After receiving comments and backlash from protestors throughout its Sep. 21 meeting, the San Marcos City Council elaborated on an agenda item prohibiting homeless people from camping out or panhandling within city limits.
Agenda item 44, which was a discussion item made by Councilmember Shane Scott, was described as "not allowing the homeless to camp out or panhandle in San Marcos city limits or ETJ and what our police need to help with the effort of enforcement." Because of its wording in the agenda, many citizens and council members were confused about what the item was asking to discuss.
Various community members spoke during the meeting's public comment session, expressing they were against any form of criminalizing homelessness and did not support the discussion. However, before council members could get to the agenda item, they were interrupted by demonstrators outside City Hall protesting the discussion of a camping ban, which at the time is what they assumed the agenda item was proposing.
After the protest, councilmember Maxfield Baker suggested that the item be moved up to clear commotion.
Despite the disruption and protest against the item, Scott explained item 44 was worded in a way that didn't support his intentions and wasn't a call to ban homelessness. Scott elaborated on what the item was meant to discuss, describing how the city needs to take more initiatives to help its homeless community and explained that the item was "a little deceiving" in the way it was written.
"I would like to maybe find property that we can actually start dedicating for a place to have something built to have grant writers ... so we get the federal funding necessary behind it, but I think we really just need to just make a guess a shovel mark in the dirt and say let's get on with this and quit all these other ways just started working so let's go a different direction with it," Scott said.
After hearing Scott's explanation, the council also agreed more efforts were needed to help those experiencing homelessness. Suggestions were made to start looking for areas within the city where housing could be built for the homeless community. Mayor Jane Hughson proposed that a homeless person be added as a representative to the Homeless Coalition.
The council also appointed Hughson to the Hays Central Appraisal District Board of Directors for a two-year term commencing on Jan. 1, 2022. They also adopted a budget of $260,468,834 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2021, and ending September 30, 2022.
Council members approved Ordinance 2021-77 on its first of two readings with a vote of 6-1, councilmember Baker voting against. The ordinance amended the official zoning map of approximately 22.58 acres of land located near the Wonder World Drive and Highway 123 Intersection. The proposed area will be used for unlimited commercial properties such as a medical center, restaurants, office supply store, a carwash and more.
The ordinance was sent back for review, the council asking for block perimeters to be 5,000 feet and to make sidewalk connections.
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.