Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Article Image Alt Text

mayoral candidates John Thomaides and Jane Hughson

Hughson, Thomaides talk neighborhoods, Cape’s Dam

2018 Elections
Sunday, October 21, 2018

Neighborhood plans and character studies were the first issues addressed by mayoral candidates John Thomaides (incumbent) and Jane Hughson Oct. 18 in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Hays County.

Moderator Brenda Smith posed the question.

“First, what we need to do is talk to the neighborhoods. We need to meet with the folks in the neighborhoods and find out what’s working, what isn’t and what they would like to see,” Hughson said. “I think we also need to talk to property owners in the neighborhood who might own vacant lots and see what they are intending and bring them into the process.”

Thomaides’ response also focused on outreach and input of the community and neighborhoods affected, but he also noted that he didn’t want to see neighborhood plans used to stall growth in the city.

“Well, one of the first things we need to do is make sure we have enough and significant outreach to the people that would be affected by these plans.”

He said it’s important to “listen to everybody, not just the small group that always shows up.”

 “We want to make sure that we provide more housing choices that fit into that neighborhood. We’re going to demand compatibility,” Thomaides said. “So these are some of the goals that I hope will come out of it. What I hope we don’t do is use those plans as a reason to not approve anything or  to not grow or to not allow our city to move forward while those plans are being formulated.”

Smith followed with a second question that focused on tfloodplain regulation improvements made after the 2015 floods, and whether they would adequately protect the city as it grows.

Thomaides began by talking about the accomplishments the city has already made in regards to stormwater management and how expansion of capacity for the creeks that run through the city might be an option for improvement in the future. 

“Stormwater is one of our biggest impediments, one of the toughest challenges we have ever faced here in San Marcos,” he said. “Our city is going to continue to grow, we want to make sure that we deal with stormwater as perfectly as we can. I am confident in what we’ve done, and we have more to do.”

Hughson talked about addressing flooding issues through researching, improving ordinances and combining federal and city funds for flood management projects. 

“We are in Flash Flood Alley, but I think that we can learn from some recent rains that it’s not always the creeks and the rivers that are going to cause flooding,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just  a huge downpour that sits in one place and the water can’t find  a place to run off fast enough.”

Thomaides countered, noting his work leading delegations that led to the city receiving $60 million in federal funding for flood management and repair. 

Smith then opened the forum for audience questions. One resident asked both candidates whether they would support the restoration of Cape’s Dam, a 150-year-old weir that was voted to be removed by city council in 2016 and has been at the center of a contentious local debate almost ever since.

Hughson discussed the limited information that council had when they originally made the decision to remove the dam, and her own limited knowledge of the Mill Race’s uses as a slower-paced section of the river.

“When we were asked to vote on this, when it showed up on an agenda, we were  given a science report that said endangered species would survive better with the dam removed,” Hughson said. “The dam has been damaged in each of our big floods and may not make it through the next one. At the time of the vote, I was not aware of the uses of the Mill Race; yes I’ve lived here almost 60 years, but I don’t canoe or kayak and I don’t trespass on private property, which it was until recently. 

“I think we need to do further research in how we can maintain the uses of the Mill Race, while we determine what to do  with the dam,” Hughson said. “We need to consider the historic nature. We need to look at everything we didn’t look at the first time.” 

Thomaides said that he was willing to rebuild Cape’s Dam after learning the uses of the Mill Race from locals.

“This has been on the community’s mind for two and a half years, since we had that first conversation,” Thomaides said. “Hughson mentioned when we had that conversation, it was pretty one-sided. It seemed like a reasonable thing, when the presentation was given. 

“One of the things I promised when I first got elected in 2003, is that I would protect the San Marcos River for generations to come and I would allow everyone to continue to use the river as they do. What I’ve learned since we took that vote is that we have wounded veterans using that Mill Race because of the dam; we have fisherman, kayakers… I don’t want to take that away from them and I am willing to rebuild Cape’s Dam,” Thomaides said.

Adam Higdon, a co-owner of Gumby’s Pizza, which was denied a conditional use permit (CUP) to sell alcohol in 2016 at its new location on Hopkins Street, asked Hughson, (who voted against the CUP), “How can you deny our ability to compete on a level playing field and try to pressure us into restrictions that put additional burdens on our business and still consider yourself friendly to small business?”

Hughson stood by her initial reasoning — to consider the impact of the CUP on the whole neighborhood. She added that now Gumby’s is open, she’s open to another conversation.

“I believe y’all were in business without an alcohol permit prior to your desire to move to the new building, so I’m not sure that was taking anything away,” she said. “I was looking at what the whole picture is and not just for you, but for the entire neighborhood, which is what my job is to do. Now that you’re open, I would welcome a second conversation on that same topic and  see where we might end up.”

Thomaides, who was one of two that voted to allow the CUP, said the decision denied Gumby’s the same opportunity as their competitors. 

“This is in a commercial district, not a neighborhood,” he said of the new location. “They have competitors that are allowed to do what they were asking to do, in fact even more. I think it’s very important that we support our small businesses. I think it’s important we support employers and people that pay taxes in our city.”

Early voting begins Monday, Oct. 22. And runs until Nov. 2. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. For location,dates and hours of polling places, visit the county’s website.

The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Hays County is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages active voter participation. 

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666