Bas­trop 11th-fastest-grow­ing Texas county

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Andy Sevilla asevilla@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

Bas­trop is the 11th-fastest-grow­ing county in Texas, ac­cord­ing to U.S. cen­sus data mea­sur­ing growth from 2015 to 2016.

In that year, Bas­trop County grew by 3.15 per­cent, reach­ing an es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 82,733 in 2016.

“Our growth is ex­pected, since we are next door to per­haps the No. 1 econ­omy in the na­tion,” Bas­trop County Judge Paul Pape said. “Jobs are avail­able and our cost of liv­ing is rel­a­tively low.”

Bas­trop County’s net migration rate was 25.91 in 2016, mean­ing that for ev­ery 1,000 peo­ple in the county, about 26 of them were new­com­ers last year. Since 2010, the county has grown by larger rates year over year, with 2012 be­ing the only ex­cep­tion.

In 2012, the county’s pop­u­la­tion de­creased by 312 res­i­dents fol­low­ing the 2011 Com­plex Fire that burned 34,000 acres, de­stroyed more than 1,600 homes and left two peo­ple dead.

“As we grow, we have to bal­ance pri­vate prop­erty rights and the pub­lic in­ter­est,” Pape said. “Growth is nei­ther good nor bad, al­though I think we’d all pre­fer a com­mu­nity that is dy­namic rather than dy­ing. It’s all in the way we man­age it to achieve de­sired out­comes.”

And with the county’s de­vel­op­ment ser­vices of­fice re­port­ing per­mit re­quests are up to near record lev­els, Pape said the “chal­lenge is to man­age the growth to pre­serve the ru­ral am­biance of Bas­trop County, as best we can.”

“Coun­ties do not have zon­ing or land-use author­ity, so we can only do so much,” he said. “The Com­mis­sion­ers Court is now re­view­ing our sub­di­vi­sion or­di­nance to be re­spon­sive to the de­mand and guide our growth.”

Since 2010, Bas­trop County has grown 11.31 per­cent, up from 74,326 to 82,733.

A 2015 hous­ing study com­mis­sioned by the Bas­trop Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp. sug­gested the city could be­come the next hous­ing hot spot in Cen­tral Texas with home sales reach­ing up to 250 per year through 2020, and 325 clos­ings per year in the next five to 10 years in the city alone.

The city’s mul­ti­fam­ily hous­ing de­mand could sup­port be­tween 750 and 1,125 new rental units, or small- to medium-size apart­ment build­ings, through 2020.

The hous­ing study found that Bas­trop’s prox­im­ity to Austin and Hous­ton, and its qual­ity-of-life com­mu­nity ameni­ties, will in­crease its share of the Austin re­gional hous­ing mar­ket. As prime and high-ac­tiv­ity sub­mar­kets along In­ter­state 35 fill up and be­come less af­ford­able, con­tin­ued growth will shift new home con­struc­tion to emerg­ing, at­trac­tive ar­eas in the south­east sec­tor.

As de­vel­op­ers look to build projects in Bas­trop County, the lo­cal gov­ern­ments are grap­pling with how to keep up with in­fra­struc­ture de­mands.

Crum­bling roads and drainage woes have been top con­cerns as four ma­jor floods struck Bas­trop County over 12 months in 2015-16.

Bas­trop has also iden­ti­fied about $30 mil­lion in needed wa­ter and waste­water im­prove­ments, and of­fi­cials have dis­cussed call­ing for a bond elec­tion to help im­prove ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture needs.

“I be­lieve that de­vel­op­ment should pay its own way,” Pape said. “We are for­tu­nate to have pro­gres­sive util­i­ties serv­ing through­out the county. They also sup­port growth within an ex­pected qual­ity of de­vel­op­ment.”

Agn Cheng pets a chicken at the pet­ting zoo. City res­i­dents signed up for ac­tiv­i­ties such as sum­mer camp and swim lessons at the event.

Colton Sal­is­bury plays with robotics dur­ing the Spring Pfling. Ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able in­cluded film­mak­ing, dig­i­tal photography and danc­ing.

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