The 934.3-acre, six-tract property in question is slated for the development of the San Marcos Smart Terminal, an industrial rail park and manufacturing facility.
But the project faces a challenge—when, in January, the council votes on whether or not to rezone and annex the property, it must be approved by a supermajority.
The supermajority is required because, at its Dec. 11 meeting, the San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission denied the proposal to rezone the property for heavy industrial use—a meeting at which commissioners said they felt they were not presented with enough information to approve the zone change.
One of the concerns discussed Dec. 11 was that heavy industrial zoning allows a maximum of 80 percent impervious cover; the commissioners were concerned about whether or not the 934 acres were in the floodplain and how the amount of impervious cover would affect flooding in the area.
Commissioners were not provided with a floodplain map of the property; this lack of information was a topic of conversation on Dec. 12, at the City Council meeting where the first public hearing was held.
“I think the message I want to reiterate is, no matter what the impervious cover is, up to the 80 percent—which is the maximum, [the developers] have to mitigate that additional impervious cover,” San Marcos Director of Engineering Laurie Moyer said at the Dec. 12 meeting.
Place 1 City Council Member Lisa Prewitt requested that city staff proactively seek 2D modeling on the potential for flooding in the area before the council decides on the property’s zoning.
“Really, the biggest issue [at the Dec. 11 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting] was there just wasn’t a lot of information, so I’m really glad we have Ms. Moyer here this evening with engineering to explain more about the project,” Prewitt said. “I think anyone who would see almost a thousand acres with up to 80 percent impervious cover would be a little bit worried because of its proximity to where we’ve had a lot of flooding.”
Prewitt said she is confident that the city’s updated land development code, which includes new regulations and restrictions to mitigate and prevent flooding, will provide the necessary checks on development to prevent increased flooding.
“I know there’s a lot of checks that will happen along the way,” Prewitt said. “I don’t want to see a development of this magnitude that would bring such good economic growth to our region be held up because of questions of the unknown when we might be able to answer them fairly easily.”
Prewitt said the Smart Terminal could be developed without annexation, however, if the city did annex the property, the developers would have to adhere to the city’s land development codes which include restrictions to mitigate flood risk and protect water quality.
The Smart Terminal includes the manufacturing facility planned by Katerra, a Silicon Valley-based firm, for which the city approved an economic incentive package in October.
Smart Terminal developer Mike Schroeder said at the Dec. 12 public hearing that in addition to innovative manufacturing facilities, the Smart Terminal will allow a trucking business that currently trucks 15 million miles a year in and out of San Marcos to convert to rail.
“The benefit to us is less traffic, less congestion, less pollution—and there’s an economic value to that,” Schroeder said. “And the value to that is almost $300 million to our country over the next 10 years. This is the kind of thing we’re building here in San Marcos.”
Schroeder said the project as a whole is projected to have a taxable value of between $4 billion and $6 billion.
“So yes, it’s on 900 acres, and it’s going to be somewhat dense because that’s what heavy industrial is—but what heavy industrial does is it pays for everything else in the city,” he said. “It’s a revenue generator like no other. We have $2.1 billion in direct economic benefit coming to the city of San Marcos in the next 10 years.”
In addition, Schroeder said he has high regard for the water quality and the environment in and around the property.
“I believe the best success stories are the ones that are grounded in economic success, but also in social success,” he said. “We want to be successful but we want to be respectful and we want to be a part of this community going forward.”
At the first public hearing, a resident who lives between San Marcos and Martindale raised concerns that some of the property up for annexation actually belonged to Martindale’s extra-territorial jurisdiction.
Assistant City Manager Steve Parker said Dec. 19 that if the property does, in fact, slightly overlap with the Martindale ETJ, San Marcos officials could discuss the possibility of a land swap so that the property would be fully contained within the San Marcos ETJ.
City officials also said ahead of the consideration of the annexation and rezoning they are meeting with the mayor of Martindale to compare ETJ records to ensure that San Marcos doesn’t annex any land not in its ETJ. If the annexation is approved, only the parts of the property in the San Marcos ETJ will be included in the action.