Dripping Springs City Council tangles with parking solutions for historic downtown

A photo of a sign that reads "Visit Historic Dripping Springs."
In the historic district of Dripping Springs, parking is in high demand. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

In the historic district of Dripping Springs, parking is in high demand. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

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Dripping Springs City Council met Jan. 14. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
At a Jan. 14 meeting, Dripping Springs City Council voted to permit a variance for a new Mercer Street business to install fewer parking spaces than typically required by city ordinance. The business in question, a bar, will be located at 330 Mercer St. in the Dripping Springs downtown historic district, where space to designate parking spots is limited. The building that will accommodate the new bar was formerly the Mercer Street Dance Hall and has now been partitioned to fit two separate businesses—the bar and Revel Wilde, a retail shop.

Per city ordinance, bars and restaurants are required to have one designated parking spot for every 100 square feet of the business. That rule extends to other businesses in the same building, although separate retail businesses usually only require one parking spot per 250 square feet. Due to space constraints, the business ownership requested a reduction from the 96 spaces that normally would be required for the entire building to 67.

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds voiced concern that the variance foreshadowed a series of requests to come as Dripping Springs’ downtown is revitalized, he and requested that city staff and council consider permanent solutions for downtown parking in months to come.

“We need to start being proactive and taking care of this stuff and quit kicking the can [down the road],” Foulds said,

Purcell said the difficulties with downtown parking came down to anachronism because downtown had not been built with cars in mind.

“We’re trying to apply today’s parking rules to an area that never had contemplated that there would be parking rules of any kind,” Purcell said of the historic district, pointing out that originally visitors only had horses to contend with. “We have to come up with a solution, and until we do, we’re going to have to make exceptions so that people can open businesses downtown.”

Downtown parking has already been named a priority project of the downtown historic district’s tax increment reinvestment zone, which will support a number of revitalization efforts in the coming decades. However, the city has not yet announced any firm plans for the project.

Council ultimately unanimously approved the requested variance but not before an initial failed vote, with Council Members Taline Manassian and Bill Foulds voting no before Foulds made a motion to reconsider the item to allow for further discussion. With Council Member John Kroll absent, all five present members of the Dripping Springs Board of Adjustment—which includes council and Mayor Todd Purcell—had to vote yes in order for the measure to pass because a supermajority is required on board items.
By Olivia Aldridge

Multi-Platform Journalist

Olivia hosts and produces Community Impact Newspaper's podcasts, The Austin Breakdown, The Houston Breakdown and The DFW Breakdown. She launched the podcasts after nearly three years as a reporter for the newspaper, covering public health, business, development and Travis County government for the Central Austin edition. Olivia worked as a reporter and producer for South Carolina Public Radio before moving to Texas.