MERCURY GRAPHIC by BRAD ROLLINS
MAP by FRIENDS OF BLUE HOLE
by BRAD ROLLINS
Hays County and Wimberley officials are thinking about buying a building currently used by a Baptist church as a one-stop campus for use as government and nonprofit offices and the hub of a regional trail system and parkland running along Cypress Creek.
The 6.5 acre tract juts into 126-acre Blue Hole Regional Park and Preserve, which was bought in 2005 by the village of Wimberley and is being developed as the centerpiece of a greenbelt that also includes Jacob’s Well, a pristine artesian well, at the creek’s headwaters. Just upstream of Cypress Creek’s confluence with the Blanco River, the property could be the western trailhead of a trail system running along the river, Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley, who is sponsoring the measure. The church property also sits at the eastern end of a hike and bike trail Conley pushed to add to the Winters Mill Parkway project, which connects Woodcreek to Ranch Road 12 via Ranch-to-Market Road 3237.
“There are lots of moving parts to consider but there is also alot of synergy and cooperation that has gone into this project,” Conley said during the commissioners court’s Tuesday regular session. “I’m looking for feedback from the court as to whether I’m crazy or on the right path or somewhere in between.”
His court colleagues were for the most part noncommittal. County Judge Elizabeth Sumter questioned an arrangement presented by Wimberley administrator Don Ferguson in which the county would front the $2.4 million purchase price of the property, half of which would be reimbursed by the village over a term of several years. Renovations would take another $600,000 to $1 million including addition of a rainwater collection system and retrofitting an outdoor basketball court and Sunday school classroom building as a youth recreation system, with possible involvement of the YMCA.
“To me, the fundamental question is whether the county wants to be in a position of funding this if, in the end, future [village] leaders decide they are not willing to take over a facility of this magnitude,” Sumter said.
Noting that any deal would have to be approved by the village’s council, Ferguson said, “The numbers have to be right to buy into this partnership and dollars will be the factor that belies our council’s decision. But I think an opportunity like this does not exist in this part of the county and I’m going to tell you an opportunity like this does not exist in this part of the state.”
An independent appraisal completed last week values the property at about $2.7 million, Conley said, and is offered on the commercial market for $3 million by owner Dallas-based Wimberley Crossroads LLC, which bought the property from the church last year. First Baptist Church of Wimberley’s will vacate the property in March 2009 when they move to a new facility current under construction at Winters Mills Parkway and Ranch Road 12. “From my perspective, I think it’s a good financial deal for the county,” Conley said.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe said, “It is helpful to know that the appraisal is higher than what they’re asking us for it. I guess I did not realize that.”
Officials should also consider the cost of allowing the property to remain in private hands, Ferguson said, noting that the eventual extension of a wastewater treatment system into Wimberley proper will mean the property could end up as condominiums or houses.
“This project really does protect Blue Hole. It positions ourselves such that this jewel is protected from commercial development adjacent to it,” Ferguson said.
The church’s 36,000 square foot main building would be divided into city and county offices including a substation for the sheriff’s office and administrative offices for Wimberley/Hays County EMS. Sheriff Allen Bridges said the facility would become headquarters of this western patrol command, a move he said would improve law enforcement presence and response times in Wimberley, which does not have a police force. In addition the space would ease crowding at the sheriff’s office headquarters on Uhland Road in San Marcos.
“We are literally using closets for office space,” Bridges said.Email | Print