Shared from the 10/18/2021 San Antonio Express eEdition

Developers going big in surging town

Hundreds of townhomes, along with retail and offices, are planned in Dripping Springs

It’s a trend in Texas’ fastest-growing county: growing pains.

The population of Dripping Springs, a bedroom community west of Austin in Hays County, boomed over 175 percent in the last six years to nearly 7,500 people, census figures show.

Now it needs to upgrade roads and wastewater treatment. And it doesn’t have enough restaurants or middle-priced housing for all the newcomers.

Enter Village Grove and New Growth, a pair of mixed-use developments proposed for sites about 2 miles apart in the center of the city 50 miles northeast of San Antonio.

The communities would accommodate the surge in residents and put the city in line with other fast-growing Hays County communities, adding retail, restaurants and high-density living spaces.

Village Grove would be a 531-unit residential subdivision on 112 acres south of U.S. 290 and east of Rob Shelton Boulevard. New Growth would have 288 rental townhome units and a commercial center on 36 acres south of U.S. 290 on Roger Hanks Parkway.

Both projects go before the City Council for official action at its meeting Tuesday.

“One of the founding principles we looked at … was having the opportunity to create a town center … to gather, recreate, shop, eat and entertain,” Peter Verdicchio said. He’s a principal at Austin-based SEC Planning, which is developing Village Grove.

“We’re looking at this from a local perspective, with local opportunities to create spots for local businesses and local restaurants,” he said.

The plans

Village Grove is billed as “a combination of public and private parkland and open spaces,” according to documents SEC Planning submitted to the city. In the center of the property would sit a 1.5-acre park — dubbed the Grove — dedicated to the city of Dripping Springs. The Grove would be surrounded by townhome neighborhoods, retail and restaurant space, trails, and public parks and playgrounds.

The Village Grove property shares its western border with the Dripping Springs Sports and Recreation Park. City Councilwoman April Harris Allison said that would benefit residents who use the neighboring sports complex.

“Think about what it would be on a Saturday or Sunday,” she said, “when those kids are playing and the parents want to run across the street and have a team meal.”

And “if you build it, they will come: It doesn’t just have to be on a Saturday or Sunday,” she said.

New Growth would offer retail and office space as well, according to documents submitted to the city by developer New Growth Enterprises. The plan for it features a “Hill Country Modern” feel: “village-like pitched-roof forms, porches promoting entries and pedestrianism, and a clean, calm palette of materials and colors.”

It’d be primarily a single-family home development, said Howard Koontz, Dripping Springs’ planning director. But there would be “a commercial component” along U.S. 290.

“What’s unique on this one is that it’s all rentals,” Koontz said. “It’s a rental community that looks like single-family and town-homes.”


But some city leaders worry the developments could stress Dripping Springs’ infrastructure. They would lean heavily on Creek Road, for example, which is heavily trafficked and in need of repairs.

“It’s a road that has not received a lot of love as far as capital improvements … probably for 30 or 40 years,” City Councilman Geoffrey Tahuahua said. “So all of those challenges are coming now to a point, and we are not sure how to address it.”

Insufficient utilities present another challenge for the growing city, particularly with wastewater treatment. The city wants to build a new treatment plant, but it’s locked in a lawsuit with Austin-based environmental group Save Our Springs over the discharge of treated effluent.

Even so, the city is on track this year to outpace its residential growth from the past two years. In 2019, the city approved 439 single-family residential projects; in 2020, it approved 758; and between January and September this year, it approved 700.

“Dripping Springs has experienced phenomenal growth in the last five years,” said Ginger Faught, deputy city administrator. “We’ve seen huge growth even in the last two years here.”

Faught said Dripping Springs is primarily a bedroom community. Many residents commute to work in Austin but come home to a lower cost of living and small-town feel.

In terms of industry, the town bills itself as the “wedding capital of Texas.” It has about 50 wedding venues for celebrations of all shapes and sizes.

Village Grove and New Growth would add rental properties and commercial and retail spaces, in addition to trails and green spaces.

Village Grove even could have municipal uses, such as housing City Hall.

Koontz, the city planner, said Dripping Springs is working with each development to determine how it might affect infrastructure and what might be needed to make sure the roads and utilities are up to snuff.

“We’ll look at the tenets of the park plan, the transportation plan, the future trails map” to try to figure out what needs to be upgraded, he said.

Annie Blanks writes for the

Express-News through Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.

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