Daniel Porter was just looking to buy a nice tract of Hill Country land on which to build a home for his young family. The City of Austin and its environmental allies were looking for ways to prevent overdevelopment from damaging the crucial watershed of Barton Creek beyond the city’s western borders. From these seemingly disparate interests emerged the private golf club and luxury home community that is Spanish Oaks.
The year was 1998. Porter had sold the assets of his Houston-based pipeline company and decided to move his family to the Austin area. An acquaintance who worked for the Nature Conservancy led Porter to a 230-acre parcel near the sleepy village of Bee Cave. Porter liked it and bought it.
The acquaintance was also helping buy land in the area for the City of Austin’s Barton Creek watershed conservation program. A 740-acre parcel next to Porter’s land and Little Barton Creek was coming on the market. Environmentalists feared a buyer would use it for high density development, paving over much of the property and sorely harming the watershed. But the City of Austin wasn’t able to acquire it.
Having gotten to know Porter, the environmentalists were convinced he shared their concerns and that any real estate development he might be do would respect the land and watershed. They asked him to buy the tract.
Porter had no real estate development experience. But he had been a competitive golfer, playing on the University of Houston team and trying out for the pro tour. And that experience immediately gave him an idea for environmentally sustainable development of the property.
Four months after buying his initial home site, he closed on the larger adjoining tract.
The core of his idea was a private golf course that would be both one of the best and one of the most environmentally sensitive ever built in Texas. This would be surrounded by low-density residential development, leaving much of the land preserved in a natural state. That’s what you’ll find at Spanish Oaks today. Upon completion, only a few years from now, there will be just 485 homes within the 900-acre gated community. The golf course construction respected the existing topography and brought back native vegetation that erosion had ripped away decades before. The entire property is irrigated with reclaimed water, taking nothing from the creeks and fragile aquifer.
Austin’s environmental community took a chance on Daniel Porter two decades ago. His environmentally sensitive development of Spanish Oaks shows that the bet has paid off.