San Marcos City Council authorized the Council Committee Rules and Procedures, a document that lays the foundation for policy and provides direction on how committees may function, at its April 20 meeting.
Council members also discussed changes to the council's COVID-19 meeting updates, supported city staff's proposed uses of Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds and filled vacancies on numerous city boards and committees.
The council approved the Council Committee Rules and Procedures 5-2 with councilmembers Maxfield Baker and Alyssa Garza voting against it.
Before the document was approved, Baker motioned an amendment to the staff liaison responsibilities portion of the rules. The rule indicates meetings should be scheduled through an electronic meeting invitation and states an online meeting link should be sent to the public when needed. Baker proposed striking the "when needed" portion of the rule so an online meeting link is always provided.
"If we always had these online meeting links, it would be greater access, not for just transparency, but access for all members of our community to be able to participate," Baker says.
Councilmember Melissa Derrick says the council already provides a variety of information to the community and believes at some point, council decisions must be made without much public input. She adds in the age of social media, the more information is shared with the public, the more council members cannot freely discuss how they might compromise decisions with each other.
During public comment, Samantha Benavides, a Texas State senior and a campaign fellow with Mano Amiga, a local nonprofit, addressed the Council Committee Rules and Procedures agenda item and says efforts to minimize public input in committee meetings is undemocratic.
"To attempt to close these meetings off to the public, when there is already such little input from us is absolutely shameful," Benavides says. "We should be taking steps to create public participation in these committees by allowing them to attend virtually and allocating time for citizen comments."
Several other members of the community expressed disappointment with the council's push to approve the rules and procedures, echoing Benavides in that the effort to minimize public input is disturbing and promotes "a lack of innovation, diverse perspectives and transparency."
Baker's motion to strike "when needed" from the rules failed 2-5 with councilmembers Garza and Baker voting in support and councilmembers Derrick, Shane Scott, Saul Gonzales, Mark Gleason and Mayor Jane Hughson voting against.
During the council meeting's COVID-19 updates, Scott proposed if moving forward, updates could be sent to council members via email given that COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline. He adds running through a full report tends to extend the length of the meeting.
"I think if there's anything serious, we put [the updates] back on [the agenda], you know, for some of the changes that chief staff needs to tell us, then I think that it would just be easier to get through [meetings]," Scott says. "We have long agendas, and [getting done at] two o'clock in the morning is just not really acceptable."
Baker says while there is a steady improvement, people are still dying from COVID-19. He adds it is imperative for the council to continue to stress the pandemic’s importance and have updates on the agenda.
"I find [the updates] informative and helpful and again, [it] gives us the opportunity to kind of ask questions that our community is asking us in a public forum instead of just an email," Baker says. "It makes it more accessible to the residents of our community to be able to hear our other public officials talk about the importance of this pandemic."
Further discussion of changes to the COVID-19 update portion of the meetings was postponed to the council's next meeting.
During a public hearing of an ordinance seeking to amend the official zoning map of the city in Case No. ZC-20-12, numerous residents expressed the amendment of the map will lead to heavy traffic and will negatively impact the environment. The amendment calls for the rezoning of approximately 14.71 acres out of the J.W. Berry Survey, located near the 1500 block of N. LBJ Drive (Steen Road) from “FD” Future Development District to “SF-6” Single-Family District.
The acres are currently vacant and located within an existing neighborhood. The SF-6 district is intended to accommodate detached single-family homes that are a minimum of 6,000 square feet. City Council voted to deny the ordinance 6-0, with Hughson recused from the vote.
City Council unanimously supported the city staff's decision to approve Substantial Amendment No. 1 to the Community Development Block Grant-Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) Action Plan which designates projects for the use of CDBG-MIT funds.
The city received $24 million in federal funding for the grant. City staff proposes funds to be allocated to provide stormwater infrastructure, an enhanced flood early warning system and funding for signs, barricades and similar devices that can be used to warn the public of flood risks and evacuation routes.
Additionally, staff recommends funds could be used for an enhanced flood hazard warning system which will find the installation of stream and rain gauges and their integration electronically with the Hays County flood warning system.
The council also supported a resolution approving the San Marcos Regional Airport Master Plan to guide the airport’s future development and operations.
The council unanimously approved a resolution designating categories and criteria for the use of general fund dollars made available by the CARES Act.
City Council also approved a resolution providing no objection to the submission of an application for low-income housing tax credits to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for the proposed Sendero at Centerpointe multifamily housing project located in the 100 block of Centerpointe Road.
The housing project includes 164 units: 24 one-bedrooms, 100 two-bedrooms and 40 three-bedrooms.
Councilmembers unanimously appointed Paul Kite, the assistant director of the city's water division, to fill a vacant position on the Board of Directors of the Alliance Regional Water Authority.
The council also appointed individuals to fill vacancies on the following boards and commissions:
- Construction Board of Appeals
- Convention and Visitors Bureau Board
- Economic Development Board
- Historic Preservation Commission
- San Marcos Industrial Development Corporation
City Council members supported a staff presentation proposing the use of goats for urban farming. The council will continue its discussion on the topic in future meetings.
The San Marcos City Council meets virtually on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Residents who wish to speak during the citizen comment or public hearing periods should email email@example.com no later than noon on the day of the meeting.
For more information about City Council or to view meeting recordings and agendas, visit its website.