J1S RANCH @ ROCKY CREEK BEE CONSERVANCY
J1S Ranch @ Rocky Creek is a portion of the J1S Ranch exotic game ranch. The J1S Ranch was established approximately 30 years ago and is known for the animals it raises, which are often visible from Hwy 150 south of the Driftwood Store. Currently, J1S Ranch is home to bison, scimitar oryx and gemsbok as well as deer, turkey, and other animals of the Hill Country.
In addition, J1S Ranch actively supports honey bees as a natural component of nature’s process for the continued pollination of the wildflowers and other plants in the area. The Joneses actively sought a new source for bees after the ranch’s only known “bee tree” was blown down in a storm last year.
A mutual friend referred the Joneses to Daniel Weaver of BeeWeaver Apiaries who was looking for land on which to house bees. John and Danny entered into an agreement to place 60 beehives on the J1S Ranch and BeeWeaver Apiaries now manages these hives.
Besides providing honey and other ecological benefits for the ranch, this “bee project” is also contributing to science. The College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin is currently studying these bees to determine the status of bacteria in their digestive system and the potential impact of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers used in their habitat around Driftwood. The J1S Ranch has not used any chemicals, pesticides or fertilizers in over 20 years. It has managed the ranch and its animals by working with nature, not against it.
This collaboration resulted in the concept of a ranch development for the mutual benefit of bees, people and the environment. J1S Ranch has decided to sell approximately 81 acres on the northwest corner of the ranch while retaining approximately 350 acres. This is not a traditional subdivision; it is a very limited number of large estate tracts offering acreage, privacy, beauty, proximity to Austin and an opportunity for agricultural tax exemption. This is a true symbiotic relationship: the bees will be busy pollinating flowers, making honey, and living the Driftwood Dream while helping to provide a unique lifestyle for the owners of these tracts to protect and enjoy the natural beauty and resources of the Driftwood area. As an added benefit, the owners of these estate tracts will have access to over 1.5 miles of equestrian, biking and walking trails situated along the perimeter of the property. These trails traverse open pastures, wooded areas and creeks, providing opportunities to appreciate and savor the elevations of the property and continually changing environments of the Driftwood area.
The tax advantages of an agricultural exemption are substantial. The project comprises six large tracts of land. Each tract provides for a location for beehives which easily can be serviced by BeeWeaver. This entitles the owner of each tract to an agricultural exemption for the entire tract except for those areas used for other purposes such as a home, barn, etc. These areas ordinarily would be taxed by the Hays County Appraisal District at market value. However, the “Ag Tax Value” for bees for 2018 is $666.40 per acre (Hays County Appraisal District will set the “ag value for bees” each year).
For example, the “Secret Valley” tract is 19 acres. If one acre is designated to be the home site and surrounding improvements, then the remaining 18 acres for 2018 would be valued at $666.40/acre X 18 acres X $2.2047/hundred valuation = $264.46. When the same formula is applied to the property without the Ag exemption, the taxes would be approximately $28,872. The cost saving is apparent.
Another example is the “Hillview” tract with approximate 12 acres. Again, if 1 acre is designated the home and surrounding improvements, then the remaining 11 acres in 2018 would be valued at $666.40 X 11 acres X $2.2047/hundred valuation = $161 versus approximately $17,007 for the 11 acres without ag exemption.
BeeWeaver Apiaries will manage the bees for owner. Should the owner desire, he will be able to purchase honey and other hive products which BeeWeaver will custom label and bottle at the owner’s expense and to the owner’s specifications for the honey produced on his parcel.
No pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals will be permitted to be used on the property. The roads will be paved with Petraviam which is an organic product that does not contain any volatile organic compounds (VOC) or hydrocarbons that could leach into the surrounding soil and seep into the contributing zone of the Barton Creek Aquifer.
Fiber optic lines will be installed in the subdivision and internet services will be provided by Hill Country Networks. The fiber optic lines, as well as the electricity provided by Pedernales Electric Co-op (“PEC”), will be placed underground. Each owner will be required to install a rain water collection system for their use as well as for fire protection. Onsite sewage disposal will be by an engineered septic system as required by Hays County.
There will be other practical and reasonable, but enforceable, restrictions put in place to protect the use and value of the property. The intent of the covenants, which are both for the benefit of the owners as well as restrictive to protect the property, is to preserve the Driftwood way of life in so the owners can enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and each other, but also enjoy their privacy.