San Marcos OKs demolition review
San Marcos could see a change to its development code regarding the demolition of certain historic structures following city council’s decision this week.
The San Marcos City Council voted 4-3 on Wednesday evening — on the first of two readings — to approve an ordinance that will place a 90-day delay on the issuance of demolition permits for certain historic-aged structures. Councilmembers Ed Mihalkanin, Saul Gonzales and Joca Marquez were the dissenting voters.
If the ordinance is approved on the second and final reading, it will amend the San Marcos Development Code to include a review process for certain historic-aged resources.
According to the ordinance approved by council on Wednesday, the 90-day delay on the issuance of a demolition permit only applies to certain historic buildings or parts thereof. If a property is within the My Historic SMTX resources survey boundaries and is evaluated as medium or high, it will be subject to the 90-day review period. According to Planning Manager Abby Gillfillan, there are approximately 700 properties evaluated as medium or high.
If outside of the boundaries of the resources survey, it will only be subject to the 90-day review period if it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), or is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL) or is 80 years or older.
Upon a request for a demolition permit, city staff will determine whether a property is eligible to undergo the 90-day delay by using the aforementioned criteria. If a property is deemed eligible by staff, it will then go before the Historic Preservation Commission to consider the delay period and to allow for discussion of alternatives to demolition and methods for potential preservation of historic character. However, the HPC may issue a demolition permit before the 90 days are up if there is no finding of historic significance. If the structure is found to be historically significant by the HPC, the commission may then extend the demolition delay by an additional 90 days, for a maximum delay of 180 days.
However, the ordinance only applies to demolitions, not to things like changing windows on a home.
“They don’t come through certificate of appropriateness to the HPC for anything other than a demolition,” Gillfillan said.
Buildings or parts thereof which the Chief Building Official or Fire Marshal determined to be an imminent threat to public safety are an exception to the review period.
On June 27, the San Marcos City Council adopted a temporary ordinance placing a 90-day delay on the issuance of demolition permits for buildings that are deemed historically significant or are 80 years or older. Council has since extended the temporary ordinance.
San Marcos’ Historic Preservation Commission began meeting following the passage of the temporary ordinance began meeting to discuss a long-term solution. They eventually approved a draft ordinance recommendation on Aug. 28, which proposes a process that requires eligible properties go before the Historic Preservation Commission for a public hearing for consideration as a local landmark. In addition to the public hearing requirement, eligible applicants would be required to facilitate a Neighborhood Presentation Meeting to discuss the proposed demolition.
According to the HPC’s draft ordinance, eligible properties would include those 50 years or older if located outside of the boundaries of the My Historic SMTX survey. If inside the survey — which was adopted by Council on Sept. 3 — properties evaluated with a high or medium preservation priority would be eligible for the demolition review, as well as properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
On Oct. 8, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 8-1 to approve an alternative draft ordinance, which was created by staff at the request of P&Z in order to compare it to the Historic Preservation Commission’s proposed draft ordinance. The alternative draft ordinance modifies applicability when outside of the boundaries of the historic resources survey. The alternate ordinance removes the requirement for all buildings or parts thereof aged 50-years or older to go through a public hearing process.
Instead, the draft ordinance only applies to buildings or parts thereof located within My Historic SMTX boundaries and evaluated as high or medium preservation priority, or buildings or parts thereof located outside My Historic SMTX boundaries that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places or a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
The alternative draft ordinance also removes the neighborhood meeting requirement, removes the landmark designation process and allows the Historic Preservation Commission to issue a demolition permit if there is no finding of historic significance, according to Historic Preservation Officer and Planner Alison Brake.
Wednesday’s Council Vote
During discussion on the proposed draft ordinances, Council leaned towards P&Z’s proposed ordinance.
Ryan Patrick Perkins, a Historic Preservation Commissioner, explained HPC’s reasoning behind a 50-year age requirement after being asked by Council to discuss P&Z’s ordinance.
“My only concern since you’re asking me, personally, and I don’t speak on behalf of the entire commission, is the gap that we leave exposed if we don’t consider 50 years as historic and we start choosing our own numbers,” Perkins said. “Those can be changed or fluctuated at any time but if you want to know what is truly historic to the state and to the National Trust, the Department of the Interior, both of which we’re partners with as a certified local government since the 80s I think, is 50 years.”
After deliberation, Councilmember Melissa Derrick motioned to add an age requirement to P&Z’s ordinance so that properties 80 years or older outside of the My Historic SMTX boundaries will be subject to review. Council voted 4-3 on the motion, with Mayor Jane Hughson, Mihalkanin and Marquez dissenting.
Mihalkanin, who ultimately voted against the amended ordinance, said he dissented because of the 80-year requirement and noted that he would have voted for the ordinance as recommended by P&Z.
“I was totally in favor of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s draft and was fully expecting to vote for it,” he said. “But for a house, that if it were in the historic, any of our historic districts would be given a low (preservation priority), for it to be put in with these with these kinds of designations of delay, I just felt very uncomfortable about that.”
Council will still need to approve Ordinance 2019-41 on the second of two readings.