- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) - Officials in fast-growing San Marcos plan to rewrite zoning codes to streamline the approval process and eliminate some variances and public hearings in hopes of attracting development.

The code was last rewritten in 2004. Supporters said the goal is to get developers to build in new “high intensity” zones east of Interstate 35, away from established neighborhoods and environmentally sensitive parts of the city.

“We’ve seen a lot of pressure on existing neighborhoods. This will provide a relief to that pressure,” Abigail Gillfillan, the city’s project manager for the zoning code rewrite told The Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/1wR0xmO ) for a story published Friday. “It will do that by providing areas where you don’t have to go through a public process in order to build.”

San Marcos, about 30 miles south of Austin, had about 54,000 residents in 2013, according to census estimates, up from 50,000 a year earlier.

San Marcos will pay $250,000 to the Miami-based urban planning firm Dover, Kohl & Partners to assist during the 18-month-long process. It had success in helping rezone El Paso, amid pressure from more soldiers arriving at Fort Bliss, designing neighborhoods with their own urban cores in undeveloped areas.

They plan to follow the same strategy in South Texas, in part because of the increased enrollment at Texas State University - and the parties that come along with the students.

“The people here feel like there’s an invading army, and they’re just kids,” said Jason King, a partner with the urban planning firm. “The city has a preferred scenario, and what we are trying to do is make it the developers’ preferred scenario.”

San Marcos developer John David Carson said it makes sense for officials to want to push development to the east side of the city.

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

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