More than just barbecue: Local business owner eyes completion of new development

By Moses Leos III

Progress toward a 560-acre tract of land that will soon hold a new mixed-use development surrounding the Salt Lick restaurant in Driftwood continues to move forward.

For Salt Lick owner Scott Roberts, whose family has owned the property for more than 100 years, ensuring development falls in harmony with the surrounding land was imperative.

Roberts’ planned development, called “Driftwood,” has been in the works for roughly 12 years. The project came about after his family decided to change the land use, as they couldn’t use it for its original purpose as a cattle ranch.

While the family wanted to continue to be involved with the land, Roberts said they also wanted to share it with others as well.

“It’s a beautiful tract of land,” he said. “It’d be a waste for just one family. It needed to be shared somewhat.”

What Driftwood could share with area neighbors is retail and residential space, along with a lodge and spa, an events center and a hotel.

Thus far, the main entryway has been constructed and 31 home sites have been prepared. Home sites in the development have a footprint of a maximum 4,500 square feet, with home site prices starting at $350,000. Driftwood would also feature a 200-unit lodge and spa. Build out is expected over the next three to five years. 

Maintaining an environmentally sensitive design was also the prime focus for Roberts and his development team.  

Features include limiting the amount of impervious cover on the property to only 17 percent. Roberts said estimates could have the amount of impervious cover limited to 14 percent. He also said 90 percent of drainage in the property is “open flow.”

Roadways, which are typically 120 to 180 feet due to drainage features on the sides, would be limited to 32 feet due to overland drainage. In addition, he said roadways were “hand cleared,” with contractors successfully relocating 165 trees.

The development received a permit from TCEQ for rainwater capture from rooftops, with the resulting water used for irrigation on the land. He said the development received a private consultation from the Texas Department of Fish and Wildlife, which said in a letter the development would have “no impact on endangered species on the habitat.” Roberts said the development obtains surface water from the West Travis County Public Utility Agency (WTCPUA).

“The water running off is pure enough to protect the [Barton Springs] Salamander,” Roberts said.

The property will also have roughly 200-acres of open space, which would include water quality ponds and open grass areas. Amenities for the development include nine miles of nature trails.

“The overriding deal was that every generation of Roberts has been able to swim in Onion Creek … you want the creek to be clean after the project is done,” Roberts said.

Roberts hopes his development would “raise the bar” and set a standard for future developments involving open land.

A University of Texas at Austin study referenced Driftwood as a development “as it should be” in the Hill Country, Roberts said.

Opposition to his development has been limited, said Roberts, who has held three to four town meetings in the past.

Only one person has objected to his project, but Roberts said the objection “went away.”

Developing the land brought mixed emotions for Roberts.

“I’ve been associated with this land all of my life,” he said. “There’s some regret on one side, but happiness and expectations on the other. I’m kind of happy and hoping that it sets a new standard on how it would be developed.”  

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