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Boerne: Boomtown or ‘Gone Forever'

Challenges facing small town outside San Antonio as unprecedented growth occurs

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BOERNE, Texas – Damned if you do or damned if you don't -- that is the feeling many people in Boerne have had when weighing several new and controversial developments over the past several years.

Some quick facts:

  • In 2015-2016, Kendall County added about six new people every single day
  • For the first time ever, the school district is building three new schools at once
  • There are 5,000 homes approved for development

So where does the small (or not-so-small, depending on who you ask) town go from here?

The future of Boerne is in the hands of the people who live there now, no one denies that. But with all the growth comes growing pains. 

RELATED: Police face challenge of growing city, use Facebook to catch criminals

“We’ve seen (in the) last year, overall, police (calls for service) up 42 percent,” Boerne police Chief James Kolher said, "which is huge for us.”

While Kohler said the rate of violent crime has not gone up, his officers are kept busy.

Just 30 miles from downtown San Antonio, the entire Northwest Side of Bexar County has seen substantial growth. The increase in population has bled into Kendall County, and had an impact on schools. Since 2013, voters in the Boerne Independent School District have approved nearly $275 million in bonds to build four schools, expand and renovate others and purchase land for future schools. 

“We are a fast-growth school district,” Superintendent David Stelmazewski said. “We are growing at about 5 percent a year, which for us is 445 to 450 students a year.”

For the first time ever, the district is constructing three schools at once, all in the eastern and southern parts of the district.

WATCH: Stelmazewski explains lessons learned from failed 2012 bond proposal

Stelmazewski said the southern portion of the district is growing at nearly double the rate of the district as a whole at 9 percent. 

The growth is front and center on Main Street. 

For more than two decades, Paula Hayward has owned Bear Moon Bakery and said she has seen the changes outside her window. 

“It was a sleepy town," she said. "We brought the first espresso machine here and we were one of the few places to have breakfast in an existing bakery that had been here since the '60s. Now there are lots of people doing similar things, there are lots of restaurants, lots of shops.”

While the number of rooftops in the city limits have increased, business has been slower to increase.

Until now. 

“Now as more people come, our demographics keep getting better,” Councilman Charlie Boyd IV said. “The median income is rising and more commercial places are beginning to say, 'Hey, we are willing to come back out to Boerne.'"

The growth has even lead to people donning "Boerne: Gone Forever" bumper stickers on their cars and has become the de facto motto of the city's long-time residents.

Boyd also said the biggest challenge is what kind of growth and development should come to the town. 

RELATED: Is Chick-Fil-A coming to Boerne? 

“Pick a vacant piece of land and say, 'What could go there? What would be OK?'" he said. “You could put three people and get five different answers.”  

Founded more than 150 years ago, two things have continually brought people to Kendall County: access and scenery.

“It became about land opportunities in the Hill Country. That evolved into the beautiful setting,” Bryden Moon, with the Kendall County Historical Commission, said. 

Plotted in 1852, with clean air and access to clean water, by the 1870s, Boerne was being touted as a health resort place to heal from ailments.

By 1887, the San Antonio Aransas Pass Railway came to town, increasing access to the city. The ability to reach the town increased with the construction on Interstate 10 in the mid-20th Century.

WATCH: Main Street business owner talks about changes

“What makes Boerne so appealing is that you are so close to a major city,” Kohler said.  

It is a proximity that comes at a cost.

Affordability has become a huge issue facing people living in Boerne or looking to move there. 

Of the 5,000 homes that are approved for building, Boyd said about 3,000 will be listed at $250,000 or more. The largest development, Esperanza, will add nearly 2,500 homes. 

SLIDESHOW: 2016 crime statistics

The “Esperanza Lifestyle,” as its website calls it, will not come cheap. Homes will start at $280,000 and rise to $1 million.

Boyd said that affordability has been the million-dollar question.

“When I moved here in 2003 and I got involved in local politics and the Chamber of Commerce, that was the topic of discussion then,” he said. “'What can we do to maybe make it so teachers could get a mortgage (in Boerne) and buy a house?'”

RELATED: Boerne announces schools to be built by 2016 bond

Though full build out will take about a decade, work on BISD’s seventh elementary school has already begun in the neighborhood, and will open its doors in time for the 2019-20 school year. 

“I am encouraged,” Hayward said. “I think there are a couple of development pushes along our cultural and environmental corridors that I think could be detrimental. I think they could affect traffic patterns. I think they could take away some of the things that we value as a community.” 

With growth also comes the expansion of roads

Currently, the Texas Department of Transportation is rebuilding the I-10 interchange at Scenic Loop Drive; the $11 million project should wrap up in early 2018. TxDOT will begin construction in the coming months on the interchanges at Main Street/Business Highway 87 and Highway 46. The two projects will cost a combined $57 million.  

RELATED: ‘Boerne Bypass’ opens to traffic

On the East Side, 46 is about to be expanded to five lanes between Herff and Amman roads. The $11 million project is coinciding with another $5 million expansion from Boerne to the Kendall/Comal County line that is adding turn and passing lanes. 

Looking ahead, everyone seemed optimistic about the town's future. The people are coming and business is following, but there is an unknown cost and a future some want to see preserved.

“You would love for everything to be retained as pristine as possible and it is very important for future generations to pay attention to those things that we can save, salvage and minimize impact to,” Moon said.

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