Residents protest new development over pollution concerns


Illustration by Cameron Hubbard

Christopher Green

During a packed city council meeting Jan. 15, San Marcos residents vocalized concerns towards the potential development of an industrial park that could impact the San Marcos river.

The city of San Marcos is looking to create a SMART Terminal, land designated to become a rail and manufacturing industrial park. Katerra is expected to be the first tenant of the park following a signed agreement with the city in October 2018. As a part of the agreement, the company will receive an annual refund of a portion of the facility’s new property taxes for the next 10 years.

At City Hall, residents held signs outside and vocalized concerns that the development will bring pollution to the San Marcos River as well as an overwhelming increase in traffic along State Highway 80 and FM 1984, where the development is proposed. Citizens also expressed their concerns about the potential annexation of 934.34 acres of land from Hays County to the city and rezoning the area to a heavy industrial district to create the SMART Terminal.

Shannon Duffy, a senior lecturer for the history department at Texas State, said she believes the project has grown too quickly without any transparency.

“As somebody who’s moved here from Louisiana’s infamous cancer corridor, I can say two things from personal experience,” Duffy said. “First, ‘think of the jobs it will bring,’ is what developers always say to the local community, often with devastating environmental impacts. Second, developers are necessarily not the best people to evaluate the potential environmental impact of its own projects.”

The primary concern is the proximity of the river to the site, which developers said would be at least 1,200 feet away. Developers also say the job site would bring at least 30 to 40 semi-trucks a day to the area.

According to Mike Schroeder, the developer of the SMART Terminal, Katerra is a high-quality company that will be an economic engine in the community.

“I want to be the first to say, I have the highest regard for water quality and the environment,” Schroeder said during a city council public hearing Dec. 12. “I believe the best success stories are grounded in economic success but also in social success. We want to be successful but we want to be respectful, we want to be a part of this community going forward.”

Greater San Marcos Partnership President Adriana Cruz also expressed her support for the annexation and the development of that area.

“We’re very interested in the development of this area and the jobs it will provide to the residents of San Marcos and Caldwell County, especially on the east side of I-35,” Cruz said during a city council public hearing Dec. 12.

City Council ended up passing two motions. The first passed 6-1, annexing 934.34 acres of land along State Highway 80 and FM 1984 for a possible deal with Katerra. Councilwomen Joca Marquez was the only one to vote against it.

Another motion was passed 5-2 to change the 934.34 acres to a heavy industrial district and made plans to discuss land usage with developers and then have the item brought back to vote. Marquez and Councilman Mark Rockeymoore voted against the motion. After further discussion with developers, the council will have 90 days to make a final decision.

“I feel more information is needed regarding environmental factors because Katerra plans to build within 1,200 feet of the river, and I voted against it because I felt I needed to represent my constituents who got me elected,” Rockeymoore said.

San Marcos resident Dolores Lombardo presented City Council with a petition signed with 59 individuals against the development and a written statement from James Lombardo who was not in attendance.

“I am very concerned that the San Marcos council is entertaining the passing of the heavy industrial rezoning site potentially bringing environmental destruction to our beautiful city, let alone health concerns,” said Lombardo.

Marquez voted against the proposed development along with Rockeymoore and said she plans to continue representing the people who got her elected.

In a statement on Facebook, Marquez stated, “Thank you to all of the committed citizens who came forward to voice their concerns on the items on our City Council agenda. You voted for me to represent you and your needs. Your concerns of increased traffic, flooding, and possible environmental pollution were crucial in my vote against annexation and zoning of 934 acres of land between San Marcos and Martindale. My votes last night reflected our community’s sentiment. I gave you my word during my campaign and I intend to continue to do what is right for our citizens.”

Construction for Katerra’s manufacturing site is set to begin on or before June 1, 2019, and is expected to be completed before or on March 31, 2020.

Citizens can reach out to city council members by contacting city hall at 512-393-8000 or leaving a concern or request to speak during a citizen comment period during council meetings by going to city hall located at 630 E. Hopkins St.

News editor Sandra Sadek contributed to this story. The University Star will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

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