“I move that we accept the city of Dripping Springs and the Dripping Springs Community Library’s request to terminate the interlocal agreement regarding the Town Center Project, but I also move that we continue with informal discussions with both parties,” trustee Joanna Day said in a motion following a closed session discussion at the board’s March meeting.
It is unclear whether those “informal discussions” may be in the interest of creating a new agreement.
The Town Center Project involves one of the city’s tax increment reinvestment zones, or TIRZ, an economic development tool used to reinvest tax revenue over a certain cap into a specific area’s infrastructure. The city began planning for the project in 2016, with proposed elements including transportation and parking improvements to the historic downtown area around Mercer Street and Old Fitzhugh Road.
Additionally, the project hinged on the construction of new facilities for Dripping Springs City Hall, DSISD and the local library on a shared property, the so-called Town Center. DSISD entered into an interlocal agreement with the city and library in April 2020, signaling its intention to share ownership interest of 11.7 acres of property—where the DSISD administrative offices are currently located—for common use under the Town Center Project.
"This [interlocal agreement] creates a unique opportunity for DSISD to further collaborate with the city, library district and county as we look to maximize community resources, bring a central government location and enhance our downtown area while creating a unifying defining center for the city of Dripping Springs," then-Superintendent Todd Washburn said in a statement following entrance into the interlocal agreement last spring.
However, the shared ownership agreement was never finalized.
In January, board members attended mediation sessions with the city and library, which board President Barbara Stroud said had been productive and promising.
“We believe we’ve reached a resolution that will allow us to move forward, allow the Town Center Project to move forward and allow the library to have that as their space to build their new facility. We are very excited about moving forward on that project,” Stroud said Jan. 25.
But in February, DSISD trustees voted after closed session discussions to reject the city’s proposed terms for a property-purchasing agreement, citing insufficient assurances that the property would actually be used for Town Center purposes.
“What was most disappointing to me about the proposal that we received from the city in February is that it is lacking a material term that was in our proposal sent in December. That material term is some kind of assurance that this land would be used for a Town Center—for governmental purposes, for a town square, for the potential library and the potential county offices,” Stroud said after that vote Feb. 22. “If things change in the future, of course we are always open to further conversations with the city.”