Let’s pass Code SMTX

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

San Marcos has been my home for over a decade and during my time in this city we have seen unprecedented growth both in population and development.

As a community, we crafted a comprehensive plan for growth called A River Runs Through Us. This plan provided the first step on the way to the development and passage of a land development code, called Code SMTX, that after over 4 years of extensive community input, is ready for passage.

This code provides for more affordable housing options, extensive environmental protections to protect our unique environment and enhanced notifications to ensure transparency of development while providing certainty to the development community and our citizens about what can be built where.

San Marcos is a suburban hub for people providing good jobs, within our city limits. But as we continue to grow in population and as we continue to develop, there is an everincreasing need for affordable housing for our residents to ensure that we can keep our current and future workforce located within our city.

Through Code SMTX, our city Comprehensive Master Plan, policies and ordinances are all in sync in a way that encourages the right solutions and not ones that lead to negative impacts to the city, financially or otherwise.

In short, we need to take measures to ensure our city’s housing needs are met by tackling development within our city’s core not encouraging growth outside our city. This is what Code SMTX achieves.

Let’s take a brief look at one cost of growth that we can isolate: fire protection. If the development of a station is far enough out, it will require the addition of a fire station to ensure adequate fire protection: a mission critical objective of our city.

At last check, a fire station costs about $6 million to build, $1.5 million to equip and most importantly, $1.5 million a year to staff and run. At our current tax rate, it takes city property taxes on approximately $450 million in assessed property valuation to pay the annual $1.5 million in operating costs for just the fire station, not police, library, parks, roads or any other vital city function or service.

The cost of a fire station is just one example of the increasing financial burden we place on our citizens when we expand further rather than within the core of our existing city and existing infrastructure.

As our workforce population increases, demand on housing will continue to rise. As a result of this demand, we have seen a rapid increase in housing prices over the past several years. Without meaningful alternatives to housing, these increases will continue and will, over time, result in displacement of long-standing generational families in our established neighborhoods.

For example, let’s look north of San Marcos to east Austin.

Less than a generation ago this was a neighborhood of families of modest means who had a long-history of this area being called home. Yet today, as housing prices have soared, many of those families have been forced to move to other more affordable locations on the periphery of Austin.

This leads to an inevitable commute to work, forcing people to travel long distances, increasing costs, minimizing time with family and only adding to Austin’s already hopelessly gridlocked condition.

We have an opportunity to do things differently.

Inside what I referred to earlier as our city’s core, we have hundreds if not thousands of acres of undeveloped land, including undeveloped and underutilized lots in and near our existing neighborhoods.

This land can be developed and used for housing types that are smaller, more affordable and will meet the housing needs of our growing community, including our new and existing workforce families.

As a city, we need to play to our strengths and not spread ourselves thin promoting development well outside our city’s core.

Downtown and the close surrounding areas have increasingly become a hub for a live, work and play environment. And, of course, if we want to keep our residents here, we need to provide affordable housing within our city’s core and not force our citizens to live elsewhere or on the outskirts of town.

With the passage of Code SMTX we have the opportunity to achieve this as well as our community’s stated goals as outlined in the Comprehensive Master Plan.

Let’s not put the unwanted burden on our citizens and our city’s budget. Let’s pass Code SMTX as proposed and make living in San Marcos both remarkably unique and affordable for both our current and future residents.

Scott Gregson

San Marcos City Council member

San Marcos Daily Record

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