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City Council votes to reallocate tourism funding toward housing rehabilitation

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Star file photo

At its Aug. 3 meeting, the San Marcos City Council discussed the allocation of $9,050,741 received from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan.
Councilmember Alyssa Garza voted to move $140,000 originally allocated to tourism and businesses in San Marcos to a future housing rehabilitation program, expressing concern that, though vital to the San Marcos community, tourism is a large factor in the prominence of COVID-19.
“If the purpose of the funding is to mitigate the fiscal impact of the pandemic, the most fundamental thing we can do is to stop the spread of the virus,” Garza says. “That’s where I’m coming from. How we mitigate the physical impact of the pandemic is to do everything we can to stop it and to get out of it.”
Councilmember Mark Gleason, however, worries this change in funding reflects the council’s disinterest in the local economy. Mayor Jane Hughson reassured the council that tourism and businesses have already received significant funding. Discussions on how funds will be spent on the housing rehabilitation program will be discussed in the future. After negotiation, the motion to approve the American Rescue Plan budget was passed 7-0.
The council also voted to approve Resolution 2021-131R with the plan to establish a city-funded service to pick up hazardous waste from the houses of seniors and individuals physically unable to dispose of the materials.
Household Hazardous Waste drop-off facilities are open Tuesdays and Fridays from noon to 3:30 p.m. and hope to become available on Saturdays in the future.
After an in-depth discussion, the council voted 4-3 to postpone the decision denying CUP-21-17. This request was made by John Mark Slack, asking for a liquor permit to sell and consume alcoholic beverages at the new Mr. Exotics Steakhouse planned for 101 and 105 East Hopkins St. Due to the applicant’s history of noise complaints from neighbors and struggling to keep his other businesses in compliance with city ordinances, many councilmembers worry the steakhouse, complete with a piano bar, will be a problematic addition to downtown San Marcos.
Slack offered to postpone the sale of alcohol on the premise if he can continue moving forward with the steakhouse plans. The council will make a final decision at its Sept. 7 meeting.
Requesting an extension for Slack to complete the necessary requirements of establishing a business downtown, attorney David Sergi says the new steakhouse will provide a beneficial boost to the city’s economy.
“He wants to make it an integral part of the community,” Sergi says. “He wants to give a type of restaurant that will not just service the bar crowd, but actually service most of the more mature crowd by having a high-end steakhouse.”
The the city’s utility assistance program, discussed and edited at City Council’s July 6 meeting, was changed to rather having residents sign up for utility assistance, the council would be forgiving all utility bills older than 30 days instead. The decision to forgive the overdue utility bills was suggested by councilmember Shane Scott after showing frustration with the continuous discussion regarding the agenda item and residents still not signing up for assistance due to not being informed. The motion to forgive the utility bills passed 5-2. However, starting Sept. 1, late fees and utility disconnections will be reinstated.
The council received a presentation and held a public hearing for Resolution 2021-142R, which involves a development agreement with Harris Hill Residential Land Holdings, Ltd., providing for annexation and regulating the development of approximately 379.84 acres of land located between Harris Hill Road and future FM 110 North of Harris Hill Road.
The land will be used to make a single-family and multifamily residential living and employment center. The development agreement includes terms for processing applications, annexation and zoning, as well as the provisions for parklands, parking locations, street cross-sections and residential garages.
Believing that the complex could be putting people in harm’s way due to its location, Councilmember Maxfield Baker says he can’t support the building of the complex without a fire station closer to the complex.
“The only way I could see myself supporting this is if it’d be contingent upon the completion of that fire station. Prior to having people move in,” Baker says.
The date for when a fire station will be built is still undetermined, but the council approved the decision to have the construction of the fire station completed before residents can reside at the complex. The council also voted for a disclosure to be provided to residents on fire response time. The agenda item will be brought back for final approval after being updated with the new changes.
The council approved Ordinance 2021-56, which authorizes the issuance and sale of an amount not to exceed $38,115,000 of Combination Tax and Revenue Certificates for constructing, improving, designing, acquiring and equipping the city’s water and wastewater system, electric utility system, streets including related drainage, sidewalks, traffic improvements, HVACs for municipal buildings, police and fire public safety facilities improvements, recreational facilities including parks and sports fields and more.
After hearing concerns from public comments and Baker, Hughson clarified that the Dunbar Home Economic Building, a cultural and historical building that has been in San Marcos for almost 100 years, would not be changed into public restrooms. Instead, she explained that the building will add restrooms, noting that the miscommunication happened because of an editing mistake.
“I don’t believe that there was ever any intent by [the staff who worded that] to just have restrooms. I believe what happened is somebody noted that there wasn’t a restroom in it and there would have to be one added,” Hughson says. “I think that’s where the confusion happened because the original [statement] said something about adding and converting.”
The San Marcos City Council meets virtually at 6 p.m. every first and third Tuesday of each month. For more information, visit the City Council website.

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