DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — Permits for homes, site planning, projects and construction in the city of Dripping Springs will be on hold due to a new moratorium.

In Dripping Springs, the city is set to enact a temporary development moratorium on Nov. 18. The moratorium will affect new permits for homes, site planning, commercial projects and construction in the city limited and extraterritorial jurisdiction.

According to the city leaders, during the moratorium, no city department will accept permit applications for development where a waiver hasn’t already been approved.

The moratorium is supposed to last until Nov. 27, but council could vote on an extension. People will still be able to apply for exceptions or waivers if an extension does happen.

“The City of Dripping Springs recognizes the impact of rapid growth on providing for responsible development, especially as it relates to density, transportation and the provision of wastewater,” said a City of Dripping Springs spokesperson.

Currently, the city has reached its wastewater capacity. It is also in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance to accommodate land-use regulation issues.

If approved, Dripping Springs will use the moratorium to give the city time for responsible development and future planning.

“The city’s responsibility is to protect how our community grows, and sometimes that requires us to make tough but necessary decisions,” said Dripping Springs Mayor Bill Foulds. “It’s no secret how quickly we are growing.”

How did Dripping Springs get here?

In Dripping Springs, you’ll find constructions workers scattered throughout the city trying to pave the way for future homeowners.

“We got here by being just 13 miles west of Austin with a lot of great things to offer,” said Foulds.

Foulds has seen the city double in size over the last three years. There’s only one treatment plant in the city that has the capacity to serve 3,000 residents. With a population of about 5,000, some residents on the edges of town are still relying on septic systems.

“Dripping Springs is known for its larger notes… there’s some room to get away from your neighbors,” said Chris Pesek with Jackson Properties.

Pesek is a property broker in the area. He says the permit moratorium shouldn’t effect the home builds he’s already got approval for three years out, but as the city expands, he sees a need for a wastewater treatment plant.

“They have been trying to get it built. They are actively trying to get it done,” said Pesek.

An environmental group could throw a wrench in those plans. For years, the group has been protesting a permit for the city’s wastewater discharge the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved in 2019.

“They have taken us to court, and now we are in appeals,” said Foulds.

Foulds expects that appeal to go through at the start of the new year.

The city will hold public hearings where residents and affected parties may provide comment regarding the extension of the moratorium.

The public hearings will take place at city hall, located at 511 Mercer Street, on the following dates and times:

  • Planning and Zoning Commission, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021, 6 p.m.
  • City Council, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, 6 p.m.
  • City Council, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, 6 p.m. The Council will vote on the extension of the moratorium at this meeting.

City of Bastrop Moratorium of 2018

This isn’t the first time a Central Texas city has had to issue a moratorium in recent years. In 2018, the City of Bastrop was under a moratorium for nine months.

It was enacted on Aug. 14, 2018, after city officials noticed homes that had never flooded before started to flood. Then, in November 2018, it was extended to May 2019, and the city adopted an emergency drainage ordinance. 

“We weren’t against development, we were against development that could have an adverse impact to drainage,” said Mayor Connie Schroeder in 2019.

Since the city enacted the moratorium, they began working on Building Bastrop, an initiative to create new land-use regulations.

Despite the moratorium being in place, the City of Bastrop still approved more than 600 permits. Schroeder said these were approved after they determined it would not impact drainage. 

Growing Central Texas cities face the same concerns

In Jarrell, with a population of a couple thousand people, there’s a delicate balance to not overdo it, too.

“The issue is, we forecast certain amounts of growth. We have growth that’s already in the planning phase,” said City of Jarrell Mayor Larry Bush. “When we sign a development agreement, we are committing to that private sector to accommodate the resources for the homes and the families who will buy them.”

Bush says Jarrell is already in the process of quadrupling its wastewater treatment plant and in the next few years, could be looking at developing two more wastewater treatment plants.

“We’ve got 3.3 million gallons of water from the Lonestar Regional Water Facility, we’ve never taken a gallon of it yet, but we’ve already committed to it,” said Bush. “To do an additional development, we are aggressively seeking other sources of water, so we can promise this to developers to continue the growth.”