Rocky Road for Cypress

A controversial Dripping Springs development proposal is facing new challenges in the new year.

Dripping Springs City Attorney Rex Baker III
Dripping Springs City Attorney Rex Baker III (Photo By Beverly Barrett)

A controversial development agreement that sailed -- some would say surreptitiously -- through the Dripping Springs City Council last spring doesn't appear to be enjoying the same success in the New Year. Last week, council unanimously rejected a preliminary plat that development company Cypress Realty had submitted for a road planned for Rock Creek, a 2,700-acre mega-development proposed for the former Rutherford Ranch site in northwest Hays County (see "Matter Over Mind," Sept. 21, austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-09-21/pols_feature.html ).

Council members unanimously denied the request on grounds that not all property owners within 200 feet of the proposed project had been properly notified of its existence. The council's rejection was a victory for the Friendship Alliance, a coalition of Hays County neighborhoods along the FM 1826 corridor that formed last summer as a direct result of the lack of public discourse on major developments. Residents near the proposed Rutherford Ranch development, for example, didn't learn of the agreement -- brokered by Cypress representatives and Dripping Springs City Attorney Rex Baker III -- until a month after its approval. Since then, Alliance representatives have become active participants in development and water issues affecting Hays County.

In the Cypress Realty case, Alliance leaders urged the council to deny or postpone a decision on the proposed road, which would run north from RR 967 to FM 1826, citing both the non-notification of some homeowners and what they believe is an overall flawed development agreement. The Alliance would like to see the council rescind the Cypress agreement and start the process anew, but it's uncertain what action, if any, the council might take in that regard. Cypress needs approval from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before it can proceed on its development because the property stretches across environmentally sensitive terrain.

More unusual than last week's council decision, however, was Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell's apparent dismay over the lack of information Cypress had provided to council prior to the meeting. "I met with [Cypress Realty president] Steve Clark two weeks ago, and I told him I had a concern about getting the full concept [of the development] out there for the public to see," Purcell said. "I feel like he agreed to that, and tonight he isn't here." Clark could not be reached for comment.

Scott Smiley, vice-president of the engineering firm of Turner, Collie & Braden Inc. and a Cypress representative, offered no explanation for Clark's no-show, but, addressing the non-notification problem, said they had tried to identify and notify all residents living within 200 feet of the project by accessing the Hays Co. tax rolls via Internet. Meanwhile, Purcell has requested a public work session with Cypress to examine specific details of the road proposal before the next council meeting in February.

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