Land Development Code In The Works
By: Carlie Porterfield
City planning and development services will move to the next stage of rewriting the land development rules this week as a part of the Code SMTX project.
The land development code dictates all development within the city, from zoning to the building permit process, said Kristy Stark, assistant director of planning and development for the city. The code is being rewritten for two reasons. The city adopted a new comprehensive plan back in 2013, and one of the goals stated was to update the land development code.
“Once we had a new comprehensive plan, it was time to update our code,” Stark said. “Our (previous) comprehensive plan was like 17 years old, and our code—I think it had been adopted in 2004, so it was definitely time to update those.”
At the Feb. 3 city council meeting, members asked Sharon Mattingly, director of planning and development for the city, to focus on the maximum height of buildings downtown during the code revision process.
“(Code SMTX) is a rewrite of the city’s land development code, and that regulates all the development within San Marcos,” Stark said.
Code SMTX is on schedule according to the timeline, Mattingly said.
Drafting of the first sections of the code is planned for January, according to the Code SMTX project schedule available on the city website.
“We got the draft in this past weekend,” Mattingly said. The planning and development department will start review discussions Friday, Mattingly said.
“Right now with our smart code, we have a five-story limit, so we have a height warrant process we have to go through,” Mattingly said. Reviewing the first draft consists of city staff combing through the document and discussing any points of concern, Mattingly said.
“We’ll do that for a month, maybe a little bit less, and get all of our draft comments back to the consultants for them to make the changes that we need, and then at that point we’re looking to release it to the public,” Mattingly said. The department plans to release a draft to the public in early April, Mattingly said.
“We’ll put the draft out on our website, and we’re looking at different ways to allow (the public) to comment on different sections on the code,” Mattingly said. “The other thing that’s going to be happening at that same time is what is called a think tank group.”
John David Carson, chair of the think tank, said the group is made up of citizens in the community who are committed to making San Marcos “the best place possible.”
“The think tank’s charge is to be a sounding board for city staff and the consultant team as they go through the process of rewriting the code,” Carson said. The think tank will generate awareness about Code SMTX within the community to try to get citizens involved, he said.
“Our role is to get (the land development code draft) in front of as many people as possible so that we’re getting comments from community members and people of all different perspectives so that input can be integrated into the code,” Carson said.
Community participation is a key part of the goals of Code SMTX, Stark said. “We really want people to get involved and be part of it and understand what it means,” Stark said. “There are lots of opportunities for them to do that.”
Stark has seen public input and anticipates more in the future. Community opinion is important, but Stark said more extensive planning is needed to make sure the land development code is effective. “The biggest thing is that people just want it quickly,” Stark said. “We’re trying to get this thing completed in as timely of fashion as possible, but we also want to do a really good job and make sure that we listen to everyone and take everything into consideration.”