On Tuesday, the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing to consider a Conditional Use Permit to build a 5-story student housing complex and a zoning change request for a data center.
Commissioners voted 7-1 to deny the request with Commissioner Matthew Haverland absent and Commissioner Gabrielle Moore voting no. The vote came after two presentations and a lengthy discussion.
During the public hearing, SMCISD Board of Trustee member Juan Miguel Arredondo spoke in favor of the project.
Arredondo said as someone born and raised in San Marcos, he had seen the city change exponentially in the 27 years of his life. However, he said he saw student-purpose built housing as disproportionally beneficial to San Marcos Consolidated Independent School district; the project would bring in additional tax revenue for the school district without adding to the district’s enrollment.
“I understand there is a lot of emotion connected to this issue, arguments being made that the buildings are historical and that the proposed development will not blend into a city I’ve called home for almost three decades,” Arredondo said. “And I agree with all of those arguments. If the commissioners are so moved to approve tonight’s project, I ask that the city staff work with this developer to make the facade of this building blend into the current downtown to ensure we have continuity in architectural standards.”
During the public hearing and public comments, many residents voiced concerns about several items including parking, fire safety and the lack of continuity between the architectural look of historic downtown San Marcos and the new, modern high rises being built there.
According to staff, the developer intended to pay a fee-in-lieu of $736,450 of meeting the city’s 1.05 per bedroom parking ratio.
Speakers noted that the City of San Marcos City Council had begun an initiative and committee to address the current parking issues in downtown. The developer would provide a parking ration of .75 per bedroom.
Commissioners shared concerns about parking and said they couldn’t support a project that chose to pay a fee instead of supplying adequate parking for its tenants.
“I want to see some statistics; I want to see exactly where we’re at on student-housing,” Commissioner Mark Gleason said. “If this was straight-up multifamily, not rent by the bedroom, more affordable type of housing, I think we’d have a different discussion up here, but I just don’t think I can support this with all the concerns I think all of us are going to have.”
According to staff, the Fire Department expressed several concerns regarding the project; the length of the building would make it difficult for emergency services to reach residents in the event of an emergency.
Also, several residents spoke against more purpose-built student housing, stating that the city didn’t have the students to fill the bedrooms.
Commission Chair, Jim Garber, said he had reached out to several complexes around the city and confirmed that many of them were not fully occupied.
“I got on the phone today and called some of those places, and I couldn’t find a single one that was full,” Garber said. “They were all more than willing to rent me a room—with big incentives and aggressive. So, I don’t see the demand.”
Staff recommended the approval of the CUP with sixteen conditions, which can be read here.
75 Sylvan Street, LLC, released the following statement on the project.
“The City of San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission set goals and objectives in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Downtown Master Plan, location and density of housing being key factors.
75 Sylvan Street, LLC identified an ideal location based on those goals and objectives which was presented at the Commission’s meeting last night. This project not only met the requirements; it exceeded the requirements of the City’s Land Development Code to mitigate and reduce concerns expressed by staff and residents before last night.
Additional resident and Commissioner concerns were voiced last night that we were unfortunately not allowed to address during the meeting.
However, each concerting will be considered as we are currently evaluating our project options moving forward. If there are ways we can incorporate additional conditions to alleviate those concerns, we are open to exploring each one.
We believe this project can be a “win-win” for all involved including the City of San Marcos, Texas State University, resident and downtown business owners, keeping in-line with the goal and objectives established by city leaders.”
Commissioners also held a public hearing on a zoning change request by La Kings, LLC. The company is requesting that approximately 398 acres at Centerpoint Rd and Old Bastrop Highway.
The applicant is requesting the property be rezoned from SmartCode to Light Industrial.
According to staff, the intended use of the property is a Data Center; the city council is currently in negotiations of a 380 agreement with the developer and is negotiating a list of prohibited uses on the property.
Shannon Mattingly, Director of Planning and Development, said City Council would not vote on zoning request until they vote on a 380 agreement with La Kings LLC.
John Meeks spoke in favor of the project.
Meeks said he was invited to a hearing by the Greater San Marcos Partnership to learn about the project.
Data Centers are typically warehouse-sized buildings full of servers, which provide the transfer, collection and storage of data for various entities.
Commissioners said they weren’t entirely comfortable voting on a zoning change with so little information provided to them on the project.
Garber said under another city council, he might be concerned about providing a recommendation for approval to the council regarding the project; however, with the current city council, he did feel comfortable approving the zoning request given that council would not make a final vote on the item until a 380 agreement with a list of prohibited uses was approved.
The zoning change request passed with a 7-1 vote with Commissioner Maxfield Baker voting against the change.
City Council is expected to vote on the first reading of the 380 agreement and zoning change request in late June.