Ever wonder what has become of Blanco’s Visionaries in Preservation (VIP) program? Remember, the “What I Love About Blanco” contest? All those meetings at Gem of the Hills last winter, spring, and summer? All the talk about preserving what the people of Blanco treasure about our small Hill Country town? Some people probably think, “All talk and no action” or “These groups come and go and nothing ever gets done.” The reality is, fortunately, quite the contrary.
At a “Celebration of Accomplishment,” held October 16, 2007, at Blanco’s Gem of the Hills Community Center, Texas Historical Commission officials formally presented the Blanco Historic Preservation Action Plan to Mayor Jim Rodrigue and members of the Blanco City Council and the Blanco Planning & Zoning Commission. Based on several years of preparatory work and seven months of intensive effort by more than 65 citizen of Blanco and the surrounding area, the Blanco Visionaries in Preservation Action Plan summarizes community consensus on four major questions: Where are we now?; where are we going?; where do we want to be?; and how can we get there?
Far more than just another “study”, the Action Plan details concrete steps to be taken to achieve consensus results and identifies individual citizens responsible for specific parts of the overall plan. “This Plan,” notes Julie Dill, chairperson of the Blanco VIP effort, “isn’t something to be ‘studied,’ it is something to be DONE, and we have some extremely energetic people who are working hard to make things happen.”
There are three VIP Task Forces, each charged with accomplishing specific goals. Task Force One focuses on “Managing Growth to Protect Blanco’s Rural Character and Natural Resources.” Coordinated by Blanco resident Wayne Gosnell, the Task Force is addressing issues dealing with billboard sprawl, hiking/biking/horse backing trails, light pollution/light trespass, land trusts, and conservation developments.
Task Force Two is dedicated to “Promoting Adherence to Design Standards.” Headed by Blanco realtor, Debbie Hoemeier, and her husband, Carl, this team is developing design standards and incentives, refining standards for signage, and developing plans for Blanco’s gateways.
Task Force Three is concentrating on “Preserving and Revitalizing the Square.” Led by former City Councilperson Rhetta Martin and coordinating closely with the Blanco Historic Commission, the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, and the Old Blanco County Courthouse Preservation Society, this Task Force is concentrating on the Blanco Square and Historic District. The team is working to promote incentives for historic restoration around the Square, to improve landscaping and lighting around the courthouse and the Square, to bury utilities around the Square, and to promote activities related to the historic nature of the Square.
A six-person VIP Coordinating Committee meets periodically to review progress made by the three task forces, avoid duplication of effort, and ensure that all work is progressing in a unified manner. This committee consists of two representatives from the Blanco City Council (Bobby McClung and Ron Houston), two from the Blanco Planning & Zoning Commission (Jud Prince and Matt Herden), and two from the VIP group (Julie Dill and Wayne Gosnell). Recommendations developed by each VIP Task Force are presented to the VIP Coordinating Committee, reviewed by the entire Blanco Planning & Zoning Commission, and sent to the Blanco City Council for implementing decisions.
As examples of concrete progress that is being made, signage guidelines have been drafted and presented to the Blanco Planning and Zoning Commission; Blanco’s gateways have been documented photographically as the first step in developing a comprehensive improvement plan; a survey of utility lines around the Square has been done, with the goal of eventually burying them to improve the appearance of the Square; a scientific survey of Blanco’s night sky darkness has been completed, establishing a baseline against which light pollution abatement efforts can be measured; a survey of outdoor lighting in Blanco is nearing completion and a plan is coming together to reduce the current sky glow at night; funding sources are being identified for walking and biking trails and sidewalks; and design standards for Blanco are being researched as are Texas laws relating to scenic byways and billboard abatement.
“We think the whole VIP effort has been great for Blanco,” states Mayor Jim Rodrigue. “This is a totally citizen-based initiative and the recommendations they are developing for the City Council to look at will help us preserve Blanco as the kind of community we all know and love…and want to keep.”
Copies of the VIP Action Plan are available for review at the Blanco City Office, the Blanco Library, the Blanco Chamber of Commerce, and online at www.blancoguide.com.
Blanco citizens and area residents wishing to do their part to preserve Blanco as the traditional, Hill Country community we all love may contact Julie Dill at 833-1931 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.