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County's latest acquisition 'complements what we have'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Recently, Bandera County Commissioners apparently put the kibosh on a recommendation that had surfaced frequently in various incarnations of the City of Bandera's recently adopted Comprehensive Long Range Land Use Master Plan - aka master plan.
During a regular meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10, commissioners emerged from a short closed executive session to approve a motion for the purchase of the Plaza Building at 1214 Hackberry Street for $149,172. The property is at the intersection of Hackberry and 12th streets.
Clearly pleased with the acquisition, Judge Richard Evans said in an interview, "This will be a good addition to the consolidation of county services to the \"taxpayers\".
According to reports, the building has undergone "renovations" since the Bandera County Courier called it "home" from May 1, 2005 through March 26, 2007.
Commissioners and Evans were understandably mum about plans for the building. However, speculations included that short-range plans might indicate it would be used to house local county government agencies - to be identified at a later date.
Long-range plans could possibly include razing the building, built in the 1970s, and constructing an edifice more appropriate to the historic nature of Courthouse Square.
Differing versions of the city's master plan had proposed an expansion of the area. Robin Abrams and Simon Atkinson, formerly of Austin's Urban Design Group, advocated establishing businesses catering to tourism on the streets facing the courthouse to create another commercial district. Abrams and Atkinson first promulgated this idea in September 2008.
During the meeting, Atkinson discussed the courthouse square district at length, describing the courthouse, built in 1891, as "wonderful, dignified and well-scaled." However, he simultaneously decried the "inappropriate buildings that surround it," saying they "need to go."
At that time, Atkinson felt that with the opening of the jail and justice center some of the "inappropriate" businesses would relocate to Highway 173, leaving space for what he considered more suitable venues. His vision included two- or three-story buildings with commercial shops on the ground floor and living quarters above.
"You want life in this area and the whole strip needs a better appearance and better use," he said.
To their credit, longtime city and county residents foresaw problems with UDA's recommendations for Courthouse Square. While enthusiastic about the proposal, Cindy Harrington, a former member of the City of Bandera Planning and Zoning Commission, noted pragmatically, "I like the idea of bringing historical districts and tourism together, but I don't know if we can implement it."
In June 2009, Genie Strickland echoed Harrington, taking exception to the description of proposed combinations of retail and residences. She said, "Historically, that never happened in Bandera and won't fit if Bandera intends to keep its western heritage."
In July 2009, Bandera Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher, who eventually ended up reformulating UDA's fragmented and incomplete master plan, simply advocated coordinating Courthouse Square with other components of the municipality such as Old Town, Town Square and the Cabaret districts.
Clearly pleased with the county's acquisition, Evans said, "This will be a good addition to the consolidation of county services to the taxpayers," she wrote
The corner lot, which measures .366 of an acre, extends to the parking lot of the tax office and includes the storage garage behind the Plaza Building. "We always need more parking during tax time and this gives us a lot of latitude and complements what we already have," Evans said.