Amira Van Leeuwen | Staff Reporter
SAN MARCOS – The San Marcos City Council met in person and virtually on January 4 at 6 p.m. to analyze and dispute various ordinances and resolutions.
The Council approved an ordinance amending the official zoning map of the city and an ordinance annexing about 21 acres of land into the city. They also approved a resolution approving an Interlocal Funding Agreement with Hays County relating to the testing of drug evidence by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
During the 30-minute Citizen Comment Period, Sherry Boete voiced her support of Agenda Item No. 7, an ordinance advocating for the expansion of the powers and duties of the Animal Advisory Committee.
“It would be a committee to better serve the people and the pets of San Marcos,” Boete said.
Rodrigo Amaya expressed how ashamed he was of the San Marcos Police Department (SMPD) and its failure to act on its call for assistance.
“I am very, very troubled that ya’ll illegitimately created a position for former Chief’s Chase’ staff as Public Safety Director. If you look at these incidents, he’s the common denominator,” Amaya said.
Amaya advocated for accountability and creating a qualified panel similar to Austin with police oversight.
“Ya’ll keep using the same individuals to investigate their buddies, and the outcome is gonna be the same thing every time. It’s a waste of money; it’s an embarrassment to the city and all you council members are responsible for this.” Amaya said.
Amaya’s comment was in reference to the incident that occurred within the final days of the 2020 presidential election. A Biden campaign bus was traveling down I-35 in San Marcos when about 40 Trump supporters surrounded the bus, nearly causing it to run off the road several times. What is commonly known as the “Trump Train,” resulted in at least one minor accident and made national news.
The lawsuit was filed against San Marcos Director of Public Safety Chase Stapp, unnamed law enforcement officials from SMPD and San Marcos’ City Marshal’s Department for failing to “take reasonable steps to prevent planned acts of violent political intimidation,” as stated in the lawsuit.
911 transcripts filed in an updated “Trump Train” lawsuit revealed SMPD refused to send an escort for the Biden bus.
“Here, you have a bus asking for assistance on 35, and they’re making fun of them—all these insensitive remarks. There’s a lawsuit now, and we as taxpayers are the ones that are burdened because ya’ll [City Council] continue to fail us,” Amaya concluded.
Since the updated lawsuit, the City of San Marcos has denied the allegations made in the “Trump Train” lawsuit.
Council also discussed Executive Agenda Item 5, an Ordinance to modify various roadway alignments and bicycle facility classifications.
According to Council Staff, the proposed street lane reductions to accommodate safety through narrower lanes are Craddock Ave – Old Ranch Rd 12 to Bishop and Sessom Dr. Holland to N. LBJ. Under the interim scenario, the previously mentioned streets will go from four to two lanes, and all bike lanes will be removed. A shared-use path will be constructed to accommodate cyclists.
Councilmember Shane Scott and Mayor Jane Hughson are concerned about losing a driving lane.
“One of the advantages to what we’re trying to do is that we are working in our current pavements, and so it’s basically just striping that we’re using to implement this [lane reductions]. If we find that it’s not working, it’s just striping to revert it back,” Mayor and Assistant Director of Engineering Richard Reynosa said.
Councilmember Maxfield Baker said the idea of the ordinance is to build more bike infrastructure and stop reliance on fossil fuels.
“We have to remember that this isn’t just a matter of “Oh, we’re providing bicycle lanes,” it’s literally a sustainability effort on our [City Council’s] part,” Baker said.
Baker also said that people are not driving intuitively, but are following directions based on the GPS directions they get from their cell phones. He says that there are measures that those communities in those areas can take, such as slowing down their street or petitioning for more speed bumps.
“Or maybe, as I’ve tried to ask for in the past, maybe we as a community or as a council need to reach out to these tech companies like Google Maps and Waze and petition them to geofence off our neighborhoods and not route traffic through our neighborhoods,” Baker said.
Scott said the only way he could advocate for this is if they put speed bumps in to slow traffic down.
“I don’t think it would be wise to go the other way and narrow our streets or lose more streets,” Scott said. “Like I said, traffic calming is the issue for most cyclists being safe, so I think, again, I’ll support it if you put speed bumps in but without that, I won’t support it at all.”
Councilmember Mark Gleason said that he also had issues with the Craddock “situation.”
“I’ve had a lot of residents reach out to me there, and that are really concerned about that being down to one lane,” Gleason said.
Another concern of his was what would happen in the event of an emergency.
“What if we need to get multiple vehicles up and down some of these roads? If there’s a major natural disaster to happen? A large wildfire up in the northside of town, a tornado to go through….” Gleason said.
Gleason said he would not support the item at this time.
“I don’t think we need to take away those two lanes in an area that’s going to continue to see growth, that is extremely busy and cause congestion – which I think it will do at some point in time,” Gleason said.
Baker, Jude Prather, Alyssa Garza and Mayor Hughson voted in negation and Scott, Gleason and Saul Gonzalez voted in affirmation for amending the ordinance.
The Transportation Master Plan passed in a final vote with Scott and Gonzalez voting in negation and Mayor Hughson, Gleason, Garza, Baker and Prather voted in affirmation.
Executive Agenda Item 4 was also on the table for discussion. The agenda item advocated for amending the Official Zoning Map of the City by rezoning roughly 21 acres of land located in the northwest corner of the West Centerpoint and the Flint Ridge Rd. section from Future Development District to Multi-Family Residential District.
Gleason motioned to approve which was seconded by Mayor Hughson. City Council did not bring up any further questions or concerns and the ordinance was approved and passed in a clean sweep of 7-0.
The meeting continued with Executive Agenda Item 19, an ordinance to authorize the City Manager or City Manager’s designee(s) to approve change orders to city contracts involving increases or decreases of $50,000 or less by deleting any reference to the individual holding the position of City Manager.
This agenda item was discussed due to City Manager Bert Lumbreras retiring from his position as City Manager on January 31, 2022. Stephanie Reyes has been named Interim City Manager and will take over the position on February 1, 2022.
Baker made the motion to approve the ordinance. Mayor Hughson seconded the motion, and the item passed in a 7-0 vote.
City Council also discussed Non-Consent Agenda Item 23. Item 23 demands consideration of a Council Committee for the Animal Shelter and provides direction to the City Manager.
Mayor Hughson voiced that this was her item and said she “spoke too soon” on this item. Mayor Hughson meant to say Animal Services, not Animal Shelter because she is “not looking to get into managing the shelter in any way, shape or form.”
“My goal is for us to come up with ways to educate and engage the community regarding animal services,” Mayor Hughson said.
Mayor Hughson said this included working with animal advocates to promote animal shelters and to work with partners in other cities to ensure more adoption.
Lumbreras brought up whether or not the Council or City of San Marcos should continue on the path of being a regional partner with all other governing bodies.
“One of the suggestions that I might have if ya’ll want to consider it, is to let this group [San Marcos City Council members] interact with the other policymakers,” Lumbreras said. Lumbreras also advocated for collaboration and creating a solution that would benefit all parties involved.
Gleason, Prather, Garza, and Mayor Hughson supported creating an Animal Services Committee. Gonzalez was absent during this time.
Baker suggested that it would be good for the Animal Services committee to have opportunities to be a part of meetings considering that its creation is at the community’s request.
“Those advocates are going to help us either push those kinds of policy changes and bring those people to the table or help better market the avenues and strategies,” Baker said.
The full recording of the meeting can be viewed here.