Regenerative development denied by DS Council

By Megan Wehring 

DRIPPING SPRINGS — A proposal for a more sustainable neighborhood development was turned down by the Dripping Springs City Council on Tuesday.

The project, Zoe Life Center, is a regenerative neighborhood development with a holistic ecological mindset with spaces for living, co-working, community and organic food production in one location. The moratorium waiver request, which was brought before the city council, was also associated with a development agreement application for a mixed-use development for approximately 100 single-family homes, nine multi-family units and 10,000 square feet of commercial space located at 1111 Hays Country Acres Road.

“What we have proposed is actually in LUE’s [Living Unit Equivalents],” said Avril Johnnidis, developer. “So, it’s a little tricky. The single-family homes are actually set at about 70, but that’s based on LUE’s, and the tiny homes are 400 square feet and the multi-family homes are also small units. The idea behind that is grandparents can live on site [and]young people can live on site. … There are some options for a diversity of people living there.”

Johnnidis added that the commercial space will be used as a small cafe that will use some of the produce that is grown on-site, coworking hub and small event center.

While the project would be served by an on-site septic system without any impact to the city’s wastewater system, the council still unanimously denied the waiver request.

The residential density of the project is consistent with the immediate area but there are no existing commercial uses near the property, according to city staff.

“With the sole access point to this property being on Hays Country Acres,” said Tory Carpenter, senior planner, “it’s important to note that traffic increases should be considered through the development agreement process.”

The project did not qualify for an exception because city staff determined there was a change in land use. Mayor Bill Foulds asked city attorney Laura Mueller what criteria does the project not meet, after listening to the applicant attorney listing out all of the criteria it does follow. 

“It’s a policy decision for the city council,” Mueller answered. “I do think it’s based on what it’s being used for now [and]what they are proposing for use in the future. We can not zone in the ETJ but we do have subdivision authority in the ETJ. So, that’s part of the authority we are looking at. … It’s really a question of whether or not there is a land use related to this that is a part of the moratorium ordinance that we adopted.”

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Megan Navarro (Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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