Top News-Dispatch News Stories of 2017

Dripping Springs OKs 700-home PID

A new 189-acre Dripping Springs housing development  was approved this year, which will include additions to the city’s roadways and wastewater management capacity.

On Nov. 14, the Dripping Springs City Council unanimously approved the creation of the Heritage Public Improvement District (PID). The agreement involves SLF IV – Dripping Springs JV, L.P. and Bobwhite Investments, LP. which includes the developer Stratford Land, based in Dallas. In June, Dripping Springs Planning and Zoning Commission gave the development its approval.

The project encompasses 700 residential units on 189 acres and will lie in the heart of the city near Dripping Springs High School.

The PID, a financing mechanism to help fund the project, allows the creation of reimbursement bonds, which will be paid by residents of the development over time through a PID assessment, said Ginger Faught, Dripping Springs deputy city administrator.

The price of PID bonds can go up to $27.5 million and the assessment paid by residents cannot exceed more than 73 cents for every $100 in property value, according to financing documents obtained from the city.

Mim James, Dripping Springs planning and zoning chairperson, said construction of infrastructure and utilities within the Heritage subdivision, which extends to roads, effluent lines and sidewalks, is estimated to cost $50 million. That figure excludes the value of homes.

The project calls for developers to construct a road that extends Rogers Hanks Parkway. The road would go northeast to Ranch Road 12, creating an alternative route to the intersection of Ranch Road 12 and U.S. Highway 290, according to city documents.

The road will create part of the loop the city has envisioned within its master transportation plan that circles the intersection of Ranch Road 12 and U.S. 290, James said.

The development  will also support the city’s treated wastewater reuse goals, Faught said.

In the city’s plan for wastewater treatment expansion, priority will be to use treated wastewater to irrigate parks, landscapes and medians, in order to avoid discharge of treated wastewater in springs or creeks as part of its agreement with Lower Colorado River Authority, according to the agreement.

This side agreement, which the city approved on Nov. 1, extends to the city’s permit application with the Texas Commission on Environmental  Quality (TCEQ) to expand its wastewater treatment plant capacity to 995,000 gallons per day.

The treated effluent line extends from the Caliterra subdivision and allows the city to irrigate Founder’s Park and other city owned facilities, Faught said.

The line has an estimated cost of $2.6 million and will be paid for by the developer, Faught said.

James said an important aspect of the Heritage subdivision is the $200,000 price range for homes, which falls below the area’s median price of $370,000.

The next step is for the developer to submit its preliminary plat, or construction drawings, for approval.

No date has been set as to when those will be turned in, Faught said.

Wider road, lower speed limits in U.S. 290 plan

Concerns over U.S. Highway 290 boiled in 2017 as residents repeatedly expressed their opinions to county and state officials in town hall meetings meant to address safety improvements.

Officials called for the meeting after ten people died in vehicle accidents on U.S. 290 last year. In response to vehicle accidents, law enforcement has increased their presence on the road.

Hays County Commissioner Ray Whisenant said officials are working with TxDOT to begin the long process of widening 290 to a five lane intersection from McGregor Lane to the Hays County line.

TxDOT has acquired part of the funding for the planning and is trying to get funding for construction, Romage-Chambers said.

Once TxDOT has funding for the project, officials have to go through the process of completing an environmental impact assessment and acquiring right-of-ways, among many things.

“It still takes us five to six years after we start the design process,” Romage-Chambers said.

Whisenant said after he became commissioner, it took four years to get the first speed reduction on Highway 290.

“It’s quite an involved process,” Whisenant said.

Tina Young, who’s lived in the Dripping Springs area for nine years, said TxDOT officials do not act proactively, but take action reactively after fatalities occur.

While funding and resources limits TxDOT, Isaac said TxDOT will receive more funding in the future.

“Voters overwhelmingly approved the last election additional $5 billion going into TxDOT, dedicated,” Isaac said. “TxDOT is going to see a significant increase in their funding, just by way of voters demanding it.”

Dripping Springs looks at town center model

Accommodating for rapid growth in Dripping Springs took on new meaning in 2017 as city and school district officials began taking steps toward a town center concept.

The center is expected to be included in Dripping Springs’ tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ), which aims to pave the way for a new city hall, a larger community library and potentially a new Dripping Springs ISD administration building along Mercer Street. Other improvements under the TIRZ could extend to U.S. 290 and Ranch Road 12 improvements, Old Fitzhugh Road improvements and improving downtown parking, along with a new Hays County Pct.4 office.

A TIRZ is a political subdivision of a municipality or county in the state of Texas created to implement tax increment financing. Rather than raise taxes to pay for projects, the TIRZ would focus on development in the area that would help pay for these projects.

One of those projects could include expanding the Dripping Springs Community Library to 30,000 square feet, along with an expansion of city offices.

But in December, Dripping Sprigs ISD officials began developing an alternative plan for the location of its administration building, which was to be built adjacent to the new library.

Instead, officials developed ideas about possibly converting the existing Walnut Springs Elementary School into the new district administration office, shifting priority away from constructing a new building.

Dripping Springs ISD is in the middle of an evaluation of its capacity as it relates to handling growth. the assessment is being conducted by the district’s Long-Range Facility Planning Committee, which could bring recommendations by January.

Final phase of FM 150 West Character Plan gets green light

The second and final phase of the FM 150 road improvement plan was given the green light by Hays County Commissioners Oct. 10. 

Main parts of the recommended plan include widening shoulders, inserting roundabouts, and creating a bypass going from FM 150 to FM 967, among other road improvements. 

The character plan is a study covering the area from Arroyo Ranch Road in Kyle to RR 12 in Dripping Springs. The corridor was identified in the 2013 Hays County Transportation Plan as an area that would need improvements in order to expand capacity for the growth in the area and continue to ensure safety. 

In order to update and preserve the road, the county hired K Friese and Associates to conduct a more than three year study on the road, which is now in its final stages. Highlights of phase two consist of refining concepts identified in the first phase and obtaining additional comments on certain areas. Also developed were preliminary planning alignments for each of the intersections studied including cross sections, target speeds throughout the county, and determined right-of-way widths. 

One main segment that will be widened is on FM 150 from Arroyo Ranch Road to FM 3237.  Within this section there are two focus intersections – FM 3237 and where the potential bypass would begin – with a preference for roundabouts. 

The plan also highlights a bypass that would take off from just south or east of FM 3237, go through the Rutherford Ranch and connect to FM 967 near the Pedernales Electric Cooperative substation. This bypass section includes where FM 967 connects to FM 1826 and then back to FM 150 and would include upgrades on these roads and intersections as well.

Dripping Springs second in Hays County growth rate

105 percent rise in the estimated population over a six-year period casts Buda as the Hays County city with the highest growth percentage since 2010, according to new Census Bureau estimates released in late May.

According to the statistics, which included population estimates as of July 2016, Buda has ballooned to just over 15,000 people. Six years ago, during the 2010 Census, Buda had just over 7,200 people.

From 2015 to 2016, Buda’s population rose by 40 percent, which was the highest among the five major cities in the county.

Dripping Springs, which has an estimated 2016 population of 3,140, had the second highest population growth rate among the five major cities between 2015 and 2016, while Kyle was third.

Todd Purcell, Dripping Springs mayor, said in an emailed response his city’s estimates come as no surprise.

“Our city is a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. Others are now discovering what we’ve known for years.”

However, with the growth, Purcell said the city has a “significant responsibility” to tackle “head-on” many critical infrastructure issues, such as road and wastewater capacity.

“It’s necessary to protect our envied quality of life,” Purcell said.

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