After nearly four years of work, San Marcos City Council members on Tuesday approved the city’s new land development code, Code SMTX.
Calling it a “true compromise,” Mayor John Thomaides said Code SMTX—which city staff has marked as a tool to guide growth and be in line with the city’s vision for growth—could not have been completed without citizen input and the work of city staff.
“Not everybody in this community is happy with every part of this code, and that’s exactly how it should be,” he said.
The 6-1 vote—with council member Ed Mihalkanin voting against it—comes after several delays, a slew of council amendments, dozens of community workshops and hours of council meetings.
The new code will make it easier for development that is aligned with the city’s comprehensive plan to be approved, according to Abby Gillfillan, the city’s planning manager. Where the current code guides development based on land use, Code SMTX will use the comprehensive plan as a guidepost to determine where certain uses are allowable.
Among the changes are higher and—in some cases—new water quality standards, better protections for green space, more building types, different zoning districts, a more strict zoning change process in existing neighborhoods and lower parking ratios in some high-growth areas.
“This code really affects new development,” Gillfillan said, emphasizing the city is not overhauling current zoning.
The code encourages infill development and redevelopment in primarily single-family, existing neighborhoods and more pointed growth in medium -and high-intensity zones as outlined in the city’s Preferred Scenario Map, a land-use map that directs growth.
Those areas include downtown, midtown, and areas east and west of the I-35 corridor in the southern and northern parts of the city.
Mihalkanin, the lone no vote, said he thought allowing more housing types in existing neighborhoods “would be destructive to neighborhoods”.
City Council members have repeatedly heard from citizens advocating for the preservation of existing neighborhoods and calling for the creation of neighborhood character studies before Code SMTX is approved.
Now that Code SMTX is approved, City Council and staff will work on completing neighborhood character studies and small-area plans, documents that provide guidelines for specific policy actions in concert with the city’s overall comprehensive plan and with the community vision for the area, according to city documents. Those involve speaking to the community, scheduling workshops, gathering data and reviewing policies.
Prior to the vote, council member Lisa Prewitt called Code SMTX a living, breathing document that could change.
“It’s definitely not perfect, and its not perfect for everyone, but it’s a perfect start to getting it right,” she said.