The 1,396.9-acre Lazy Oaks development moved one step closer to growing by about 635 acres and 650 living units on May 27.
The San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission recommended City Council reopen the existing Lazy Oaks development agreement in order to consider amendments expanding the project. The original deal was approved in 2013 and consisted of a 1,396.9-acre master-planned community, up to 1,750 living units and commercial and retail space.
The proposed development, rechristened as "La Cima," would include 2,031.49 acres, more than 700 acres of parkland, 2,400 living units and commercial and retail space. It would be located near the intersection of Wonder World Drive and Old Ranch Road 12 in San Marcos.
Hays County Commissioner Will Conley and Adriana Cruz, president of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, have touted the economic development opportunities a high-end development like La Cima could bring to the city of San Marcos.
"Our goal is to make La Cima best in class, best in region, best in state," said Chuck Perry, the developer managing the project. "It is a true 'live in nature, work in nature, play in nature' community."
Perry said he expects the total value of the property to be between $850 million and $1 billion when it is fully built out in as few as 10 years. That would effectively add 30 percent to the city's property valuation, but concerns linger.
Under terms of the new proposal, most of the property will not be annexed into San Marcos any time soon. If the deal is approved, the city will be able to annex 200 acres intended for use as a corporate campus at the intersection of Wonder World Drive and Old Ranch Road 12.
The way the proposal is currently written, annexation of the residential portion of the development could be delayed for 30–45 years.
The developer is proposing a public improvement district, which would be funded by the county and repaid by residents moving to the neighborhood. According to the proposal submitted to the county, the public improvements proposed within the district include trails, open space, community facilities such as swimming pools and pavilions, signage, landscaping, streets and water and wastewater utilities. The estimated cost of the improvements is $98 million, and a portion of that would be funded through bonds. Residents would pay an annual assessment fee on top of taxes to the county, school district and other entities in order to fund the development.
San Marcos resident Jim Garber said homeowners within the development would enjoy the benefits of being San Marcos residents without the obligation to pay city taxes.
"A minute ago we heard the gentleman say this would be the best in class for Texas, best in class for Central Texas and best in class for the region, but what he did not say was 'Best in class for San Marcos,'" Garber said. "Because as proposed, this would not be part of San Marcos, and annexation could deferred for perhaps 45 years or perhaps forever."
Some city residents voiced concern that the development, which would be built over part of the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, could damage the aquifer.
Dianne Wassenich, director of programs for the San Marcos River Foundation, said the city has many home lots that are not located over the recharge zone and are ready to be built upon.
"There is no reason to make developers wealthy, creating even more subdivisions on the recharge zone which will damage our very precious aquifer water resources at a time when we should be valuing our resources like water even more highly," Wassenich said.
Wassenich also cited a recent city-hosted event in which urban planner and engineer Chuck Marohn spoke at the LBJ Museum. Marohn said when developments like MUDs and PIDs are built out and handed over to the city, they are often accompanied by large amounts of overdue maintenance work on things like streets and utilities.
Under terms of the proposal, the city will extend water and wastewater lines to the development.
If City Council chooses to move forward in negotiating amendments to the existing document, they could appoint a subcommittee of council members to handle the negotiations.