San Marcos officials are halfway through a 16-month endeavor to update the city’s Comprehensive Master Plan, which guides every aspect of the city’s development.
Though a master plan is required by the state to be updated every five years, the one for San Marcos has seen piecemeal updates but has not been fully reworked in 17 years.
Officials say the result is a plan in need of a near-total overhaul, a process that began in October with the launch of Dream San Marcos, a community input initiative that sought resident feedback and suggestions online.
“We’re almost starting from scratch,” said Matthew Lewis, development services director for the city. “What’s cool is, a lot of the policy statements and the vision statements that they [residents]wanted in the current master plan is what we’re hearing from people now.”
To get as much resident feedback as possible for the plan’s creation, city officials have held numerous community engagement forums, the most recent on April 21.
“The whole deal is, this is a community plan. This is not development services writing a comp plan,” Lewis said. “What we’ve done from the beginning is say, ‘You guys get to establish the dream for San Marcos, you get to implement the dream through your Comprehensive Master Plan, and then you finally get to pay for it through the CIP [Capital Improvement Plan], which is another public process.”
He said maintaining citizen involvement during the full spectrum of the process is the way a city’s future should be determined.
“The community should be developing these plans and identifying when projects worked and how they’re implemented,” he said.
Melissa Millecam, director of communications for the city, said the request for input is designed to give citizens confidence in the master plan.
“This is the most important thing we’re doing all year, the comp plan,” she said.
The major instruments for implementing the master plan are the city’s Land Development Code and its zoning ordinances.
Establishing stability among the many ordinances is another key element of the plan, Millecam said.
“The predictability factor is key to everybody,” she said. “The neighborhoods want predictability, the developers and builders want predictability, the banks, the financial community … Everybody has a stake in predictability.”
Lewis said the city plans to create detailed codes for each neighborhood, he said.
“What they [residents] love about their neighborhoods, we go in—and we call it the DNA of the neighborhood, the urban fabric of the neighborhood—we pull that out and we put it into a code,” he said.
Scott Gregson, president of the Downtown Association and a resident on the Square since 2006, said downtown residential options are integral to any city’s future.
“I think the real key in making downtown a viable, sustainable project is that we get people down here who are living here, who shop here, who don’t have to get in their cars and are able to walk to the things they need,” Gregson said.
Kelly Franks, manager of the San Marcos Main Street Program, said cities should aim for a mix of businesses in a downtown.
“Most people will tell you they want it to be a diverse, walkable area. They want our historic properties to be protected,” Franks said. “That’s what differentiates you from any other town up and down the highway or anywhere. Nobody has our buildings. Nobody has our history.”
Gregson said he is excited about the changes taking place downtown and those to come with the Comprehensive Master Plan and the Downtown Master Plan.
“It’s getting there. I think we’ve got everybody in the rowboat rowing the same direction,” he said. “Now it’s just going to take some time and focus and attention to the details of getting it done. Now it comes down to doing it.”