Patrick Rose presented maps showing explosive growth and development in Dripping Springs, with about 40 subdivisions at stages ranging from “Future Potential” to “Under Consideration” to “Approved” to “Under Construction”.
by Penny Levers
OAK HILL – Oak Hill residents have long made the move west to Dripping Springs when they were ready for a slower-paced, more rural lifestyle, but they might be wise to start looking farther afield. Patrick Rose presented an eye-opening overview of the developing state of Dripping Springs at a recent luncheon of the Oak Hill Business and Professional Association (OHBPA).
Dripping Springs is, of course, Oak Hill’s neighbor 10 miles down Highway 290 from the ‘Y’. Rose chairs the Dripping Springs Economic Development Committee as well as running his own title company. He had also represented Dripping Springs and surrounding areas in the state legislature for four terms until he was defeated by Jason Isaacs, the current officeholder, in 2010.
Rose, who grew up in Dripping Springs before leaving to attend Princeton University, first donned his Economic Development Chair hat when he asked the audience to look at one of two 11”x17” maps provided to each person at the meeting. This map has a “Destination Dripping Springs” logo on the top left and a Wedding Capital of Texas” logo top right. The map legend had symbols for “Distilleries, Wineries, Breweries, Event Venues, Lodging, Restaurants and Other Fun Places.” What the map colorfully showed was that in the greater Dripping Springs area there are currently 13 wineries, distilleries and breweries combined, 28(!) event venues and a similar number of places for lodging.
Pam Owens who is Director of Tourism for the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce explained that this is not even the complete list of such businesses, but only the ones that are members of the Chamber of Commerce.
The “Wedding Capital” moniker is of fairly recent vintage, having yet to make it onto Wikipedia’s Dripping Springs page—which does list its more established nickname “Gateway to the Hill Country.”
“Within the last ten years, event centers such as Vista West, Memory Lane and Camp Lucy started popping up,” explained Owens, “so we started calling Dripping Springs the ‘Wedding Capital’ and the Chamber actually trademarked the name in 2014.”
Dripping Springs has managed to retain a much more cohesive “Old West” historic center, particularly along Mercer Street, than its neighbor Oak Hill, which now has little more than Austin Pizza Garden, the dilapidated old Oak Hill School and the Enoch’s house on the frontage of 290. The Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce’s website beckons travelers with lines such as “the gateway to that beautiful scenery begins in the small, slow-paced and welcoming city of Dripping Springs.” It entices visitors to “enjoy the hill country ambience.”
That vision of the bucolic “Wedding Capital” was all but dashed by the second 11”x17” map that Rose had his audience examine. Rose, who began his talk with a special shout-out to the several Realtors in attendance, turned his audience’s attention to the map of active and potential development in the Dripping Springs area.
This map showed about 40 subdivisions at stages ranging from “Future Potential” to “Under Consideration” to “Approved” to “Under Construction”. The Oak Hill Gazette had reported on this back in January in Laurel Robertson’s Dripping Springs column, which used the same map handed out by Rose to detail the coming tsunami of growth. In that column, Robertson gave examples of long-time Dripping Springs area ranchers who were selling their spreads because of the growing impracticality of ranching cornered in amongst subdivisions.
Rose, who now lives with his family in San Marcos, said that this map showed 7,000 new rooftops that “I expect to be built sooner than anyone expects.” There is actually about 12,000 homes spelled out on the map, but some of these were apartments and some were in subdivisions that had already been partially built out. On the other hand, several of the potential subdivisions were still undetermined as to the number of houses, so those are not included in these numbers.
Subdivisions that are currently selling homes include the 1500 acre Belterra tract off Highway 290, which Rose recalled being owned “by a single family with a single mobile home on it,” when the 37-year-old was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Other large subdivisions of 500 to over 1000 homes that are under construction include Highpointe, Reunion Ranch, the Parten Tract, Rim Rock and Caliterra (with a name that will make those west coast transplants feel right at home).
Close to being active is the 1000 acre Headwaters at Barton Creek, where 1000 more homes are expected bordering Highway 290 just to the east of downtown. Future developments include the 730-acre Scenic Greens west of town and Anarene north of town which, at 1700 acres, bests behemoth Belterra by some 200 acres.
The biggest challenges to all of this growth, according to Rose, are roads and wastewater. Many of the larger developments have their own treatment facilities and Rose said “growth will happen whether or not the city provides wastewater treatment” but the city is currently grappling with ways to increase wastewater capacity by “putting treated effluent to use in beneficial ways.” This will require a TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) permit to discharge into Onion Creek—especially crucial during heavy rain events.
Predictably, there are elements in Dripping Springs, including “The Onion Creek Coalition” that are highly critical of this. There is even a Change.org petition to “Keep Waste Out of Onion Creek.” The city has recently added an informational page to their website about the proposed expansion of its wastewater treatment facility which currently serves less than 300 homes and businesses.
The 2013 population for the incorporated area of Dripping Springs was less than 2,000, but the greater area, which Patrick Rose said was best defined by the school district, is considerably larger. Gazette columnist Laurel Robertson estimated the Dripping Springs ETJ to be about 30,000 in her January column.
Dripping Springs is located in Hays County, which was the fifth fastest growing county in the entire nation from 2013 to 2014, the most recent information that could be obtained, according to the US Census Bureau. (That’s out of over 3,000, which puts it in the top sixth of the first percentile if anyone is counting). In addition to Dripping Springs, Hays County, which borders Travis County to the south, also includes Buda, Kyle, San Marcos and Wimberley. If, indeed, about 10,000 new homes are built in the greater Dripping Springs area over the next 10 years, it seems that that would just about double the current population.
Tourism Director Pam Owens, for one, hopes that Dripping Springs maintains its special character despite the growth. To that end “the Chamber has been working hard with the City Council,” she said. “The City has adopted a stringent sign ordinance and has designated three historical districts to preserve our downtown.”