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Council approves student housing development with significant changes

Sunday, April 21, 2024

After several meetings with a large community turnout for public comments for and against the development at Lindsey Street and North Street, now being called The Mc-Lain, the development is officially approved. The San Marcos City Council approved the conditional use permit — requiring many concessions on the part of the developer, approved an amendment on the preferred scenario map on the west side of the development to High Intensity and approved the zoning change for the west side of the development to Character District-5 and Character District-5D for the east side of the development at the regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

The developer Matthew Kenyon said, in a phone interview with the Daily Record, despite the many additional concessions made in the Conditional Use Permit, he will be moving forward with the development.

“Those conditions were fine with us, and we’re definitely moving forward with it,” Kenyon said, adding that he is glad this process is over.

San Marcos City Council Member Alyssa Garza said it was important for her to share that it was complicated to form a stance on the development. She said she thinks all of the community’s concerns are valid, but denying the development does not address any of them. Additionally, she thinks the benefits of the development far outweigh the concerns.

“Distinguishing genuine community concern from personal interest has been exceptionally difficult in this situation. I’m going to ultimately support the development. It’s with frustration and reservation because … our failure to prioritize honest dialogue on affordable housing leaves us feeling like we’re settling for concessions from developers. I think it also makes it seem like elected officials seem guided by fear of backlash from their base rather than genuine community needs. I really think we’re going to end up in this situation again, and it’s fueled by elected officials and city leadership who have historically failed to confront the issue of affordable housing critically and with imagination,” Garza said. “The university, developers and others take advantage of the structures that we’ve created, and until we address that we’re going to keep ending up in situations like this.”

The council voted six to one to approve a request for a Conditional Use Permit to allow for a purpose- built student housing development, which was also a chance for the council to state several concessions that would be required to be made by the developer in order to move forward with the project. San Marcos City Council Member Saul Gonzales was the lone vote against. The required changes were that the development should offer conventional leases in which the unit may be rented in its entirety in addition to rent by the bedroom. Another being that the developer shall not sell the property to a non-tax-paying entity for 7 years after the effective date of the conditional use permit.

San Marcos City Attorney Samuel Aguirre said that if Kenyon were to sell to anyone else before the end of the seven years that condition would still be viable until the full seven years had passed.

San Marcos City Council Member Shane Scott suggested removing the word non-taxpaying from that condition, so Kenyon could not sell the property to anyone for seven years.

“The point of putting non-tax-paying in there was the fear of the university buying the property, which [would] take it off of the tax roll,” Scott said. “The longer he owns the property and can’t sell it, it would do the same thing.”

Kenyon said the deal would be unfeasible because a bank would never agree to fund a project under that condition in the event that he became unable to pay back the loan at any point. Scott withdrew the motion to remove the word nontax- paying.

The CUP states that the developer should provide at least 0.78 parking spaces per bedroom for the entire project.

San Marcos Mayor Jane Hughson wanted to require that there be more parking spaces per unit than what was proposed. She made a motion to amend it to .85 parking spaces per bedroom.

“I want to make sure it’s fully parked for what’s going to be there,” Hughson said. “I think developments should provide the parking that they’re going to need. I don’t think that the city should be providing the parking with public parking.”

Garza said that the council kept “moving the goalpost” for what was required by the developer.

“I feel like we keep dragging our neighbors around [and] the developer around,” Garza said. “He already said what he’s willing to do and the concessions [he’s willing to make], and we’re going around again.”

That motion failed 4 to 3, which means the developer will only be required to provide at least 0.78 parking spaces per bedroom.

In the CUP the council stated that current tenants would be given a minimum of 12 months notice to find other accommodations. In addition to that, up to ten families and anyone over the age of 57 living at the Elms or Lindsey Street Apartments as of the effective date of the permit will be offered comparable rent to their current rent within the new development for a minimum of seven years.

San Marcos City Council Member Jude Prather was grateful for Kenyon’s willingness to accommodate the desires of the council and the community.

“I have never seen [this level of ] willingness to accommodate current residents, and there’s been so many concessions with this development; you really have set the bar,” Prather said. “Thank you.”

Hughson made a motion to amend the height allotment for the west side of the development from four stories to three stories.

San Marcos Planning and Development Services Director Amanda Hernandez said, even if the property was not rezoned, it could be redeveloped to four stories with its current zoning category. Hughson said that is why she agreed to four stories before but had since changed her mind.

“It’s not just the height, it’s the density,” Hughson said, adding that she prefers that high buildings be further from Moore Street and, therefore, the historic district. “I don’t want to set the precedent for the four [stories].”

Kenyon said the change from four to three stories would be a loss of approximately 60 units.

Initially the motion failed 4 to 3.

Kenyon then took the podium saying that he spoke with the property owner to let her know that he would need to pay her less for the property if it were reduced to three stories, and she agreed to still sell it under those conditions.

“I don’t understand it. It makes me upset. It reduces the tax roll,” Kenyon said. “She’s made that concession, so we can make three stories work if that’s what you think is best for this project.”

Hughson said she appreciated that, but the council voted against three stories.

Scott then made a motion to reconsider amending the height to three stories, and on the second vote it passed 6 to 1 thereby reducing the stories to three on the west side of the development.

Hughson said the request to change the preferred scenario on the comprehensive plan for the west side of the development from Existing Neighborhood to High Intensity would require a supermajority affirmative vote. Existing neighborhood is primarily a residential area intended to maintain existing character. High Intensity encourages compactness, great streets, pedestrian and bike accessibility and public spaces for social interaction. San Marcos City Attorney Samuel Aguirre said, at the meeting on March 19, that a supermajority is six affirmative votes. The supermajority votes were needed on items that were voted against by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The preferred scenario amendment was approved with a six to one vote at Tuesday’s meeting.

Hughson said the rezoning item would be split in two parts: a vote for the west side of the development, which requires a supermajority to pass, and a vote for the east side, which only requires a majority vote.

At the previous meeting on April 2, the council voted six to one, on the first of two readings, to approve a zoning change for the west side of the property to Character District-5, which is slightly different from Character District-5 Downtown. For the east side, the other two parcels of land located to the right of North Street if one is facing the university, the council voted six to one in approval of the zoning change to CD-5D on the first of two readings.

CD-5 district is primarily intended to provide a variety of residential, retail, service and commercial uses. It is meant to promote walkability and compatibility and auto-oriented uses are restricted. It also promotes mixed use and pedestrian-oriented activity. CD-5D district promotes Mixed Use and pedestrian-oriented activity, and allows for accessory dwelling, townhouse, apartment, mixed use, shopfront and civic buildings. It allows for higher density residential, commercial and retail uses, and downtown design standards apply.

At the meeting on April 16, on the second of two readings, the council voted six to one to approve a zoning change to CD-5 for the west side of the development. It was passed with the supermajority that was required. The council voted five to two to approve the zoning change to CD-5D for the east side of the development. This passed as this item did not require a supermajority.

The McLain officially has all it needs to move forward.

San Marcos Record

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