Editorial: Ecological Issues Accompany Council’s $2.4M “Blight Bailout”

They've Paved Paradise And Put Up A Parking Lot

Professor Lisa Marie Coppoletta |

Home improvement television always drives home “curb appeal.” I don’t think even Joanna Gaines would know what to do when it comes to 128, 140, and 152 South Guadalupe Street. This isn’t a lapboard; it’s full-on toxic waste.

The Tool Man, Tim, would need to avoid these properties as possible trip and fall hazards with those barrels and broken equipment just on the outside of the building.



The Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis, probably wouldn’t risk one swing of her sledgehammer on those walls for fear of rodents and toxins waiting to spew into the surrounding neighborhoods and upscale apartments across the street not to mention being inhaled into the lungs. That lil’ lady packs a punch, and she would need a full-on hazmat suit.

The 3:00 PM work session agenda item 2 for this Tuesday addresses important ecological issues. The question is can our currently elected officials provide solutions. I believe no.

Receive a Staff presentation, hold discussion, and receive direction from the City Council regarding potential Development Code and City Code amendments to address concerns with developers requesting Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) permits, also commonly known as package treatment plants, from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in lieu of connecting to City of San Marcos utility infrastructure.

Traditionally “The Packet meeting,” which used to be held on a Friday, so the public could galvanize against controversial issues, has been changed to a “Work Session” meeting held on the same day as the council’s regular meeting.

Often times, the work session items cover exact items to be voted on by the city council that evening.

This shift allows no time for the public to communicate with staff and elected officials to masticate key information and communicate concerns.

Moreover, work sessions under Bert Lumbreras found “Questions from the Press and Public” completely eliminated, which means citizens cannot ask questions of elected officials. In sum, even less communication.

There is no interaction, which means no accountability. It is easy to delete an email. It is not so simple to ignore a question in the public forum on live television and filed into the public record. Previously, the public had Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to air their concerns.

Now we have the moment the work session ends until the next back-to-back meeting. It’s questionable if this city council is indeed one that holds transparency dear to their hearts because they have refused to fix this communication issue between citizens, city staff, and elected officials.  

Most troubling is the 6:00 PM city council session Agenda item #8 for Tuesday night is packed with transparency, fiscal responsibility, and ecological concerns.

Consider approval of Resolution 2020-222R, approving a Real Estate Sales Contract with Randy N. and Patrice A. Greer for the City to purchase lots 2 and 3, block 12 of the original town of San Marcos, located at 128 and 140 South Guadalupe Street, for a price of $1,600,000, plus any associated closing costs, approving amendments to said contract including an amendment providing for the withholding of funds in an amount up to $225,000 for expenses associated with enrolling in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) voluntary cleanup program; approving a Voluntary Cleanup Program Agreement with the TCEQ in connection with the purchase of the property; approving the execution of said Real Estate Sales Contract by the City Manager, or his designee, on behalf of the city; authorizing the City Manager, or his designee, to execute the contract amendment regarding the withholding of funds under the TCEQ voluntary cleanup program, any related closing documents and the TCEQ Voluntary cleanup program agreement on behalf of the City; and declaring an effective date.

Now if you recall, this parcel of land almost became the death star of downtown development and was rejected by governing boards here in San Marcos.

As someone who attended and spoke at those public hearings, there were concerns about traffic, parking, and safety of students if a fire broke out due to the construction of the building.




Consent agendas are reserved for routine business and can be approved in one action. This seems more like a million-dollar blight bailout by the city at the taxpayers’ expense.

There is no transparency about what we are getting for our investment. And, why the purchase of land is up for a vote with potentially no discussion. 

Since the agenda caption says TCEQ, it seemed like a no brainer there would be some sort of “environmental” documentation for the public to review in supporting the agenda packet.

Melissa Derrick would expect this as a member of the public.

Mark Rockeymoore never showed up to city hall prior to being elected so he may have no clue this is the standard expectation of environmentalists.

Maxfield Baker is adamant about data regarding Capes Dam, so where is the quest for the research on this taxpayer investment?

On Thursday and Friday of last week, I sent numerous emails to the San Marcos City Council and staff “Executive Team” pleading for environmental reports to accompany agenda item #8. City staff sent the following reply:

Sent: Friday, October 16, 2020 1:07 PM

Hello Lisa,

Since the information you are seeking is not in the agenda backup, then please submit an open record request, so we can gather any responsive information.

Thank you.

I’m puzzled why the “social justice” council was silent. They have created new audibles for the developer playbook emblazoned with gold leaf and rounded edges. This sets an alarming precedent.

I already obtained Terracon Project Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (submitted: February 11, 2020) and Chapman Engineering Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (submitted: August 31, 2020). Why would I wait around for Bert and his underlings to toy with me for ten days?

As of right now the only way you will be able to view these reports is via San Marcos Corridor News. 

So, to this city council addicted to the fashion of fists in the air as a sign of defiance, or leadership, I’m not quite sure which, I’m holding up my mouse and keyboard with key information the public has a right to know.

This begs the question: Do our elected officials have the environmental reports? Or, are they obtaining them for the first time via San Marcos Corridor News?

If not, why did they not ask for them? If so, why did they not demand the files be uploaded to be included with the agenda item or make them available on social media?

Maybe they think the toxic molecules are a portion of the cite-and-release program and just letting them run free into the atmosphere. But, if we could connect it to global warming they would be all over that shizzle.

Where is Food Protection? Clearly more worried about grease vapors than potential toxic fumes.

And, when the city was paying for environmental reports, why did they not take action until they received the research? And why was the question not asked about safety for patrons eating their meals at this hazardous site?

One of the few items the city did tell me (which I already knew because I had the reports) was sent on Friday, October 16, 2020, at 2:08 PM:

No soil contamination was found but tetrachloroethane (PERC) and trichloroethane (PCE) were found above Protective Contamination Levels (PCLs) in one well.  These chemicals are typically associated with dry cleaning operations.

Based upon analysis the source of the contamination is 128 & 140 S. Guadalupe. 

Actually, Chapman Engineering Phase II Environmental Site Assessment states that:

Concentrations of VOC compounds were found to be above laboratory detection limits at MW-202 and MW-205. The sample obtained from MW-202 had concentrations of:

  • 0.0124 milligrams per liter (mg/L) cis-1,2-dichloroethene;
  • 0.0171 mg/L tetrachloroethene (or “PERC”);
  • 0.0062 mg/L trichloroethene (TCE).

The PERC and TCE concentrations exceeded the TRRP PCL of 0.005 mg/L.

The only compound detected at MW-205 was 2-butanone (also called methyl-ethyl ketone or MEK) with a concentration of 0.006 mg/L. This concentration is well below the PCL of 15 mg/L, and MEK is a common chemical used in laboratory instrument cleaning.

I want all small businesses to succeed, however, the owners of the food truck had a right to know the city was engaging in research about the contamination.


Property taxes for 2018 and 2019 are outstanding going into the purchase agreement. 


According to the packet, the document Purchase Contract and Extensions.pdf states:



Here are two quotes from members of the city council, which can be found on the Downtown San Marcos Candidate Questionnaire.



So, this begs the question, who placed this on the agenda? And, will this person or people claim credit for this item on Tuesday night? And, how will Mayor Hughson and Ed Mihalkanin vote?


Would you enter into a business deal with an associate who refuses to answer your questions?

Terracon report states:

1.6 Client Provided Information

Prior to the site visit, Mr. Phil Steed, client’s representative, was asked to provide the following user questionnaire information as described in ASTM E1527-13 Section 6.



TIRZ #5-Downtown seems to be an ongoing shell game with limited accountability.

Item #9 on the council’s agenda is the purchase of 152 S. Guadalupe Street, which is contiguous with 128 and 140 S. Guadalupe in the amount of $824,000.

Courtesy of Google Maps

TIRZ #5 was created in 2011 to pay for re-development of the former Justice Center and link the area to downtown.

The TIRZ boundaries follow the area that was previously designated as the Downtown SmartCode District which encompasses 244 acres in the downtown bounded by Texas State University on the west, CM Allen on the north, IH-35 on the east, and primarily commercial areas on the south.

This project did not move forward and the building was ultimately redeveloped by a private party. No moneys have been distributed out of the TIRZ fund which currently has a balance of $1.5M at the end of FY2018.

To use the funds accumulated, the TIRZ board (made up of 2 representatives from both the City and County and a 5th person mutually agreed on by both entities) must approve a new development plan.

In this TIRZ, 70% of the taxes collected over the base year is deposited in the TIRZ fund.

This is a joint TIRZ, with the County contributing 70% of taxes collected to the TIRZ fund. This TIRZ was initially adopted for a 5 year term.

After the first 5 year term, it was extended for another 5 year term by mutual agreement of the City and County.

Staff is recommending that this TIRZ be extended for a longer period of time which would allow the City to issue debt for downtown revitalization and use the funds generated by the TIRZ to pay the debt service on the bonds.

As they said in the film Slumdog Millionaire,

Jamal: Are you nervous?

Prem Kumar: What? Am I nervous? It’s you who’s in the hot seat, my friend!

Jamal: Yes, sorry.”

The taxpayers should be nervous, and it’s the city transparency that is in the hot seat. As this $2 million project, not a word was ever mumbled in the August 13 Workshop FY 2020-21 Budget Workshop.

And, with residents struggling to pay their power bill, elected officials rendering decisions on their zoom thrones, including Joca who is still not visible during the later portions of the meetings.

It begs another question: why are we focusing on this now? If the city council is not leaving their armchairs to render public policy, when do they expect parking lots to be packed for shopping?

Did the current property owner not know what they were getting into when they purchased the property? So, now it’s the taxpayers’ responsibility to foot the tab for clean up?

Terracon Project Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (submitted: February 11, 2020)”

Red Simon Ford was identified as a hazardous waste generator on the RCRANGR06 and IHW databases and being located onsite at 140 S. Guadalupe Street.

Automotive related businesses were identified at this location during the review of Sanborn Maps and city directories from the late 1950s to the mid-1980s.

Based on the absence of information pertaining to the automotive repair operations and length of operations (+25 years), this facility appears to constitute a REC in connection with the site.”

And, it appears that the current landowner never took much care in cleaning up the site, Terracon continues:

Evidence of former dry-cleaning operations was observed within the onsite building at the time of the site reconnaissance. Please see above for further discussion of the former onsite dry-cleaning operations.

A drain was observed in the vicinity of the food trucks onsite (128 S. Guadalupe Street) at the time of the site reconnaissance. The drain appears to be associated with former automotive repair related operations at this location; either an inground lift or oil/water separator.”

Moreover, the report from Terracon continues to identify another business that polluted this parcel of land:

Detail Master was identified as a TCEQ FRSTX and LPST facility to the adjoining north of the site and topographically up gradient relative to the site.

According to the regulatory database, this facility operated as an auto and home supply store. During the historical review, this facility was listed as a filling station auto detail facility from the 1940s to the early 2000s.

In 2002, a hydrocarbon release was reported at the facility. This facility’s file was requested and obtained from the TCEQ Central File Room. Based on review of the file, on March 27, 2002 three underground storage tanks were removed from this facility.

The tanks consisted of one 3,000-gallon and 1,000-gallon gasoline containing and one 550-gallon waste oil containing USTs that were located within one tank hold approximately 60 feet north of the site.

During the removal of the USTs, the 550-gallon tank was observed to be damaged with several holes; additionally, a small volume of thick black sludge leaked from the UST and was reportedly not removed prior to backfilling the excavation.

A TCEQ representative observed the UST removal activities and indicated in an investigation report that groundwater was observed in the tank pit during removal activities; however, the contracted UST removal party did not collect a sample of the groundwater.

According to the Tank Closure Report with a Release Determination Form, soil samples were collected from the tank pit, pump island, and stockpiled backfill, and analyzed for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and lead.

The soil samples exhibited concentrations above the regulatory action levels.

Based on the close proximity to the site, upgradient topographic position relative to the site, and the concentrations of constituents of concern (COCs) above the regulatory action levels exhibited in the samples collected at the facility in 2002, this former facility appears to constitute a REC in connection to the site.”

It appears the only “improvements” to the project will go right into the storm drains.




Why did the city hire Chapman Engineering to collect soil samples from June 02 thru August 05 while at the same time contracts were being signed?

According to the City council interactive agenda for Tuesday, October 20, 2020, Purchase Contract and Extensions.pdf Amendment to Real Estate Sales Contract to Extend Inspection Period was signed on June 5 and June 8, 2020.

Assistant City Manager Joe Pantalion’s signature was already dry on June 08, being that Bert has been coming into the office once a month since March.




More troubling is that on December 05, 2019, the Purchase Contract and Extensions.pdf Real Estate Sales Contract was signed without the two environmental reports that the taxpayers unknowingly had paid for.



But the most troubling is what is lacking in the reports, which raises other questions. For example, what can be done with the land? What are the associated environmental and human health hazard risks to the surrounding residents if the buildings are demolished?

Can a parking lot or multi-story garage be built? The report clearly states that Navarro Clay is present. And, yet there is no analysis on how this clay may impact any project.

How far does the plume spread across the TIRZ #5-Downtown?

The report from Terracon even admits:

An evaluation of the significance of limitations and missing information with respect to our findings has been conducted, and where appropriate, significant data gaps are identified and discussed in the text of the report.

However, it should be recognized that an evaluation of significant data gaps is based on the information available at the time of report issuance, and an evaluation of information received after the report issuance date may result in an alteration of our conclusions, recommendations, or opinions.

We have no obligation to provide information obtained or discovered by us after the issuance date of the report, or to perform any additional services, regardless of whether the information would affect any conclusions, recommendations, or opinions in the report.

This disclaimer specifically applies to any information that has not been provided by the client.

Terracon further states:

It should be recognized that environmental concerns may be documented in public records that were not reviewed. No ESA can wholly eliminate uncertainty regarding the potential for RECs in connection with a property.

Performance of this practice is intended to reduce, but not eliminate, uncertainty regarding the potential for RECs. No warranties, express or implied, are intended or made.

The limitations herein must be considered when the user of this report formulates opinions as to risks associated with the site or otherwise uses the report for any other purpose.

These risks may be further evaluated – but not eliminated – through additional research or assessment. We will, upon request, advise you of additional research or assessment options that may be available and associated costs.

We don’t even know why the city wants to purchase the land. I was told in electronic correspondence:

Sent: Friday, October 16, 2020 2:08 PM

The final use of the property has not been determined.  As per the TIRZ and agenda form, the properties are identified for parking or other public priorities.”

Dry cleaning can be a dirty business if not handled responsibly. You see the existence of “Lisa Mobility Hub,” which is part of the TCEQ Dry Cleaner Remediation Program was a pet project of mine as a newbie reporter.

This is the reason why San Marcos did not get that parking garage. The site is still in remediation. Lisa would not place me on the committee after repeated requests.

Why would she? It was her pony show? Lisa knew if I was involved on the committee, the public would be alerted of the underground contents of where sweaty cyclists could theoretically hydrate.

Can’t have the geek on the committee who reviews the environmental reports on a yearly basis and had the dang thing cleaned up by contacting the TCEQ. 

It was the free press that made that mobility hub occur. It looked like Lisa enjoyed the photo opts and sure is using them for her county race.

Terracon Recommends:

Based on the scope of services, limitations, and findings of this assessment, Terracon recommends additional subsurface investigation to evaluate whether potential releases from the above referenced RECs have impacted environmental media (including soil, groundwater, and vapor) on the site.

Terracon Project ASTM E1527-13 contains a new definition of “migrate/migration,” which refers to “the movement of hazardous substances or petroleum products in any form, including, for example, solid and liquid at the surface or subsurface, and vapor in the subsurface.”

By including this explicit reference to migration in ASTM E1527-13, the Standard clarifies that the potential for vapor migration should be addressed as part of a Phase I ESA.

This Phase I ESA has considered vapor migration in evaluation of RECs associated with the site. 

The phase II conducted by Chapman Engineering does not address this concern.

Where is this social justice city council ensuring transparency and protecting the health of surrounding neighborhoods? They received my emails on Friday; here is a snip of one of those pieces of correspondence. 

If the city council has not requested these environmental reports, then this calls into question the claim that they are social justice and protection of ecology advocates.

And, since the city council has been cc on this stream, and are not being proactive, this further reinforces my concerns.

These key reports are not included in the interactive agenda.

The public “has the right to know” and to review these reports. 

If you change your mind, be sure to contact me prior to close of business day. 

I should not have to engage in an exchange in a stream of emails to request data that for transparency purposes is a given to be included in the agenda packet/interactive agenda uploaded to the city servers for concerned residents to review.

At this point, the request is to upload it to the city servers, I am not asking for a special exception to obtain the files that ALL of our community members have a right to read and should be reading before this agenda item is reviewed on Tuesday night.

How can a citizen write a letter in support or against or deliver a speech at citizen comments if all of the information is not available to the public.

My first time to ask this information was: Thursday, October 15, 2020 4:58 PM: 

And, am noting the stall tactics and failure to engage in transparency that the city is engaging regarding a neighborhood that is in close proximity to these parcels of land that is traditionally disenfranchised based on race and class.

In sum, this is a textbook case of environmental racism coverup of key information that these neighbors should be made aware. 

My other initial question has not been answered: Why is the city purchasing this land for what reason?

My second question is: Has the neighbors been notified such as a developer would be required?

Residents can read the full reports prior to tomorrow’s meeting below. 



Phase 1 environmental Site Assement - S Guadalupe Terracon


Chapman Engineering 


Chapman Engineering Enviromental Report On 128, 130, 152, & 164 S. Guadalupe


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in editorials, opinions, commentaries, or LTTE are not necessarily those of Corridor News or staff. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

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  1. Lisa, once again you have thoroughly done your research and once again people ignore it. Everything you are saying is and should be a great concern for the residents of San Marcos. However, this city like no other I have seen is extremely loyal to those in office. Why? I have no absolute idea but I can imagine it is the back scratching that small businesses have to do to stay afloat. Who do these officials work for? Not the public. They work to benefit their own agendas and because they like the power of the position. You, Lisa, are different. Different in that you base decisions on factual information and data. You are a professional who cares about the injustices that occur in this small city. We need more people who will advocate for the residents and do what is right, what makes sense, and what is efficient. Shame on those who are unwilling to listen to the facts and cannot make a decision of their own without the influence of social media.

    1. Hey Lisa,

      Why not dig up facts showing even worse toxic dump at the location of the chrome plating business where now sits “The Local” on Hutchinson St? In other words, don’t simply project and speculate on what may occur, show what has already happened and what the City did to cover up that mess, and how the City is going to do the same thing again at this new site?

      I was on the crew who built “The Local” and can personally attest how at the time we opened its doors, we were still pumping 1500 gal per day out of the foundation into city storm drain system. Further, I spoke with the crew who drilled the test holes at the Greer site on Guadalupe, and they told me they’re hitting the water table at 30 ft. Guess what that means for pilings and stability. Correct, get your pumps set for 24/7 toxic dump into the storm drains.

      Oh ….but sniff, sob sob ……what would pooor W.C. Carson and Son do ….sniff sniff ….if only they could sob sigh ..

  2. This city council makes me sick to my stomach. Bert Lumbreras needs to be replaced. Elections have consequences and I can only hope that this next election brings changes to our city council. Great research Lisa. Everyone in the city should be aware of this. In the past I volunteered with the animal shelter here, and got to see how the city council and Bert in particular just totally ignore citizens concerns and requests. This behavior is nothing new unfortunately it is business as usual.

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