Hunters in Highpointe? Residential realities of living outside the City of Dripping Springs Reply

Hunters? Paintball? Poachers? Play fort? Those were the questions asked by residents of the gated HighPointe subdivision in Dripping Springs this week about an alleged hunter’s deer blind discovered in a wooded area on community property. And what about that XP40 loaded gun that was also reportedly found in the woods on community property this week by a 5-year old? 

On Tuesday, one resident reported to the community email group that a loaded gun had been found on community property by a 5-year old. Two days later, HighPointe neighbors learned about an alleged hunting deer blind, photographed in a wooded area on community property. In their gated neighborhood. Where kids play, pets romp, and adults jog, bike, and walk. No wonder some residents were alarmed.

In response to a call to Texas Parks & Wildlife, communications officer Patrick Schubert said he was not aware of the alleged HighPointe deer blind specifically, but said hunting blinds discovered in residential areas across Texas are “not as uncommon as you would think.” He said the agency actually receives several calls per year.

“They’re not as visible to the public and a lot of people in residential areas haven’t been exposed to much hunting. Many of those reports actually turn out to be false,” Schubert said. 

Hays County Game Warden James Michael confirmed having received several calls during the past week about an alleged illegal deer blind in the vicinity of HighPointe. Michael said the initial calls were from alarmed homeowners but more recent calls had come from others assuring him it was “just kids playing paintball.”

The game warden agreed the latter explanation didn’t completely make sense in light of the apparent camo-covered feeder on the ground below the makeshift tree blind/stand/fort. As one HighPointe resident commented after seeing the photos posted on the neighborhood email group, “The paintball thing only makes sense if your paintball opponents are deer.”

Meanwhile, conjecture continued throughout the week about whether the site had been a play fort for kids, or a paint ball position – which could possibly explain the sounds of “shots” being fired. No shell casings were reported being found at the site. 


By Thursday, it became clear that the loaded gun and the deerblind/fort/paintball site were unrelated. The Hays County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the gun belonged to a former police officer and resident, whose car was broken into in November, 2011, and the holstered, loaded weapon stolen.

Also on Thursday, a resident who spoke to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office about the hunting concerns reported being dismayed at learning that the location of the HighPointe subdivision is considered to be in the jurisdiction of the county, which does not have an ordinance against firing a weapon. 

Texas Parks & Wildlife has two Game Wardens on call for Hays County. One of them is Game Warden James Michael, who said the wardens and sheriffs have both been called out to the HighPointe area a number of times before with reports of gun shots. 

“Residents should keep in mind that they’re surrounded by ranch land,” Michael said. “Often, the guns they hear are being fired on the nearby 400 acre ranch.”

When illegal hunting is suspected, however, TPW dispatcher Schubert encouraged all residents of any residential community in Texas, to report it immediately to the TPW.

“Don’t wait to call. We are here 24/7 and it’s a lot easier to catch someone in the act than to try and find them and get them to confess,” Schubert said. 

On Friday, the HighPointe Property Owner’s Association (POA) issued a statement to residents that the Association had been “notified of illegal hunting equipment stored on Association property and possible illegal hunting.” The HighPointe POA does not operate or moderate the HighPointe neighborhood email user group.

In the statement, the Association stated that “all hunting is prohibited” in HighPointe, and that the organization would be working with “the proper authorities for a full investigation.” The POA email echoed Schubert’s direction for residents to call TPW, as well as the Hays County Sheriff’s Department, with any knowledge of or witness to “suspicious behavior.” 

Sgt. Mike Wood of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the HighPointe subdivision is under Hays Country jurisdiction because it is located outside of the Dripping Springs Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). This means that the lack of an ordinance against firing a weapon in HighPointe is at the county level, not the city level. 

Hays County Game Warden James Michael also said that even if HighPointe were in the City’s ETJ, and even if hunting is a violation of HighPointe’s POA, it is not a violation of state law to have a deer stand or feeder on property within city limits or elsewhere within the county. Michael said that means any prosecution of an alleged illegal deer blind in HighPointe would be a civil matter, not a criminal matter, until and unless the landowner – presumably the developer – calls and requires the activity on their property be stopped. 

For the many residents of HighPointe who have come from other parts of the country, the ETJ is likely a completely foreign concept. Most certainly don’t feel like they live “out in the county” due to the extensive residential infrastructure within the gates of their community. But this week’s incidents are a reminder that, despite the suburban-like setting, HighPointe is still very much located in the heart of Texas. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the coming week, we will provide an extensive report on the Dripping Springs city limits, the ETJ, and what it all really means to area residents. 



Meet Jenna Donatiello: Mrs. mom, sommelier, vintner, and importer of fine Italian wines Reply


Pictured is Dripping Springs resident Jenna Donatiello, with Italian winemaker Armando Petruziello, producer of the Vini Nobilis wines imported by Jenna’s home-based business. This photo was taken in the Campania region of Italy in October, 2010. 

Meet Jenna Donatiello, wife and mother (busy), attorney (smart), sommelier (understands wine), vintner (makes wine), importer and wholesaler of fine Italian wines (buys and sells wine), and Dripping Springs resident (lives here)!


Jenna’s home-based business – Noble Wine Imports – continues to expand, affording Jenna the opportunity to do what she truly loves. No wonder she is succeeding! Italian boutique wines from Noble Wine Imports are now carried in numerous area restaurants and retailers, and that number continues to grow. This week, Jenna celebrates yet another success. On Friday, February 10, twelve Austin area Spec’s stores will begin carrying four of Noble’s labels, including their Zibibbo Dessert Wine (label pictured). Bravo, Noble Wine Imports!

It is now Around Dripping Springs’ pleasure to deliver the first in our series of Featured People profiles designed to highlight the fascinating folks who live and work around us throughout the Dripping Springs area. Here is the Noble Wine Imports story told through Jenna’s responses to our interview questions: 

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WHERE ARE YOU FROM, WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND, AND WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL? 

I was born in Oklahoma City and grew up in Norman, Oklahoma.  I’ve been in Texas since I was 17, and in Dripping Springs since the year 2000.  I graduated with honors from the University of Texas with a BBA in Finance.  I graduated cum laude from Southern Methodist University School of Law.  I practiced law from 1996, until I started the wine importing business in 2010. 

WHAT WAS YOUR INSPIRATION TO GET INTO THE ITALIAN WINE IMPORT BUSINESS?

Over the eight years I practiced law part-time and worked as a stay-at-home mom, raising my babies full-time, I developed a love and passion for wines. The study of wines was something I could wrap my brain around and it really helped to challenge me after being so accustomed to the stress of working all day at a law firm. So I started going to wine education and tasting classes with friends. I joined a wine tasting dinner group where I learned a lot. Then I started two wine pairing dinner groups with friends. I would design a five course meal based on a theme and all the wines to pair with each course. I started a blog on wine and food pairing and I worked for a wine tasting company that paid me to demo wine for consumers in grocery and liquor stores. Meanwhile, I read every book I could find on wine and wine pairings. I served as an amateur sommelier at charity events and quickly learned that I had found my true calling. I accidentally became my friends’ and family’s resident expert on wine.

In 2003, my mom and both grandparents (her parents) were tragically killed in a car accident.  I was my mom’s only child, so we were obviously very close. She and I were all we had as I was growing up.  I never got to tell her good-bye.  She was 57 and had recently retired with a new baby granddaughter.  It was the most life-changing tragedy of my life.  When that happened, my husband and I decided to live our lives a different way.  We vowed to live life to its fullest every day, because any day can be the last. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my working life in a job I didn’t enjoy. I wanted to follow my passion and do what makes me happy; I believe anything else is a waste of the precious time we have on earth.

 

 So, when my son, the baby of the family, was on his way to kindergarten and I needed a job or something to fill my new 8 hours of freedom per day, I happened to come across a business opportunity with an Italian wine producer who was looking for importers and distributors for his wine.  My husband and I had spent our honeymoon in Italy, and loved the Italian way of life.  We also have an Italian last name. Everything, including the timing, seemed so perfect that I figured this is what I was supposed to do. I didn’t want to go back to practicing law, and I didn’t want to have a boss, plus, I wanted the flexibility to be home for my kids.  So I jumped in head first, not knowing much about the actual wine industry but knowing I had the background, education, and passion to figure it out. Since then, I have learned along the way, many times the hard way.  But I have no regrets and am still happily meandering my way through life and the wine business.

YOU SAY THE NOBLE WINE IMPORTS MISSION IS TO INTRODUCE THE AMERICAN PUBLIC TO FINE ITALIAN BOUTIQUE WINES. THERE ARE A LOT OF U.S. IMPORTERS OF ITALIAN WINES. WHAT MAKES NOBLE WINE IMPORTS UNIQUE IN THE MARKET? 

Noble Wine Imports is unique in many ways. I am a woman-owned, small business with virtually no employees. I am also unusual in that I am an importer AND a wholesale distributor. Most companies choose to either import or distribute. I do both, which makes it appealing to some retail customers because they only have to deal with one person. I speak for and represent the Italian producer. I buy the wine there and get it here. And then I sell it to the various retail customers.  That allows my wholesale customers to save money and time.

My business is also unique because I only represent small producers of hard-to-find wines. It would be easier to import and distribute a brand or label that everyone has heard of and has a lower price point with an existing following. I like the challenge and propriety of bringing in brands that no one in the US has ever tried or heard of, and then being responsible for their growth here. My producers appreciate the hard work that goes into selling their wines, even if it is a small amount, and they know I have a special affinity for them.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?

I love the wine education part of the business.  I am at my best and happiest when I am in front of a group of people, whether it’s one or 100, to teach them about the wines that are special to me. I love watching their reactions when they taste the wines and like them and when they learn something new and interesting about them.  I often host wine tastings at various venues and love to educate the public, one fan at a time, about the wonderful qualities of Old World boutique Italian wines. More…