Bastrop County REALTORS® Chart Smart Growth for a Small Texas Town
Dating back to the 1830s, the town of Bastrop is home to the original settlement in Texas. Located Southeast of Austin, Bastrop County is experiencing many effects from that city’s phenomenal growth.
Not willing to sit back and hope for the best, last fall the REALTORS® of Bastrop County invited the National Association of REALTORS® to come present its course on Smart Growth for the 21st Century. The board of only 169 REALTOR® members and 19 affiliates (so small that it’s actually administered by the state association) filled the classroom with a whopping 68 eager participants.
That would be a remarkable number even for a large board, says John Rosshirt, who’s traveled the country teaching NAR’s Smart Growth course for years. He was especially impressed that, in addition to about 45 REALTOR® members, more than a dozen local public officials were in attendance. The key to the great turnout, he says, was the hard work and vision of organizer Tina Fucile, a former President of the Bastrop Board of REALTORS® who remains very active in board matters. “She did a great job bringing in, not just people who care, but the community leaders who are already positioned to make things happen. It was a great model, and a perfect use of REALTOR® Party grant money.”
Fucile explains that growth is always on the mind of the REALTOR® community in Bastrop County. “We have a low inventory of properties, and everyone wants some development, but we want to control it from the inside-out, not the other way around. We’ve seen towns swallowed up by the big cities. That’s not what anyone wants to happen here!” Bastrop is a fairly rural county, she adds, with an important historic element, and the community feels strongly that any development plan must respect its history and character, as well as protect it from the onslaught of Austin, one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities.
Once the Smart Growth course was on the calendar, Fucile wrote personal letters of invitation to all the local chambers of commerce, county commissioners, city council members and municipal executives. “Each of the three cities in our county, and the county, itself, had someone in attendance, including a mayor, a judge, the presidents of three chambers of commerce and three Economic Development Directors,” she reports. “The Director of the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation was especially supportive, and even helped to underwrite the expense of renting the Bastrop Convention Center.”
Rosshirt says that the investment of the participants made it an especially productive course. “I was able to spend four hours talking to a room of fully-engaged people about the importance of good living spaces, jobs and education to their county’s future.” The message of the course, he notes, is not NAR coming in and telling a community what to do. “I tell them, ‘If you want to be smart about growth, these are the things you’ll need to consider.’ Each community has to decide what’s good for itself, but it doesn't have to re-invent the wheel.”
Fucile says that the course material was relevant to Bastrop and well received. “It really started the conversation about Smart Growth and mixed-use development, and specifically, the benefits associated with higher density growth. With so much growth in Central Texas, appropriate management is key to maintaining a community identity.” Since the Smart Growth course was presented, the City Council of Bastrop has cleared the way for a 74-lot high-density development along the river, a natural growth boundary, that will house municipal workers and preserve plenty of green space for all to enjoy. “I can’t say that the course was directly responsible for this decision,” says Fucile, “but I'm pretty sure it had an impact.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Bastrop County are preparing it for Smart Growth as Austin encroaches, contact Tina Fucile at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-789-7912; or John Rosshirt at email@example.com or 512-327-9310.
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