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SMART annexation proposal prompts citizen concerns

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The potential expansion of a planned and much rethought industrial park with heavy industrial zoning that will affect parts of Caldwell and Hays counties has many citizens asking questions of the newest developer to throw its hat into the land use ring.

To meet a pubic information requirement set earlier by the Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of San Marcos, the first of two open houses sponsored by project developer Scarborough Lane was held Wednesday, March 15 in Martindale.

The commission is set to meet in March to consider a specific request by Franklin Mountain San Marcos I.L.P, for 'a zoning change from future development to heavy industrial (HI), or, subject to consent of the owner, another less intense zoning district classification, for approximately 588.821 +/- acres of land, more or less, out of the William Pettus Survey, Abstract No. 21 and the Thomas Maxwell Survey No.17, Abstract No. 188, Caldwell County, Texas, generally located on FM 1984 at the intersection between State Highway 80 and the future FM 110.'

According to planning and zoning documents, the site is located 'outside the city limits in the Extra- territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).' An application for annexation is 'being considered concurrently with this request (AN-22-20). The zoning request is made up of five separate parcels, all of which are part of the San Marcos Air, Rail and Truck (“SMART”) Terminal Development Agreement, which was originally approved in 2019 and then amended on January 17, 2023 to include these additional parcels. The request is consistent with the heavy Industrial uses in the approved Development Agreement,' documents stated.

The signatory for this request before the commission is Franklin Mountain and Ryan Burkhardt, and as of time of press, any connection to Scarborough Lane was not confirmed.

All of this is important in that it is the latest in a series of planning and zoning requests dating back to 2019, which encompass more than one developer.

According to those who attended the open house, approximately 200 people came to the event. Attempting to provide answers at the open housewere seven members of the SMART development team representing Scarborough Lane. The staff included engineers and development consultants. Posters with information regarding the project were available for viewing during the event which did not include a general overview presentation.

A second open house is planned from 3 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 22, at the Martindale Schoolhouse at 101 Lockhart St. in Martindale.

The implication of a heavy industrial zoning designation is that it is “intended to accommodate a broad range of high impact manufacturing or industrial uses, that by their nature create a nuisance, and which are not properly associated with or are not compatible with nearby residential or commercial uses,” as defined in planning and zoning commission documentation. Conversely, future development (FD) is “intended to serve as a temporary zoning district for properties that shall develop in the future, but have been newly annexed and/or are not yet ready to be zoned for a particular use.” It is characterized “by primarily agricultural use with woodlands and wetlands and scattered buildings.”

The developer directed those seeking additional information to go to SMARTdevelopmentproject. com. In an article published by the San Marcos Daily Record on Wednesday, March 15, Scarborough Lane Development Vice President Clayton Kendall stated, “… we believe the Austin-San Antonio I-35 Corridor is positioned to capture much of the growth,” coming to Texas. He added that his company is “excited to partner with the City of San Marcos and Caldwell County to ultimately bring jobs to the region that will have a substantial economic impact on the community.”

What may originally have included approximately 888 acres in the region is now closer to approximately 2,000-plus acres in areas adjacent to key environmental resources, according to petition signers. They seek more transparency regarding the project as it is currently envisioned.

For Dr. Ana Juarez, a retired professor of anthropology at Texas State University, the project as it is now configured continues to raise doubts in her mind as to its potential to generate unsound environmental impacts in the region. She said she has resided here since 2000 and attended the first open house.

“I have so many concerns, of course, the environment,” Juarez said. Especially, she is focused on the needs of the San Marcos River, for her a “sacred space.” She and others requested that the developer have more of a town hall presentation and one that would be on a weekend to accommodate more residents, but that request was not accepted.

“I feel very strongly about that information,” she said. The source of the water is precious in her estimation and projects that impact any aspect of this must be gleaned for all potential to cause damage over the long term.

She said she is “not opposed to growth” but is seeking more information and strong commitments from the newest player in this attempt to adapt acreage to new uses in Caldwell and Hays counties.

“This is an area that many people want to come to,” but she qualified that by saying it is then all the more important that sound planning go hand in hand with it, to provide people here and those coming with high environmental standards in place.

“This project is over 2,000 acres,” which is as big as the new Tesla operation in Central Texas, she said.

“Martindale is a quaint community and is really blossoming,” she said. In the 2020 census, Martindale had a population of 1,253. The residents of this community are working to preserve their historical heritage and to encourage the continued growth of small businesses, Juarez said. She described it as a more economically friendly place for those with fewer resources than are needed in Austin or San Marcos. What has grown here are organic farms and ecotourism-centered businesses.

For Juarez, the plans associated with the new development structure have the potential to overshadow the communities of Martindale, Maxwell and Reedville. She said there is an additional concern, that this type of growth affects the affordability of housing in an area that still offers homes that many can buy.

For Noah Brock, an employee of Texas State University, the problem is close to home—his home, as his property in Caldwell County is adjacent to the proposed land under review by the Planning and Zoning Commission of the City of San Marcos.

Brock also attended the first open house and plans to go to the one set for Wednesday. He is helping to conduct a survey of those who went to the March 15 event to gather data on the community response to what was offered.

“This past Wednesday was the first instance of any kind of public outreach,” he said. “I didn’t know anything, prior to Jan. 30.”

From his side of the property line, what appears before residents is a potential construction project that might be decades in development.

He said the Planning and Zoning Commission is set to meet on March 28 to consider voting to approve or deny the request for SMART project rezoning to heavy industrial. This vote is not final though, he said. If the commission should vote to deny the rezoning, the matter still goes before city council and with a higher percentage of votes in favor, it may still be approved, he said. An annexation of land into the City of San Marcos would put the new city limit sign on his road, Brock said. A land dispute in the days of a previous attempt to create a SMART Terminal eventually limited the acreage under review to approximately 888 acres. Recent land purchases by the developer and associated partners have brought the projected land impact up to approximately 2,017 acres, he said.

“It has more than doubled in size,” Brock said. He noted that he and Scarborough Lane are routinely in contact through email and other methods to keep information flowing prior to any action by either the commission or the city council and to present change requests.

Brock said that it was in March 2019 that the city council first voted to annex and zone in excess of 700 acres. Nothing happened at that time as the company that was instrumental in making the request, Katerra, opted to go to another location.

According to Juarez and Brock, it was on Jan. 17 that the San Marcos City Council received and accepted for consideration the development agreement. This was followed on Jan. 27 of the mailing of personal notices to key parties with rezoning information and the requirement that signage be posted. Three days later on Jan. 30, adjacent property owners received notice. On Feb. 7, the city council met with a vote on annexation on the agenda. A week later, on Feb. 14, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted to delay action to enable the developer to work with concerned community members. Getting its own word out was the mission of citizens who on Feb. 26 called a community-wide town hall to spread awareness of the rezoning request to heavy industrial.

When asked for comment about open house responses, a spokesperson for Scarborough Lane said that no comment could be offered until company officials could review the specifics of requests associated with the petition.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666