The San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted Feb. 12 to approve a conditional use permit that would allow a multifamily housing development to be built in Stonecreek Crossing, next to Spec’s and Academy Sports.
Commissioner Lee Porterfield recused himself from the vote, citing the fact that his family business is in close proximity to the proposed development.
Development of the shopping center is governed by a planning development district, or a PDD, which was approved by the city in 2008. The PDD gives the center a base zoning of general commercial and mixed use.
“I wondered, was this—was apartments or dwellings—was that part of the original vision,” said Jim Garber, chair of the commission. “And the answer was ‘yes,’ because ordinarily with [Stonecreek Crossing’s] base zoning, the answer would be ‘no.’ But they specifically at the time in the PDD requested multifamily, foreseeing it as a possible option.”
While the majority of the lots within the Stonecreek shopping center have been developed as retail stores, restaurants and hotels, the PDD allows developers to build multifamily projects if they request and are granted a conditional use permit.
The conditional use permit approved by the commission applies to a 16.6 acre lot and dictates that the development cannot surpass 24 units per acre—developers plan to build 265 units in the apartment complex. Although the permit applies to the entire lot, the developers stated in their application that they intend to use approximately four of the acres for a commercial development along Barnes Drive.
David Strauss, one of the developers, said the average monthly rent for an apartment will be $1,100 and that the average size of each unit is 824 square feet. He said there will be approximately eight three-bedroom apartments that will rent for approximately $1,800.
Strauss also noted that the development will not be a purpose-based student apartment complex. The target demographic, he said, is young professionals, early-elderly, and couples with a dual income household.
“Our market studies show there’s an appetite for this product at this location in that price range,” Strauss said. “It is different than most other properties, certainly in town, but that’s what we’re excited about. These people can live here and they can walk to work. It’s the live, work, play.”
Commissioner Betseygail Rand said she was disappointed to hear that the apartment complex will not offer a playground.
“I think it’s naive to say that a town like San Marcos can’t use a playground,” Rand said. “I know I’m not going to change your mind. But I think there’s a widespread misconception that these are not important things and we just sort of pretend that people don’t have kids. And they have kids—especially people that work at Target.”
Strauss said there is not enough room on the site to build a playground that would make sense. However, he said, the complex will offer recreational space where kids can swim in the pool and play outside.
“Our job is to bridge the community with the people who want to develop the community, and the community has kids,” Rand said. “So I feel like I have to keep beating the drum that the community has kids and that’s who is continually not served by developers.”
Linda Porterfield, co-owner of the nearby business Gulf Business Forms, Inc., was the sole speaker at the public hearing and spoke against the development. Porterfield said she is worried the apartments would worsen traffic on Barnes Drive and argued that apartments were not part of the original Stonecreek Crossing vision as outlined by the PDD.
“Apartments proposed on this 16-acre tract of land would deter the retail growth it was planned for,” Porterfield said. “With an investment of $4 million from the city and its taxpayers, I do believe we ought to give the original PDD and its vision an opportunity to come to fruition.”
Garber said he agrees that Stonecreek Crossing is an unexpected place to develop apartments, but he does not think that makes it a bad idea.
“There are a lot of manufacturing in the area and some of those jobs are where people may want to be close to where they work,” Garber said. “It’s also walkable to stores, groceries, jobs, restaurants. It’s by no means typical, but it looked sort of like a product we don’t offer that I thought might be a real seller.”
Commissioner Angie Ramirez said she thinks apartments would be a better use of the space, which she noted is currently made up mostly of parking spaces.
“It seems like not an exciting, beautiful place to live but I’m not doubting that they’re going to be able to rent it,” Ramirez said. “It’s better than another giant parking lot.”