The land use plan defines the existing development in a community and provides the guidelines for making decisions about new development. It will coordinate with the growth management section to ensure that Blanco will remain the desirable community that it is currently. It is important to understand that the land use plan does not constitute zoning; it is a policy guide for the city in managing growth within the existing city limits as well as future expansion through annexation. It lays out the desired development areas so developers and city leaders can make informed decisions about where growth should occur. The desired development areas should be well served by infrastructure, or located in areas where utility extensions are most cost effective. Another important consideration is existing land use so any new development has minimal impact on current residents and businesses.
Current Land Use
Download Current Land Use Map: Map no longer available
WARNING — This PDF reflects an analysis of the land use when the master plan was written. It does not show the city's current zoning or ordinances.
As mentioned, the land use survey identified the existing conditions in Blanco. Defining current land use allows a more educated approach to decision making regarding future development. Properties were defined using the following categories.
This is used to describe land primarily used for farming or ranching activities.
Typical commercial properties are automobile dealerships and garages, warehouses, etc. In addition, bed & breakfast establishments and hotels were identified as commercial.
Property identified as industrial is being used for manufacturing processes, quarries, and other intensive uses.
Properties with Manufactured or Mobile Homes
Mixed Use properties are those where there are more than one land use type. These may be residences that also contain a commercial establishment, agricultural land that also has a residence, or other variation.
Properties with more than one dwelling unit (duplexes, apartments, etc.)
Land dedicated to open space or recreation
Public land is that which is owned by government agencies (parks, City Hall, etc) and that of churches, cemeteries, schools, etc.
Retail is grocery stores, service shops (hair salons, dry cleaners, etc), restaurants, etc. It also includes professional offices and banks. Small retail typically does not generate more than 50 trips per day. Large retail typically generates more than 50 trips per day, with longer hours, and is often mixed with commercial uses. As can be expected most of the retail in Blanco is small, catering to the local population.
Property with a single family detached residence
Land that is vacant contains no structures and is not used for agriculture. Not all vacant land may be suitable for development, as it may fall in the floodplain or have other restrictions. However, it identifies potential areas for development of new residential or other types of land use.
Blanco's land use has evolved organically due to the lack of land use regulations (Illustration 4-1). The city did adopt a zoning ordinance; however, it was only in place for a limited time. Because of the lack of regulation, development occurred almost entirely due to market demand. This focused the commercial and industrial growth on the areas with the best transportation access on Hwy 281 and FM 165. Retail growth also centered on Hwy 281 and in the downtown. Homes were developed around these areas and on feeder roads off of Hwy 281, particularly the large developments being built outside of town. One important consideration is that the acreage defined for each use in this plan is approximate. Because parcel boundaries were not available to map land use, each one was defined by estimating the boundaries from an aerial photograph. Blanco County is currently developing a digital parcel map, once the parcels within Blanco are put into the system, the city should acquire an accurate parcel map. This will be especially important if Blanco moves forward with zoning.
Blanco currently has approximately 291 acres of agricultural land within the city limits. These contribute to the rural character that is so important to many residents; however, they may cause conflict with nearby residences due to noise, dust, and other issues. Vacant land constitutes approximately 300 acres within the city limits. This undeveloped land offers a tremendous opportunity to the city because much of the expected growth in Blanco can be accommodated without annexation. There are also properties suitable for some larger developments, which can be more profitable for developers. The main benefit to this is that these properties are in proximity to existing infrastructure, which minimizes the cost of providing utilities. Also, Blanco has limited annexation authority, so focusing development within city limits would maximize the tax base without having to negotiate annexation agreements.
Much of the agricultural land is on the west side of Hwy 281, near the schools and residential areas. A focus of the vacant land is east of Hwy 281, near Hwy 165. The future land use plan will define the potential uses for these properties. One important consideration is the contribution undeveloped lands make to the rural character that is so important to Blanco residents. It will be important to identify those priority properties that should be saved from development. These may be lands in the floodplain, with drainage issues, or with particularly attractive features or agricultural production. By maintaining undeveloped land within the city, Blanco can maintain its small town charm, even in the face of expected growth.
Homes make up the next largest land use in Blanco with approximately 292 acres. This is typical of most communities, especially rural towns. As expected, the largest residential use is single family homes. These are located throughout Blanco, with the majority to the west of Hwy 281. There are some homes directly on Hwy 281; however, this number is rather limited. Manufactured homes are currently unregulated and are found throughout the city. There are a few areas that could be considered manufactured home parks because there are a cluster of homes. Blanco has limited multi family properties, which limits options for many residents seeking a home. There is a "traditional" apartment complex on the east side of town with smaller units throughout the city. This may be an area where the city takes an active role in encouraging new multi family development to provide adequate housing options for all residents.
Commercial and Retail
Blanco has more commercial and retail property (144 acres) than many communities of its size. Some of this is retail buildings that are vacant; however, this shows that there is a significant land devoted to businesses serving the local population. This does not mean there is not a need for additional businesses; however, it does show Blanco is on the right course in ensuring adequate property for business. Commercial uses tend to be more intensive, with more lighting, truck traffic, etc. that may create conflicts with neighboring properties. These are focused along Hwy 281 and on FM 165, which offer the most visibility and access to traffic. This is typical and appropriate because of the high traffic generated by commercial uses. These businesses need access to truck traffic and customers, and routing this through residential uses would be inappropriate. Retail uses do not have the same traffic and visibility issues; however, they also tend to locate on the high traffic areas to tap into the largest potential market. Most of Blanco's retail uses are along Hwy 281, including the downtown. There are smaller retail centers off of the highway as well. Redevelopment of the downtown will create additional retail businesses serving Blanco.
Blanco currently has nearly 65 acres of land dedicated to industrial uses. As with commercial, these are located on or near Hwy 281 and are on the outskirts of town. This is appropriate because of the high impact these uses have on adjoining properties. It is likely that further industrial growth will occur on Hwy 281, and with the extension of a water line to serve the Real Ale Brewery north of town, this can serve as the focus for new industrial development.
Public land uses include government buildings, parks, and cemeteries. These are lands that are necessary for a city to conduct its business and provide services to its residents. Blanco has two local parks, Bindseil Park which links downtown with Blanco State Park, and Yett Park, which is maintained by local organizations. In addition, Blanco State Park runs through the middle of the city. As discussed in the community development plan there is a need for additional parks and open space throughout Blanco. Other public uses include the Post Office, City Hall, the historic courthouse, and city utilities. These are necessary, and by providing offices downtown, can help generate traffic and customers for downtown businesses. The Post Office in particular is a draw for downtown because so many residents get their mail on site. The courthouse also serves as a tourist attraction for Blanco.
Mixed use is not a common land use in Blanco. There are a few properties with a residence and business co-located. These are scattered throughout town. In many communities, the downtown offers an opportunity for mixing retail with residential; however, most of the buildings in Blanco are single-story and not suitable for mixed use. An opportunity may be for undeveloped land near downtown to be built as mixed use properties.
Future Land Use
Download Future Land Use Map: PDF format (477 KB)
The future land use plan lays the foundation for managing growth in Blanco. It identifies areas most suitable for different kinds of development and allows city leadership to make informed decisions when confronted with development proposals. The land use plan is not zoning, there is no regulatory authority inherent in the plan. If Blanco moves forward with zoning, this will form the basis for the zoning map and ordinance; however, it now serves only as a guideline for decision making, not a regulatory document.
Between 1990 and 2000, the population of Blanco grew from 1,238 to 1,505 nearly a 22% increase. Over the next 15 years, Blanco can expect its population to grow to between 2,000 and 2,500 residents (see the Demographic Analysis.) This will present a challenge for the future to absorb this level of growth and maintain the small town character that is so cherished by residents. One opportunity for Blanco is the large amount of vacant land within the city limits. This land will allow for development in areas already served by infrastructure and within Blanco's taxing authority and regulation. As discussed in the growth management plan, these areas should be the focus for new development, especially because development in the county is already occurring at a rapid pace. This growth is causing concern among many residents because the majority of it is large lot, expensive homes, that are unaffordable for many residents. This plan discusses the preferred growth scenario for Blanco, allowing residents and city leadership to understand how development can be managed for the benefit of all residents.
The following recommendations are similar to the current land use discussion above. It discusses each land use individually and identifies where it should be focused and the reasons for that location. The Future Land Use map (Illustration 4-2) shows in detail how growth should occur in Blanco.
Single Family Residential
Participants in the land use workshop identified the need for different types of single family residences, which are not found currently in Blanco. One of these was the potential for "garden" homes, which are homes with small lots and minimal setbacks. These are often found in resort style developments. A development of this type is proposed for Blanco on the western edge of the city, just north of the river. This area offers an opportunity to develop a golf course style community which would provide a higher end home than is found currently inside Blanco city limits. This type of development may also serve to attract seniors who are looking to downsize their homes, minimize their maintenance, and have nearby recreation amenities. This development may also provide an opportunity to create workforce housing. The city could offer to allow the developer to build on smaller lots if a percentage of the homes are set aside for those making at or near the median income. As discussed in the growth management plan, mixed income neighborhoods are growing in popularity and are shown to be more successful than having housing that is strictly segregated by income.
More traditional single family homes are being developed outside the city limits, in Cielo Springs, on the southwest side of the city, a subdivision which will likely be annexed soon. Within the current city limits, single family homes will continue to be built in the predominantly residential areas of town west of Hwy 281 and around the high school. Additional single family homes are likely to be built on all sides of Blanco, outside the current city limits and _ mile extra-territorial jurisdiction. It will be important for the city to work to ensure adequate affordable housing be built since most current projects are not affordable for many residents. As discussed in the growth management plan, there may be a need to allow smaller lot sizes to ensure homes are built that meet the needs of current residents.
Multi Family Residential
Apartments and other multi family units are scarce in Blanco. In order for Blanco to accommodate expected growth, there will have to be an increase in the availability of rental property. The future land use map identifies several areas throughout town for multi family development. This may be traditional apartments, or may also be townhomes, and other types of multi family properties. There are three areas identified for multi family development on the future land use map. The first is located to the north of the state park, just west of Hwy 281. This area offers proximity to downtown and the schools, making it ideal for higher density development. This area may also be suitable for senior living development because of its location. The second area is north, in a strip located behind what should become retail and commercial development on Hwy 281. This area would provide access to the retail stores to be developed along Hwy 281, as well as good access via the highway. The final area is in the southeast section of town, between Hwy 281 and FM 165. This area offers excellent road access, proximity to Super S, and has the existing apartment complex. It is likely that not all of the land identified will be, or should be, developed as multi family; however, by identifying several areas, developers will have options for picking the property most suitable for that kind of development.
Another aspect of multi family development is the desire to create a retirement facility in Blanco. This was a priority from the Town Hall meeting and public survey. Two areas were discussed at the Land Use workshop for this type of development. One was in the southeast section, where most of the multi family is found. This area offers proximity to the Super S shopping center, but has limited pedestrian access to the rest of town. Another area was near the high school. This area offers proximity to downtown and much of the existing retail. One concern may be proximity to the stadium and school, with the associated lights and noise issues. There should be a designated area for this kind of development because it is such a priority for residents.
As mentioned, manufactured homes are currently unregulated. This may change, especially if Blanco moves forward with a zoning ordinance. If they become regulated, it will be mandatory for Blanco to set aside enough land to allow for growth of this type. Currently, manufactured homes are found throughout the city; however, there are several concentrations that provide a suitable area for future manufactured home development.
The first of these is in the north west area of town. There are many manufactured homes as well as agricultural land that could be developed in the future as more homes are located in Blanco. This area is close to the elementary school and potential commercial and retail development. The second area is in the southeast section, near the proposed multi family developments. This area has proximity to existing and proposed retail, and is a "mixed use" area with commercial and retail uses. Multi family and manufactured homes are often used as a "buffer" zone to more intense uses, so it is appropriate for them to locate in this area. One drawback may be the impression that the southeast section of town is the "low-income" area due to the concentration of multi family and manufactured housing. However, if there is good design in the developments, and there are standards for home quality, etc. this concern can be minimized and the area be attractive, safe, and an asset to Blanco.
Commercial and Retail
As expected, commercial and retail growth will continue to be focused on Hwy 281. Because this area offers the best access and visibility, it will attract business. This is also beneficial because residential development is not appropriate along a highway because of noise and safety issues. Business activity on Hwy 281 will also help to create a sense of "entering" Blanco which can help to slow traffic. Additional retail development can be located in the downtown, where much is already found. This area is a logical location for businesses that serve both local residents and visitors, thereby creating a destination. The area just west of downtown is also suitable for retail development because there are a number of businesses in this area already. Also, it can serve to expand the retail options for residents and visitors and encourage people to stay longer in Blanco. To make this successful, there will have to be pedestrian access throughout the retail center.
More intense commercial uses, such as auto dealers, repair shops, etc. should be farther out along the highway where it will have less impact on neighboring properties. Also, the increased traffic generated by these uses will not be in the middle of Blanco. Because commercial uses tend to generate more noise, lighting, etc. they should be buffered from existing residences. By locating them on the outskirts, this will be accomplished. Commercial uses also serve to buffer less intense land uses from the designated industrial areas found in the north and south.
Industry is the most intense land use, typically generating the most traffic, noise, and other potential nuisance. Blanco currently has two major industrial areas, one on the north side of town and one in the south. These offer a tremendous opportunity for additional industrial growth in areas already served by infrastructure. In the north, a new waterline is being built to serve Real Ale Brewery. This pipeline should open the area up for additional growth. To the south, access via Hwy 281 and FM 165 offers a good opportunity for additional industrial growth. Also, by locating south of town, industry can receive trucks to and from San Antonio without having to drive through downtown Blanco. Because industry is a foundation for economic development, it is important to provide adequate land for new primary businesses. This plan does that by identifying two areas for growth.
The Future Land Use map does not specifically identify any additional public lands. Potential park sites are identified on the map but these are intended only as a general reference for where parks could be located to best serve proposed and existing development. The existing schools are identified; however, land for additional schools is not on the map. The School District should be involved to ensure that adequate land is available for new schools as Blanco grows. The first area where a new elementary school may be needed is in the south of town, near Cielo Springs development. This school could also serve the Rockin' J Ranch development. The high school is new, and will likely not need expansion in the near future. If the city moves forward with a requirement for new development to provide land or fee in lieu for new school facilities, this issue should not be a major obstacle to growth in Blanco.
Parks and Open Space
While the land use map does not specifically identify where new parks should be located, it does identify appropriate areas of town where new parks should locate. The first of these is in west Blanco, where the majority of current residences are found. There is quite a bit of vacant land in this area, so a suitable park site should be relatively easy to find. A neighborhood park here would serve existing and future residents. Another potential park is near the existing schools, which may also be an appropriate location for the planned recreation center. Another park was identified to the north of Blanco, in proximity to Gem of the Hills. This park would serve the proposed manufactured home development in this area, and potentially residents outside the current city limits. The final area for a park is the southeast section where the majority of multi family housing and manufactured homes are proposed. Again, there is substantial vacant land that could become a large park to serve the concentrated population that may locate in this area.
By locating parks throughout Blanco, it will increase access for all residents, and provide benefits to the entire community. Proximity to parks increases property values substantially, so having several parks will benefit everyone. Also, if the city institutes a parkland dedication requirement for new development, each new subdivision will likely have at least some level of neighborhood park, or there will be money available for the city to develop additional parks.
In addition to parks, protecting agricultural land and undeveloped open space is an important consideration. One option may be to set aside land in a conservation easement which is an opportunity for ranchers and others who do not want to see their land developed to protect their land. Because the land cannot be developed, owners are protected from rising property appraisals and increased taxes. Protecting undeveloped land is a key aspect in maintaining the quality of life and rural character of Blanco. The growth management plan discusses in greater detail the opportunities to protect open space.
The Future Land Use plan is intended as a guideline for where new development should locate. It should be used in conjunction with the recommendations from the growth management plan to ensure that development occurs on local terms and is not dictated by outside forces. The map identifies where different uses should be located based on community desires, current land uses, existing and planned infrastructure, and other factors. In order to be effective, city leaders must commit to utilizing this plan in making their development decisions. Finally, this is the foundation for a zoning ordinance if the city decides that is an appropriate next step. As Blanco grows and changes, this plan will need to be updated to reflect changing conditions. This is especially true if the city does not institute zoning because this plan has no regulatory authority. Growth will happen, this plan offers an opportunity to guide that growth and ensure maximum benefit to Blanco.