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Council mulls the closure of Loquat Street

City Council
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

City Council is trying to balance water quality with public safety and residents’ desires in deciding whether or not to close Loquat Street, located off of Sessom Drive between Alamo Street and North LBJ. 

“I’m very uncomfortable with my options,” Mayor John Thomaides said after hearing a staff presentation on the matter. “... I don’t know what to do when it comes to this issue.”

The city’s Watershed Protection Division had requested Loquat Street’s closure as part of a Sessom Creek stream restoration project. Sessom Creek runs over Loquat Street and has been identified as a source of sediment entering the San Marcos River. However, there are lingering concerns about emergency response times to Canyon Road and other streets in the neighborhood around Loquat Street if the road closes. 

Melani Howard, Habitat Conservation Plan manager, told council that the closure of Loquat would help improve water quality in Sessom Creek by allowing engineers to “daylight the stream, or basically open up the stream so it resumes its natural function as a tributary to the San Marcos River.”

Howard said the road has flooded repeatedly and thus has deteriorated. She noted that Sessom Creek is “prone to flash flooding, which scours the banks … and sends that sediment into the San Marcos River.”

Shaun Condor, senior project engineer, said that during public outreach regarding the closure of Loquat, most people in the neighborhood wanted to see the road closed. The city spoke with Texas State University, which recently acquired property along Loquat, and the university was also in favor of closing the road, Condor said. 

However, closing Loquat would limit access to Canyon Road and other streets in the vicinity of Loquat Street. San Marcos Fire/EMS and police have not received many calls in that neighborhood in recent years, Condor said, and fire trucks do not need Loquat to get to houses in the area, but response times for both fire/ems and police would be longer. The Loquat closure will make response times 128 seconds longer for the fire department and 56 seconds longer for the police department. 

“There’s nothing we can do about it — response time will be impacted,” Condor said. 

Thomaides asked SMFD Chief Les Stephens if the longer response time would mean the difference between life and death.

“It very well could,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Prewitt voiced similar concerns about the 128-second delay and about traffic flow that could go down Canyon Road with the potential development of the land the university purchased. 

“This is a hard decision,” she said. 

Council member Melissa Derrick said response times are important. She noted that her husband had a heart attack and that if the first responders had been there three minutes later, he would have died. She asked if it would be financially feasible to look into something like a bridge to open up Sessom Creek without closing down Loquat. Condor said that Loquat Street serves 126 people a day, and it might be hard to justify the expense of building a bridge for such a small number of people. 

Council member Ed Mihalkanin came out strongly against the closure of Loquat Street.

“I think public safety has to be first,” he said. “... Under no circumstances do I want to see Loquat closed.”

Council asked city staff to come back with more information on other options to preserve water quality and to address public safety concerns.

rblackburn@sanmarcosrecord.com

Twitter: @arobingoestweet