Elon Musk is planning to build his own town on part of thousands of acres of newly purchased pasture and farmland outside the Texas capital, according to deeds and other land records and people familiar with the project.
In meetings with landowners and real-estate agents, Mr. Musk and employees of his companies have described his vision as a sort of Texas utopia along the Colorado River, where his employees could live and work.
Executives at the Boring Co., Mr. Musk’s tunnel operation, have discussed and researched incorporating the town in Bastrop County, about 35 miles from Austin, which would allow Mr. Musk to set some regulations in his own municipality and expedite his plans, according to people familiar with Mr. Musk’s projects.
They say Mr. Musk and his top executives want his Austin-area employees, including workers at Boring, electric-car maker Tesla Inc. and space and exploration company SpaceX, to be able to live in new homes with below-market rents.
The planned town is adjacent to Boring and SpaceX facilities now under construction. The site already includes a group of modular homes, a pool, an outdoor sports area and a gym, according to Facebook photos and people familiar with the town. Signs hanging from poles read “welcome, snailbrook, tx, est. 2021.”
Mr. Musk, his former girlfriend, who is the singer Grimes, Kanye West and Mr. West’s architectural designer discussed several times last year what a Musk town might look like, according to people familiar with the discussions. Those talks included broad ideas and some visual mock-ups, according to one of the people, but haven’t resulted in concrete plans.
Representatives for Mr. West, who goes by Ye, and Grimes, whose real name is Claire Boucher, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Under Texas law, a town needs at least 201 residents before it can apply to incorporate, then approval from a county judge. Bastrop County hasn’t received an application from Mr. Musk or any of his entities, a spokeswoman said.
Chap Ambrose, a computer programmer who lives on a hilltop overlooking the new Boring and SpaceX facilities, said he believes “they want it to be secret. They want to do things before anyone knows really what’s happening.”
Mr. Ambrose has been seeking information from Boring and the county about the company’s research and testing of its tunneling machines and how that might affect groundwater and wells in the area.
He has sent drones over the area seeking clues to other structures Boring and SpaceX are building and what they plan to produce in their factories. Drone footage and YouTube videos he posted show the construction of tunnels between the Boring and SpaceX parcels that run beneath a public road.
Last June, Robert Pugh, then Bastrop County’s director of engineering, complained in an email to Clara Beckett, the county commissioner in charge of planning, that staffers had been “regularly hounded” by employees and contractors of Boring and Starlink, a SpaceX unit. They want the county to “expedite and approve permit applications that are incomplete and not in compliance” with the county’s regulations, Mr. Pugh wrote.
Mr. Pugh left his job that same month and didn’t respond to requests for comment. Ms. Beckett didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The planned town would sit in Bastrop County. An entity called Gapped Bass LLC, of which state records show Boring’s Mr. Davis serving as president, now owns more than 200 acres there, all purchased within the past two years. SpaceX has purchased about 60 more acres. The land was previously owned by longtime ranchers and other Texas families.
As of last year, Boring employees could apply for a home with rents starting at about $800 a month for a two- or three-bedroom, according to an advertisement for employees viewed by the Journal and people familiar with the plans. If an employee leaves or is fired, he or she would have to vacate the house within 30 days, those people said.
The median rent in Bastrop, Texas, is about $2,200 a month, according to real-estate listing company Zillow Group Inc.
Executives have discussed opening the houses to all employees of Mr. Musk’s companies.
Gapped Bass has filed paperwork with Bastrop County to build 110 more homes in the planned town, which it calls “Project Amazing.”
Bastrop County officials approved street names such as “Boring Boulevard,” “Waterjet Way” and “Cutterhead Crossing,” according to county meeting documents.
Boring plans to convert a home on the property into a Montessori school for as many as 15 students, according to correspondence between a Boring company official and a county government employee.
See here for some background. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more in this story. WSJ articles are usually paywalled but the link I got for this let me right in, so if you can go read the rest. The Austin Chronicle has a summary, and contains this bit of interest, some of which is farther down in the story:
In meetings with landowners, Musk and his employees describe his vision as a utopia along the Colorado River where Musk’s employees can live and work.
Of course a “utopia” or “paradise” centered on the Colorado probably doesn’t bring to mind images of hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater being poured into said river, but that is evidently what Musk and his people envision. Musk-owned tunneling company the Boring Co. has applied to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for permission to discharge up to 140,000 gallons of industrial treated wastewater into the Colorado every day.
That’s how Bastrop local Chap Ambrose, whose house overlooks Musk’s property, found out about this utopian vision – a letter from TCEQ informing him of his neighbor’s wastewater request and of his own ability to publicly comment on the request. Led by Ambrose, a grassroots coalition of Musk’s neighbors called Keep Bastrop Boring hosted a meeting March 8 at the Bastrop Public Library to share their research, and their plans to show up at the TCEQ’s public meeting to discuss the Boring permit 7pm, March 21 at the Hampton Inn in Bastrop. (Anyone can comment.)
This is just the latest in not-helpful ideas Musk has presented in Central Texas. In April last year, we reported that ten Austin city employees flew out to Las Vegas to meet with representatives of the Boring Co. in relation to potential tunnels needed for Project Connect, although Boring Co. has no experience with public transit systems. That communication seemed to fizzle out, as have the many projects Boring Co. has attempted with cities nationwide.
Putting aside whatever animus I may have for Elon Musk, I don’t want anyone dumping 140,000 gallons of industrial treated wastewater into the Colorado River every day. I hope that request gets denied. And all respect to Chap Ambrose for Keep Bastrop Boring. May he succeed in his quest, at least as far as this goes. Daily Kos has more.