We wanted to hear your questions and concerns about Spicewood Lodge, and so we're listening.
Here are answers and important facts about Spicewood Lodge.
Most importantly, please read about how Spicewood Lodge will have no noticeable impact on traffic and will not be as large as some are imagining, since 94.2% of the property will not be developed.
Plus, any development is limited by the Watershed Protection Ordinance.
Does Spicewood Lodge require approval from Austin City Council in order to move forward?
No, Spicewood Lodge does not need approval from Austin City Council.
What we do seek from the City of Austin is a mutually-beneficial agreement to provide utility services to Spicewood Lodge.
Spicewood Lodge would then be able to be annexed and become part of the City of Austin. In addition to paying for all utility costs, Spicewood Lodge would also pay property taxes and hotel occupancy taxes to the City of Austin—a long-term benefit to Austin’s tax base.
Is Spicewood Lodge too big?
No, Spicewood Lodge is not big at all. In fact, it is relatively small when compared with hotels and motels in Austin. Spicewood Lodge plans only 85-125 rooms, which means it will be outsized by many other hotels and motels. At 125 rooms, Spicewood Lodge is the 78th “largest” lodging in Austin. At 85 rooms, Spicewood Lodge falls to the 125th “largest” lodging in Austin.
To put it in another perspective, Spicewood Lodge will be designed and built much like the beloved lodges found in many of our nation’s national parks, like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Big Bend, and the Grand Canyon. But Spicewood Lodge will be much smaller than the majority of those lodges, since 94.2% of the property will not be developed.
Is this the wrong spot for a Lodge?
Located at 6315 Spicewood Springs Road, it is the perfect spot. While a lodge might seem, at first, incompatible with the natural surroundings, the reality is when we experience nature, it heightens our awareness and desire to conserve and preserve the land.
For example, most of the great national parks of the United States and Canada have lodges in the middle of their parks and close to natural wonders. In Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Inn is built feet away from the famous geyser, Old Faithful. In Grand Canyon National Park, visitors can stay at El Tovar, which is only 20-ft. from the canyon rim. In Crater Lake National Park, Crater Lake Lodge sits on the edge of the lake. There are more instances.
In contrast, Spicewood Lodge will be built at a minimum of 300-ft. away from Bull Creek and the limestone wall that towers over the land. But just like how the National Park Service encourages visitation and lodging inside our national parks, we feel that Spicewood Lodge will present opportunity for visitors to get to know and fall in love with Bull Creek—just like many Austinites love and care for Barton Creek and Town Lake. Without taking anything away from its more famous watery sisters, Bull Creek is unique. The water is shallow. You can walk in it for miles. While there are waterfalls and other natural features that make Bull Creek an attraction for hikers, the area is largely unknown to the general public.
Won’t Spicewood Lodge overwhelm traffic in the area?
No, the number of cars that Spicewood Lodge will add to the existing traffic is exceedingly small based on the results of a traffic study conducted by GRAMM Traffic Counting, Inc. in December 2016. (The study was done before the holidays.) These mathematical results make it clear that Spicewood Lodge will have no discernable impact on traffic. Let’s review the numbers.
How many cars are on the roads now?
An average of 7,994 cars drive past the front of the Spicewood Lodge property on a regular workday.
- Spicewood Springs Road averages 1,323 coming from the east during the morning.
- Spicewood Springs Road averages 1,599 cars going west during the afternoon.
- Yaupon Rd. averages 724 cars coming south during the morning.
- Yaupon Rd. averages 1,273 cars going north during the afternoon.
- When combined, that's 2,047 cars in the morning (6:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.)
- When combined, that’s 2,872 cars in the afternoon (3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.)
On an average work day, the traffic on Spicewood Springs adds up to 7,994 cars a day.
When does the most traffic occur?
- 59% of eastbound traffic occurs between 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. That’s 2,047 cars.
- 64% of westbound traffic occurs between 3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. That’s 2,872 cars.
- The traffic on this road is therefore concentrated in the morning and afternoon rush-hours mainly in one direction.
How many cars will the project add to current traffic?
An 85-room lodge will likely produce 306 vehicle trips per day, or an average of only 153 cars in each direction. That’s 3.6 car trips per room, including staff and guest uses, and lodge diners. These calculations were made by following the criteria in the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Trip Generation Manual (9th Edition, 2012), and Trafficware, LLC software. The projections include both lodge staff and guests.
What percentage of the traffic would come from the project?
The percentage of traffic that would come from Spicewood Lodge adds up to merely 3.8% of the total traffic for the entire day on Spicewood Spring Road. (306 car trips divided by 7,994 total cars passing in front of the property on a typical work day.)
Isn’t there a lot of traffic already on Spicewood Springs and Yaupon?
Yes, there are cars on the streets. During rush hours, many of the drivers are people who do not live on Yaupon or Spicewood Springs but use these streets to cut-through neighborhoods and bypass traffic on major roads, like 183. So, in the morning, there are more cars traveling towards the city, and in the afternoon cars return from the city—all in a concentrated period of time.
Isn’t Spicewood Lodge going to make rush hour traffic worse?
No, our lodge’s guests will not follow rush hour traffic patterns, because as is the nature of lodges, they are not all heading to work and returning home during rush hours when traffic is at its peak, but follow a more varied distribution of trips throughout the day.
What will Spicewood Lodge do to mitigate traffic?
Spicewood Springs already has warning signs for drivers. They alert drivers to adjust their speeds down from 35 mph to as little as 20 mph around some corners.
To further improve safety, the owners of Spicewood Lodge have made an offer to both the City of Austin and neighbors to install traffic mitigation alternatives, such as placing additional safety signage, widening the road in front of our property, or adding road shoulders and a left-turn lane.
Won’t Spicewood Lodge pollute Bull Creek?
No, Spicewood Lodge won’t pollute Bull Creek. There is a very strong Watershed Protection Ordinance passed in October 2013 by the City of Austin that we must follow. The Watershed Protection Ordinance works to improve creek and floodplain protection, prevent unsustainable public expense on drainage systems, and minimize the ability to develop land.
This means there are incredibly strict limits on impervious coverage, water quality and water detention that we have to follow.
Furthermore, we plan to have water quality and detention ponds that will handle rain water in accordance with the ordinance.
It is also important to note that the developments adjoining our land including homes and office buildings and even parklands were all built prior to passage of the Watershed Protection Ordinance, and they do not observe it.
Everyone should be more concerned about the pollution that comes from human activity in and around Bull Creek and fecal waste from animals including dogs and horses; as well as the cars that drive through the creek on a daily basis at each low water crossing.
In addition, it is shocking that cars are allowed to drive into Bull Creek on a regular basis at the Winding Ridge Blvd. low-water crossing, since cars and trucks can drip oil and other pollutants into the water. There is no signage advising against driving into the creek.
Unfortunately, people also regularly litter the area with trash including diapers, beer cans and other refuse that no one cleans up. There are no trash cans.
Isn’t Spicewood Lodge at risk in a flood?
No, the lodge is being built outside the flood plain.
During heavy rain events, which happen about once a year, Spicewood Springs Road’s low-water crossings are closed to traffic as water heads quickly downstream. However, our property has secondary access from Yaupon, which is not in any danger from flooding.
Low-water crossings are a fact of life throughout Austin. They are not unique to Spicewood Springs Road. Local authorities frequently work with the local media to warn drivers about the hazards of low-water crossings.
We hear the concerns about flooding. But dozens of residential homes and several businesses have existed on Spicewood Springs for many years without concern about major flooding or road access. No one is clamoring for those homes or business to be removed.
Why can’t the land stay “pristine”?
Since 94.2% of the property will not be developed, much of the land will remain pristine. Only 5.8% of the land will be developed.
In stark contrast, all of the neighboring residential homes have built impervious structures on 40% of their lots—or even more on properties that were built upon before ordinances limiting impervious cover were passed.
Are there any other environmental concerns?
We are confident that Spicewood Lodge presents no significant environmental risks. In 2016, Horizon Environmental Services Inc., performed a comprehensive Environmental Resource Inventory and reached that conclusion in part because only 5.8% of the site will be developed for the Lodge.
In accordance with local environmental regulations, a modern rain and flood water system with water quality and detention ponds will be installed to handle rain water.
Won’t Spicewood Lodge cause a “domino effect” and lead to more development all along Spicewood Springs?
No, because the Watershed Protection Ordinance significantly limits development within 600-ft of each side of the creek. Otherwise, new development would have to be built on 5% or less of any such parcel.
Doesn’t Spicewood Lodge ruin “the view” for some residents?
Private views are not protected under the Texas Constitution. Views change all the time over Austin for everyone as our city grows.
The limestone wall stands behind Spicewood Lodge. It tops off at 956-ft above sea level and the base of the creek is at 614-ft. Therefore, the bluff rises 342-ft. above the creek. The Lodge will be much, much shorter than that. The bluff is at least 3,00-ft. wide, and the Lodge will be far too small to obstruct the view of the wall.
However, a four-story mini warehouse project has been permitted right across Spicewood Springs Road from our site. That project will block the view of the Lodge for the six homeowners and drivers at the intersection of Spicewood Springs Road and Yaupon.
Moreover, no homes on Spicewood or Yaupon directly face Spicewood Lodge it from their front or back yards.
Looking southward from the corner of Yaupon and Duranta, Spicewood Lodge will not be visible. However, depending on its final height, the top floors of Spicewood Lodge might be visible from the corner of Yaupon and Grayfeather, since that intersection is extremely elevated much like what drivers see when driving westward on Spicewood Springs towards 360 or from any other highly-elevated road in Austin.
In any event, Spicewood Lodge will be visually overwhelmed both in height and width by the limestone wall. More importantly, Spicewood Lodge will be located significantly to the west of the Yaupon and Spicewood Springs intersection, so it will not stand in front of drivers as they come down the hill.
Spicewood Lodge will not block anyone’s view of the land. In fact, only 5.8% of the land only will be built upon. Approximately 94.2% of the property not be developed. And unlike some apartments on 2222 which are on top of large hills, Spicewood Lodge is at the bottom of a hill.
The abundance of trees on the property will still block most of the views as they do now.
Will Spicewood Lodge be a fire hazard?
No, Spicewood Lodge will not present a fire hazard. The owners of Spicewood Lodge will pay to improve utilities in the area including the extension of a water line to the project that will provide sufficient water in the unlikely event of a fire and ensure the safety of the Lodge and its guests.
Unlike most of the structures nearby with wood frames and wood exteriors, Spicewood Lodge will be built with non-combustible materials and it will have fire sprinklers and other modern fire suppression systems.
In addition, we will reduce the current fire risk on the property from dead wood and debris, since the land has not been looked after for quite some time.
Will Spicewood Lodge have adequate fire escape routes?
Yes, Spicewood Lodge will comply with all fire codes, including those related to evacuation of people. Since the property will remain 94% undeveloped, there will be plenty of places to seek refuge. In addition to nearly 1,200 linear feet of road along Spicewood Springs, people will be able to escape via Yaupon, which will offer a 3rd route of escape not available to most properties on Spicewood Springs Road.
Has the developer gotten input from the neighborhoods?
Yes, we have worked hard to build a dialogue and these questions and answers are part of that effort. We met formally at least four times with the neighbor association. Although we are certainly open to modifying the plan, the neighbors have not suggested any compromise or limits that would be acceptable. The neighbors insist that the only possible resolution is for the land owner to drop its plan and turn the land into a park.
If the City of Austin or Travis County wanted to turn our property into a park, they could do so under the condemnation procedure available to them by law, in which case they would have to pay the fair market value.
While the only solution suggested by neighbors is a new park, it is plain that the current parks in this part of Austin are neglected and do not have adequate parking.
How tall is the Lodge going to be?
Spicewood Lodge is outside the City of Austin, so building a “tall” building is a permissible use of the land. The owners are not seeking a zoning change or variance from Austin City Council.
However, the owners are open to limits on the height and room count for the project.
It is the policy of the State of Texas to encourage users outside city limits to attempt to connect to municipal sewer lines, if such are within a reasonable distance from the property. In accordance with this standard practice, we have requested utility service from the City of Austin.
If the City of Austin agrees to provide utility services, then Spicewood Lodge would be able to be annexed and become part of the City. In addition to paying for all utility costs, Spicewood Lodge would also pay property taxes and hotel occupancy taxes to the City of Austin—a long-term benefit to Austin’s tax base.
However, if Austin City Council decides to not approve utility service connections to Spicewood Lodge, then the property would remain outside city limits.
Spicewood Lodge will still be built, but the owners would work with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to resolve how utilities would be provided. This is a common thing for property development in Texas outside city limits.
The owners of Spicewood Lodge would still pay for the construction and maintenance of private utilities, but would not be obligated to pay city-owned utility fees, property taxes or hotel occupancy taxes.
Lastly, the Spicewood Lodge project would be built following the code of the county rather than Austin’s Land Development Code.
Is Spicewood Lodge able to provide its own private utilities?
Yes, Spicewood Lodge could easily have a water well, tanks full of water to put out fires, and enough water for guests. Sewage can be easily handled and collected.
Spicewood Lodge’s civil engineers are confident that this is not an unsurmountable challenge, since it is common throughout Travis County and much of Texas where municipal services are unavailable.
However, the added cost of such utilities would require the developer to build a bigger project in order to amortize such additional costs.
When is Spicewood Lodge going to be built?
After an agreement to provide utilities is reached with the City of Austin, the building process will start immediately. The entire process from planning to completion will likely take 20-30 months.
Why is this Lodge a good idea?
In the spirit of the National Park Service, we feel that it is good for people to be able to get close to nature. It’s good when people learn about it, begin to love it and start acting to protect it.
We are a local group and we take the stewardship of this site very seriously. Our proposal is for a moderately-sized lodge within a very small footprint that will follow all of the Watershed Protection rules and, ultimately, make less impact on the land than the underfunded parks and unsupervised creek areas located nearby.
At this point, all we are asking from Austin City Council is for the ability to connect the Lodge to the city-owned utilities in exchange for annexation.
If this routine request is denied, then we will remain outside the city limits and still proceed by installing and maintaining our own utilities.