New City-planning Maps for Austin

If you’ve been keeping up with CodeNext, Austin’s evolving zoning ordinances, you know that January’s release of new ordinances without an accompanying release of maps caused angst in the neighborhoods whose inhabitants have spent years trying to keep the  feel of those neighborhoods the same as it has been for decades.

Fitting more people and their activities into the same-sized space requires denser building. Closer together and higher. That is the geometry of the situation.  Totally different feel from vistas and trees, right?

Today, the city released the initial zoning maps. Here is a link to the article in the Statesman: CodeNext zoning maps. You’ll find more links within this article, so study to your heart’s content.

Version 2

H2O

Went on a property tour this morning in the Dripping Springs area. Lenders and title companies often arrange these affairs on a regular basis for real estate agents and brokers who want to see a sample of what’s available ‘this week’.

It was rainy today. Really rainy. Not too many of us on the property tour. But, you know what? I love to tour properties in the rain, whether with clients, or just for my own education. That’s how you know what the drainage issues are. It’s fun to see how drainage problems have been solved, or forestalled, by French drains, dry streams, foundation grading, walls, etc. It’s also illuminating to see what hasn’t been solved: creeks over sidewalks, water running close to the top of a foundation.

Rainy weather when house-hunting also makes you super-aware of which roads are likely to be impassable in a storm. A phone app I like to use is ATXfloods.com. Shows me a map of all the low-water crossings in the area and which have been closed. Especially important in the hills!

It’s helpful to go house-shopping in the rain so that you can see if there are drainage issues.

By the way, I saw some properties on the market in Dripping Springs this morning that ranged from perfectly charming to gorgeous.

Surveying: Up Close and Personal with the Land

If you have ever had the pleasure of driving on a midnight-darkened road out in the countryside, you know the feeling of not being able to see the next curve, the next deer that will collide with your car, or the depth of that ravine just off the edge of the road. It is a risky venture and you have to use all your senses on hyper-alert setting to get to your destination.

Not having any idea where property lines are, where the utilities run, where there is an oil-pipeline easement, or a neighbor’s driveway encroaching on your land is a bit like that drive through the dark. Obstacles can rise up before you and whip the living daylights out of you before you know what happened. THAT, my friends, is the reason civilization invented surveyors. Before you take out that fence, build that pool, or pave that driveway, you really, really need to know the facts about your property.

Here is a good blog on the topic ’10 reasons to have your property surveyed’. If you are buying property using a loan from a bank or mortgage company, they want to protect their investment by having an up-to-date survey before they will let you borrow that money. If you are buying property with cash, you could skip that survey step, but I don’t recommend it.

A couple of years ago, we had surveyors come and map the boundaries of our property so that we could see which trees are ours and which are our neighbors’. We have many live oaks which are a treasure and must be properly cared for to help them outwit Oak Wilt. And we needed to see which storm damage is ours to trim. It is one thing to understand a plat on a piece of paper and quite another to translate that into lines on the ground, through creeks, under brambles, and across expanses of tall grass.

Prickly Pear
Why surveyors wear boots and jeans

Our survey was done in February, but no matter the time of year, here’s what surveyors wear: long-sleeved shirt to protect from brambles and prickly pear, hat to protect from sun and branches, heavy boots to wade through wetlands and deflect rattlesnakes. We have all these on our property, for sure.

Here are some pictures of a few of our survey stakes. Our property line crosses the creek several times, but then, the creek has likely changed course since the land was subdivided from a ranch. One part of our property is on the neighbors’ side of a natural boundary; looking at the patch of ground, you’d swear it belongs to the next house over, but nope, it’s ours.

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Petal Peepers and History Creepers

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It’s that time in central Texas- wildflower days. This morning was sunny and the air was cool, and I took my mom on a little wildflower drive. According to my mileage app, we drove 90.1 miles. We left Dripping Springs, going west on U.S. 290 and turned north on U.S. 281, traveling through the edge of Johnson City, heading through Round Mountain and on to Marble Falls.

Favorite

Traffic jam in Marble Falls due to construction, but that didn’t stop the intrepid Austinites. Mom recalled living in Marble Falls in the 1920’s, when she was in elementary school. We turned around at Gateway North before crossing the Colorado River and I asked her who had owned the land under us. She said it had belonged to the Micheles, the family who owned the drugstore and the opera house in town. She pointed out the hillside where the Michele house had stood.

In 1927, Mom’s family had been leasing and living on the Lacy Ranch, a hilltop domain on the north side of the river. She remembers standing there, looking down on the little city, watching as a fire consumed a great part of downtown. She recalls that Miss Mattie Houck, the milliner, threw her trunks of hat décor out the second-floor window in order to save her inventory.

Frank in front of porch
Frank Alexander in front of the Lacy home and ranch he was leasing. Marble Falls, Texas, circa 1927

Mom also reminisced about the beautiful falls on the Colorado River that flowed over marble slabs, after which the town is named. Those were buried underwater after 1951, when Max Starcke Dam created Lake Marble Falls.

We backtracked a bit, going south on U.S. 281 until we returned to Round Mountain and went left onto Ranch Road 962 East. Mom recalled the string of stores on the south side of that road that used to make up Round Mountain; a few little buildings are still there. One, very close to the road, was a shoe repair shop. The Round Mountain Store was a long stone building, set back from the road, but it was eventually torn down and the stones were taken to Austin for some other purpose. The Baptist Church was on the other side of North Cypress Creek from the rest of the town.

The Alexander Ranch, established by Mom’s grandparents, where Mom lived before the family moved to the metropolis of Marble Falls for better schools, was north of Round Mountain, close to Cypress Mills, adjoining the Croft Ranch. The Goethes and Wenmohses also lived in proximity, as did the Fuchs.

Below is a photo of the Alexander Ranch house in about 1910, or so.

Women are Effie, Mamie, and Hassie.
Women are Effie, Mamie, and Hassie.

By the way, part of this ranch, along with parts of several other old ranches make up 178 acres with a beautiful modern home that is currently for sale. If you are interested in a magnificent ranch land purchase, this would be it, and I would be glad to help you buy it.

Traveling to Austin by horse and wagon, or by Model T car, was an arduous affair, but on the few occasions the kids went along (to see a circus!), the family made the best of it, camping near the Pedernales River’s low-water crossing. Mom recalls her father walking alongside the truck, chocking the wheels on the narrow, unpaved road as Grandmother drove, to keep the car from sliding back down the muddy slope on the east side of the river. This is very close to what is now Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. 

Here’s a Dodgen family camping trip on the Pedernales, about 1915:

group swimming in Pedernales-1

Two women and one man on Pedernales-1Dodgens in river-1

Somewhere along the way, the road name changed to Hamilton Pool Road. We came back to Dripping Springs along this route. Mom said that when she was a child, Hamilton Pool Road eventually came into a precursor to U.S. 71, and they followed that to Oak Hill and on into Austin.

In 2017 you can use these links to find your best wildflower route:

http://texas.wildflowersightings.org

http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/maintenance/wildflower-program.html

https://www.facebook.com/TexasWildflowerReport/