Much of this historical description is taken from the 1988 Comprehensive Plan, Texas Parks and Wildlife website, Texas State Handbook on-line, and the Chamber of Commerce website. Also, Texas: A Geography by Terry Jordan with John L. Bean, Jr. and William M. Holmes.
Settlement was drawn to the area by the Blanco River. This river was named by members of the Aguayo Expedition in 1721 for the white limestone located on the banks and streambed. Several Native American tribes inhabited the region into the 1850's, and the first European settlers were ranchers who located in the area in 1853.
The first settlement in the Blanco area was called Pittsburg, and promoted in ads around 1855 by the Pittsburg Land Company. The first store in the area was opened by Louis Zork on the north side of the Blanco River in Pittsburg, and was moved to Blanco in 1860. Other businesses existed in Blanco around the courthouse square at the time the Zork store moved.
The historic courthouse was designed by Frederick Ernst Ruffini and built in 1885 - 1886. It represents the Second Empire style architecture and is recognized as an outstanding example of courthouse architecture from the late 19th century. In 1890, the County seat was moved from Blanco to Johnson City. After this, the courthouse saw a variety of uses including a school, bank, professional offices, opera house and even a hospital in 1936. The courthouse is currently owned by the Old Blanco County Courthouse Preservation Society and serves as a gift shop, visitors center, and meeting room for the Blanco City Council. Discussions are underway for the city to purchase the building and use it for City Hall.
In 1933 land was deeded for a State Park in Blanco. The land had been used as a campsite by early explorers and settlers partly due to the location of a spring that provided water even if the river was dry. The Civilian Conservation Corps built facilities in the area and the park opened in 1934.
Blanco has primarily been a ranch and farm trade center. It had a population of 469 in 1904 and 1,100 by 1939, when the town was incorporated. By 1946 the town had forty businesses, a hospital, and a weekly newspaper, the Blanco County News. The population dropped in the 1940s to 453 before increasing again in the 1950s. In 1980 the census reported 1,179 residents in Blanco. There were forty-six businesses. In 1990 the population was 1,238. The 2000 Census shows a population of 1,505. Blanco is located north of San Antonio and west of Austin and is beginning to see outliers of growth from these areas (Illustration 1.1). Over the next 10 years, Blanco can expect a much higher growth rate, especially as "ranchettes" are developed in the county around the city.
While Blanco is beginning to see a shift in its demographic profile, including a rise in the Hispanic population, historically the community has been of predominantly German heritage. German settlers came into the community through the 19th century, interrupted only by the blockade during the Civil War. This is evidenced by the stone houses and other structures in the city.
Blanco is located on the Edwards Plateau, just west of the Balcones Escarpment, the sharp divide between the Hill Country and the Blackland Prairie. The elevation of the escarpment ranges from 850 feet in the east to 4,000 in the west where it meets the mountains. Blanco is at 1,324 feet. Average rainfall is approximately 34 inches per year. The vegetation consists of short grasses with scattered timber, consisting of a variety of oaks, and juniper.
The Blanco River flows through the city, it starts at springs located in Kendall County, just south of the Gillespie County line. It flows from there southeast for approximately 90 miles to the San Marcos River in the City of San Marcos. This river is dominantly shallow and has several low water dams. This river is the primary water source for the City of Blanco. There is no significant aquifer underlying Blanco, although many ranches and other residences depend on well water. The City of Blanco recently secured additional water resources from Canyon Lake through a pipeline constructed in partnership with Guadalupe Blanco River Authority.
Monthly Average High Temperature (July): 94
Monthly Average Low Temperature (January): 33
Annual Average Precipitation: 34 inches
Elevation: 1,324 feet
Growing Season: 234 Days
In early 2004, the City of Blanco contacted Pedernales Electric Co-op (PEC) for assistance with developing a Comprehensive Plan for the City. PEC began work with staff from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to create the plan with a focus on public involvement in the entire process. Over the course of 2004, PEC and LCRA conducted a mail survey to residents of the Blanco ISD, held a Town Hall Meeting, and multiple focus groups to identify issues and opportunities facing Blanco. This was the basis for the comprehensive plan, which serves as a guide for both city government and local organizations for the next 10 years. The plan includes a demographic analysis, a discussion of the public input process, and covers the following topics:
- Land Use
- Growth Management
- Community Development
- Economic Development
- Downtown Revitalization
- Historic Preservation
- Stormwater Assessment
- Implementation Guide
A comprehensive plan is intended to address all of the different facets of community development in a holistic fashion. Rather than addressing different issues, such as housing, economic development, transportation, and others individually, the comprehensive plan takes a big picture look at how all of these different aspects of community life interact. The goal is to identify projects that can generate the highest return on investment in multiple areas of the community. For example, a plan that only addresses economic development may call for focusing resources on business recruitment. However, if there is a housing shortage in the community, businesses are unlikely to locate there. A comprehensive plan avoids this conflict by looking at all aspects of the city and identifying how different issues inter-relate.
To be successful, a comprehensive plan must have a strong public input component. If the citizens are not involved in the process, they will not support the decisions made and the resources allocated to projects identified in the plan. Also, it is important to understand what the citizens feel should be priorities for action because that will engender their involvement and support for the work. In rural communities, like Blanco, city government has very limited staff and resources to address many of the issues identified in the plan; involving residents in the planning process will empower them to participate in implementation of the plan.
The comprehensive plan has a series of goals identified during the public input process. Some of these require government action, while others are more geared towards local organizations. Each goal has a series of projects and actions to implement. This implementation process is the key to success for the plan. Implementation is a long term process; some projects can be accomplished in the first year or two, while others will require much more time and investment. There is an attempt to balance "quick" victories that will build enthusiasm and support for the plan, while leading to larger successes down the road.
The most important consideration is that the comprehensive plan cannot be put on the shelf. The plan reflects the needs and desires of the citizens of Blanco and should be used regularly to guide decision making. Also, the plan must be continually reviewed to ensure it continues to reflect Blanco. Ideally, the plan is reviewed annually, potentially by the Steering Committee and City Council. Any major changes to the community will likely result in an update to the plan. For example, if a business with 100 employees locates in Blanco it will result in different priorities than are currently addressed in the plan.
The first step in developing the comprehensive plan was creating a steering committee. This committee consisted of private citizens and City Council members and was intended to reflect the community as a whole. The purpose of the committee was to work with PEC and LCRA staff in developing the plan to ensure it reflects the vision of the citizens of Blanco. The steering committee was involved throughout the public input process and reviewed all aspects of the plan. This group will also take a leadership role in helping to implement the plan by keeping residents involved in task forces and going before City Council to remind them of the plan priorities.
As mentioned above, planning required a focus on public involvement. In June 2004 surveys were sent to 3,000 property owners in Blanco ISD. The survey (Appendix A) was an effort to determine the "big picture" of community sentiment and priorities. The survey covered topics including developing a zoning ordinance, historic preservation, and housing growth. Based on the survey results, five topics were selected for further discussion at the Town Hall meeting held in August. These topics were Housing, Community Development, Growth Management, Downtown Revitalization, and Economic Development. This meeting allowed residents to identify more specific issues related to these topics and then prioritize them for inclusion in the Plan. Following the Town Hall meeting, a series of focus groups were held to develop programs to address the identified issues. These meetings resulted in a list of projects that the city and other organizations can undertake to implement the plan.
In addition to the public input process, a land use survey was conducted. This survey identified the current land use of Blanco. This shows how the community has developed and is the basis for the future land use plan. A workshop was held that allowed participants an opportunity to draw their vision of what Blanco should look like in the future. This plan is a guide for land use decision making and may form the basis for zoning if the city pursues that option.
The plan was developed based on all of the public input. It contains information on existing conditions and to support the goals identified in the plan. It also provides guidance on implementation. The final section of the plan is the implementation guide, which provides a detailed road map to making things happen. It spells out specific actions, timelines, responsible parties, etc. so that anyone can review the plan and identify how projects can be accomplished.
Once the plan was developed it went before City Council for adoption. By adopting the plan, city leadership commits to utilizing the plan as a framework for decision making. However, responsibility for implementation goes beyond city government. Local organizations, such as Keep Blanco Beautiful, Chamber of Commerce, Wheels and Feet, and others must be involved in making the plan successful. Also, citizens must stay informed and involved to ensure the plan is kept current and on the front burner of community action. If nobody serves as a champion for the plan, it will be put on a shelf and forgotten about.