A Dallas billionaire looking to build a resort with luxury homes in the Texas Hill Country is at odds with neighboring countries that oppose the development on environmental grounds.
Steve Winn, who made his fortune as the founder of RealPage, a Richardson-based property management software company, says the 1,400-acre property he named Mirasol Springs offers a model for conscientious development.
Sewage will be treated on-site and used for irrigation, and all buildings will have reservoirs to store rainwater. No fertilizers or pesticides are permitted, and more than two-thirds of his land is placed in a conservation easement.
It’s not enough for environmental groups trying to protect the rugged landscape of rolling hills and clear water in the face of erosion of development, motor vehicle traffic and tourism.
Opponents of Mirasol Springs, near where Roy Creek empties into the Pedernales River for about 35 miles (about 35 miles), hope to throw a wrench into efforts to build on the site of Mirasol Springs. He lobbied the federal government to declare the salamander endangered. west of downtown Austin.
Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, a water-focused nonprofit, said: “If you pump rivers and springs to make these species extinct, you will soon follow suit.”
Hill County Uniqueness
Hill Country spans all or part of more than 20 counties in central Texas, and the vibrant Austin and San Antonio cities on the eastern edge of the region are driving the ranch-to-suburban conversion.
As technology companies such as Oracle, Tesla and Samsung invested billions in the region, urban real estate prices soared with the population, prompting some homebuyers to look for cheaper properties. .
It’s easy to see why the area around Mirasol Springs, in unincorporated areas of both Travis and Hayes counties, is particularly appealing.
Several wineries and wedding venues are located within a few miles of the site, just steps away from Pedernales Falls State Park and an environmental reserve called West Cave. Visitors wishing to swim with the giant, semi-docile catfish that live in nearby Hamilton Pool Preserve, a county-owned swimming area, must make summer reservations months in advance.
Surrounding all the natural beauty are several recently constructed luxury lots, offering amenities such as boardwalks, lazy rivers and pickleball courts.
In Belvedere, a gated community of 223 residential lots, single-family homes have sold for over $2 million. A nearby 53-acre property with a three-bedroom, 3,283-square-foot home is listed for $5.7 million.
Winn officials are tight-lipped about the total cost of the project, the average size of the homes that will be built, and the price they plan to charge. Upon completion, there will be 40 homes, a 71-room hotel, 30 resort residences and an event barn. The restaurant incorporates locally grown ingredients.
With projects of similar scale underway across Hill Country, conservationists are sounding the alarm.
The Texas Hill Country Conservation Network said in its 2022 report, “This iconic landscape, filled with rural communities rich in natural beauty and heritage, faces major threats from unregulated growth and development. “The opportunity to keep Hill Country idyllic, natural and vibrant will likely be closed in our generation.”
lead the opposition
The strongest opposition to Mirasol Springs comes from 77-year-old retiree and former film producer Lou Adams. He owns his 50-acre property surrounded on three sides by Mirasol Springs, along with other relatives and another family, the Blacks.
The land of Adam’s Black, called Roy Creek Canyon, consists of two primitive huts, outhouses and a steep canyon carved out of limestone formations. It is an undeniably beautiful oasis with its own cool microclimate and several pristine swimming holes.
Adams is particularly concerned that unidentified water use at Mirasol Springs will dry up the springs that feed Roy Creek, keeping his canyon very lush.
Parts of the Hill Country are experiencing the most severe levels of “exceptional drought” conditions.
Adams has hosted scientific research groups, University of Texas biology classes, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Service officials on his property to showcase its biodiversity. Currently, Austin’s St. He serves as a field lab for Edwards University students.
The canyon is home to the endangered Golden Teak Warbler and a newly discovered species of salamander that the Save Our Springs Alliance has petitioned to be added to the endangered species list. Amphibians live around limestone springs and other water-filled subterranean spaces in the area, and protecting habitats like Roy Creek Canyon is critical to their survival, said Amphibians. advocate said.
Adams’ father, Red, purchased the canyon with a friend in 1941, and since then the land has been used primarily for research and family vacations.
Adams said he invited Wynn to the canyon after property developer Mirasol Capital purchased the surrounding land in 2018.
“It was spring and it was wonderful,” said Adams. “We walked in and Steve was standing there. He was looking around at the trees and everything. He turned around and said, ‘I feel like I’m in a cathedral.’ said. ”
Adams said he feels betrayed by Wynn’s land development plans.
“You say this is the cathedral to you, and yet you are willing to utterly desecrate it,” he lamented.
Winn, who sold RealPage for $10.2 billion in 2021, admitted he was on tour with Adams in Canyon and declined an interview request.
“Mirasol Springs creates an experience that combines education, conservation and conservation,” Winn said in an email. “When all these visions are coordinated to work together in harmony, they present a model for future development.”
Mirasol Springs labels itself on its website as a “conservation scale development” designed to serve as a model for how to incorporate and protect the natural landscape of the Texas Hill Country. There are plans to build a field station to be used by a University of Texas class studying birds, native plants, insects, and aquatic life.
Commitments to limit water use and runoff, protection of easements, and commitment to restoring native vegetation such as cypress trees will allow developers to become powerful custodians of the land, it said. .
For now, the development site remains mostly empty as Wynn awaits submission of groundwater permits and site development permits in Travis County.
As you drive past, you’ll see kennels, chicken coops, and an old farmhouse used by previous owners. The developer hopes to complete Mirasol Springs in the first quarter of 2026.
“The impact of the development itself is likely to be minimal,” said Robert Mace, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment and professor at Texas State University. says. “But when the area starts to develop, everything becomes complicated and more problems arise.”
Shelly Hagan, Bloomberg