don’t have to pay any incentives towards,” Derrick said. “As soon as they’re up and running, we’ll start making money that day, and with our budget…we really need this shot in the arm, and I think we’re lucky to have them here.”

Derrick said she believed the company would install solar panels in the future and did not feel the need to pin them down to a date and percentage. 

The council noted that the condition would not require the company to install solar panels immediately but would require them to install the appropriate structure for the potential addition of solar panels in the future.

Councilmember Mark Gleason said he wanted to thank the applicant for coming back in and noted that the council had asked a great deal of the company on a parking variance.

“I’m happy with this compromise,” Gleason said. “They are still doing quite a few things sustainability wise for a parking variance. I don’t want us to get the reputation of someone coming in for a warrant or a variance to a PDD or a land development code that they need to make, and then we turn around and do hundreds of thousands of dollars of alterations to their plans.”

The City of San Marcos does not have a development agreement with Amazon for its facility in the Whisper Development.

Hughson noted that the facility would bring jobs with health benefits, and she appreciated that the company was not asking for any incentives.

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