Marble Falls eyes growth, affordable housing for future

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

MARBLE FALLS — City leaders believe they must strike a balance between the needs of aging infrastructure within the community and investing in future growth and development, according to discussions during a city planning retreat June 9.

Marble Falls Mayor John Packer said the so-called “visioning” session unveiled what the Marble Falls City Council believes should be the top priorities for the community.

“We spent time planning about what we think we want Marble Falls to look like over the next 20 years, what things are important to us, so that we can make shorter-term plans based on those visions,” he said.

Packer was a council member for four years before being elected mayor in May. He also serves on the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp., which works to encourage business growth in the area.

“We realize we are the retail hub for the area, and we also realize we are a tourist destination for the area,” he said. “We’ll be those regardless, so how do we capitalize on those things?”

Council members expect concentrated residential and commercial growth in the next 10-20 years around a newly constructed hospital at the U.S. 281 and Texas 71 intersection.

The Baylor Scott & White Hospital-Marble Falls, located on Texas 71 just off U.S. 281, is a 46-bed, 188,000-square-foot, four-story facility expected to be open in August.

The city has annexed several hundred acres at that intersection in an area known as Gregg Ranch, expected to be developed to include 1,500 homes. Also at that intersection, Flatrock Springs encompasses a potential 1,000-acre development.

“The growth is what’s going to help fund some of our new infrastructure, but also growth in our real estate values and revenue from that will help with much-needed repairs on the roads and infrastructure,” he said.

Packer said the empahsis on development for the community would move the city away from such a heavy reliance on sales-tax revenue.

“We are very dependent on our sales tax right now. So if the economy slows down, it affects our revenue significantly,” he said. “In the long term, we’d like to see a shift where property taxes are a bigger portion. But not by raising taxes but by encouraging development around the city.”

As development takes shape, he believes more revenue would help fund projects to improve city services.

“Obviously, we have old infrastructure that needs to be repaired, updated, upgraded, and we’ll have new infrastructure also (with development),” he said. “There’s talk about what our vision is to get those things back up to where they need to be.”

Other discussion included laying the groundwork for affordable housing efforts, both single-family and multi-family residential units, in the heart of the city, referred to as the “old Marble Falls” neighborhoods east and west of U.S. 281.

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