In a joint statement released by the city of Dripping Springs and Dripping Springs ISD, both entities said the decisions to terminate the latest Town Center Project sales agreement were made "after thorough and exhaustive consideration."
In the statement DSISD Board President Barbara Stroud said that the district still supports the Town Center Project.
“As noted by our continued partnership efforts with the city, despite the termination of the interlocal agreement on the Town Center Project, trustees enthusiastically supported the sale of property for the development of the Town Center Project,” Stroud said. “This innovative program envisioned first by the city had and continues to have the potential to serve our community in a significant and positive way."
According to the city, the next steps for the Town Center Project's planning will be discussed on May 10 at the next meeting of the Tax
Increment Reinvestment Zone Board.
Original post: April 28, 9:32 p.m.
The city of Dripping Springs has declined the most recent sales agreement from Dripping Springs ISD to purchase the district’s Mercer Street administrative property for the future Town Center Project.
City Council unanimously voted against the proposal at a special meeting April 28, stating that the agreement too strictly limited future development plans for the property.
As designed through preliminary planning, through the Town Center Project the city would build a new city hall, as well as a Dripping Springs Community Library building and small-town square or park on land currently owned by DSISD. The proposal would also add parking to the city’s downtown.
“I am disappointed in the agreement that we received back from the school,” Mayor Pro Tem Taline Manassian said. “For the last four years, we with the county and the library and the district have been planning the Town Center on the school site. The ask of the district was always that they sell us the land.”
According to City Attorney Laura Mueller, the proposed agreement—which was approved by DSISD trustees on April 26—would restrict the city from selling off part of the land for private development. If the city were to offer part of the land to a non-governmental entity, through the agreement, the school district would have the ability to purchase back the land at fair market value.
“I can't support an agreement that restricts our ability to develop that property as we deem appropriate,” Manassian said. “Right now, we have every reason to think that the city and library will be on that property, and we anticipate if that happens, that there would be a very limited amount of commercial development on that land. But, we’re a city and we need flexibility to adapt should our needs change, should the economy change.”
In past proposals, she said the city has offered to pay fair market value for the property and to take on the financial responsibility to demolish current structures and to prepare the site for development. The city also has stated in writing its commitment to the Town Center Project concept, and that it would sell the land back to the district if those plans were abandoned, she said.
“All of that was not enough to convince the district to move forward with the sale without restricting our ability to develop the Town Center as we deem appropriate,” Manassian said. “I can support an agreement that allows the city to buy the property back if our plans change, but I cannot support one that has a use restriction.”
In March, DSISD trustees terminated an interlocal agreement with the city regarding the Town Center Project, citing insufficient assurances that the property would actually be used for Town Center purposes.
However, negotiations between the parties continued through April, leading to trustees approving the new sales agreement April 26. Board President Barbara Stroud said the board’s vote signified the district's ongoing commitment to the project.
"We support a Town Center Project. We have supported it for a long time, and we continue to support it," Stroud said April 26.