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What price for SMART Terminal?

Guest Column
Sunday, February 24, 2019

I am proud to be part of a growing group of citizens who now call themselves SMARTER San Marcos. The proposed development known as the S.M.A.R.T. Terminal, currently being considered for approval by the San Marcos City Council, has been the impetus of our coalition. This 934-acre development is being sold to us by city leaders and staff as a once-ina-lifetime, must-act-now-and-fast, economic development opportunity for our community. But we have grave concerns.

For us, as with all real estate deals, it’s all about location, location, location. The proposed heavy industrial rail development sits in precarious proximity to a natural feature and resource we all hold dear. The proposed Terminal is a mere 1,250 feet from our beloved San Marcos River. That’s less than a quarter of a mile.

Demands, deals and schedules of the developer, and its first likely tenant Katerra, are driving a timeline and approval process that is head-spinning and leaving San Marcos citizens out of the equation. So now, before it’s too late, we are raising our citizen voices with deep-felt feelings and concerns for a river that defines our community.

Our primary purpose is to take a closer look at the location, the regulations, the proposed economic benefits, and to make sure that our river is truly protected from any potential ill effects from this deal.

To be very clear, we are not opposed to the smart growth and economic development that our city leaders espouse and have a responsibility to lead us toward. We understand that our once little college town with a river running through it is now in the path of a corridor of inevitable growth. We will be part of it. But, as a community, we must be aware of the price we might pay for it.

The devil is in the details, it is said. The more we learn, the more we want to know about the details of the deal now being made for this supposed smart Terminal.

Is there another rail site just as well or better suited, but away from the river? Have any other location options been considered? What will the 70-80 percent impervious development mean for an area already prone to flooding? What are the plans for water and wastewater infrastructure on and near the site? Can our city development code truly protect the river from pollution from a heavy industrial site so close? Will the uncertainty of a changing climate and unpredictable weather patterns undo today’s well-intentioned negotiations? What will the city be giving away in the name of economic development?

SMARTER San Marcos is asking the city of San Marcos to slow down its approval process and provide answers to these and many other questions.

There is no other river in the state of Texas that compares to the San Marcos River — its springs, its purity, its community of care, and the centuries of vibrant life along its banks. What price do we pay to protect it? What price is worth losing it?

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Frank Parrott is President of SMARTER, a San Marcos citizen, swimmer and lover of the San Marcos River since 1975