How the fastest-growing city in the U.S. is planning for its future

Photo by Larry D. Moore

I’m a San Marcos native. I was born, raised and educated here. And like many people who live in this city, I’ve seen firsthand the exponential growth over the last several years. 

In fact, San Marcos is once again the country’s fastest-growing city of at least 50,000 residents — for the third year in a row, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Our population grew 7.9 percent between 2013 and 2014, hitting 58,892.

It’s not difficult to see what makes San Marcos a popular destination: the city’s strategic location between Austin and San Antonio, its excellent schools, Texas State University, the beautiful San Marcos River and the community’s unique flavor, to name a few.

But as San Marcos continues to grow and thrive, our city leaders, staff and I have the great responsibility — and opportunity — of balancing the needs of our current residents and businesses with the challenges that come with growth.

The key to smart growth is taking a close look at our resources and infrastructure and remembering what’s important to us: the culture of San Marcos, the natural beauty, the job-creating businesses and our identity as a home of higher education.

To persevere our city’s unique character, we must have up-to-date plans that put community involvement at the center of the planning process.

That’s why we encouraged the community to weigh in as we began planning for the city’s future. Our community-driven comprehensive master plan, “Vision San Marcos: A River Runs Through Us,” was the result of a two-year process completed in 2013. The City Council uses the goals and policies established in the plan to make sure that ordinances regulating growth and development are consistent.

The plan directs where future development will go, analyzes neighborhoods, ensures that sensitive areas are protected and promotes efficient growth. It also evaluates trends and alternative growth patterns and directs development in areas where it’s best suited based on existing land uses, available infrastructure and environmental factors.

As the city reviews zoning changes, capital improvement projects and development agreements, the plan will play an integral part in guiding city staff and council.

Now, we’re calling on the community to participate with the city’s Planning and Development Services Department on CodeSMTX, an update of the land development code. That may sound technical, but it’s also crucial: The code will guide new development and ensure that it fits the community's vision for the future.

To adjust our infrastructure planning to growth trends in the community, the city works to keep its master plans current by updating them every five years. As we update those plans, we look to new development tools to finance public infrastructure, like public improvement districts and tax-increment financing.

Although the city has extensive plans in place, small steps are also crucial to maintaining our growing community. Just a few months ago, the council adopted shorter-term goals for the community. Each decision we make next fiscal year will be tied to those goals, which include planning for and updating city facilities, beautifying the city, continuing downtown redevelopment and attracting job opportunities for skilled manufacturing workers.

San Marcos is growing, and will continue to grow. Our city staff and leaders have made a commitment to plan for that growth, to include the community in those discussions, and to find unique and economical ways to finance the infrastructure plans we put in place.

We can’t guarantee there won’t be growing pains, but we can assure our residents that we — the city staff and their elected officials — are doing everything we can to make decisions today that will lead to an even better San Marcos in the years to come.

Daniel Guerrero

Mayor of San Marcos