Engineers’ comments, March 2018

Here are the reviews from two professional environmental engineers hired by Friendship Alliance to provide the further analyses of revisions to the Mark Black Wedding Venue site development plan permit application provided to the City of Dripping Springs.

Review March 2, 2018 by Lauren Ross, PhD., P.E.

Drainage Review 3-2-18 by Jeff Kessel P.E.

See these engineers’ February reviews of the Mark Black Wedding Venue site development plans

Tuesday March 13, 2018: Dripping Springs City Council to vote on site development permit application

A site development plan for Mark Black’s Wedding Venues (now “Black Ranch”) in the Goldenwood, Goldenwood West, Radiance neighborhoods (and for individual landowners along Crystal Hills Drive) is pending approval with City of Dripping Springs City Council in a council meeting on March 13 at Dripping Springs City Hall. Many thanks to the City Council for giving us all some extra time to work on this agenda item.


    1. We ask the City of Dripping Springs: please enforce your own water quality ordinances to protect our water. If you have a well, whether as a sole source of drinking water or as a backup for your rainwater catchment system, etc., you know the important of protecting your clean water supply!
    2. The Mark Black Wedding Venue / Black Ranch project proposes two large wedding venues with a total capacity of 600 people, with vehicles and buses clogging our two-lane county road. Many wedding venues typically run more than one wedding per day. Black Market Investments LLC has millions of dollars in loans to pay back. Do the math.
    3. No consideration is being afforded to your reduced property values. What you can do now: get your home and property appraised now to establish baselines valuations, prior to beginning of construction of the Mark Black Wedding Venue. Contact your HOA or POA re: getting a bulk rate on appraisals. Most appraisers will drop their fees if there are multiple appraisals in the same neighborhood.
    4. Hundreds of extra cars, plus commercial trucks etc. on Crystal Hills Drive, a county road so narrow it cannot be legally striped with a center line. There is no legal requirement for Hays County to widen Crystal Hills Drive to deal with this added traffic. In case you want to share your thoughts with our county officials re this road:
      Transportation Director Jerry Borcherding phone (512) 393-7385,
      County Commissioner Ray Whisenant phone (512) 858-7268,
      Development Services Director James “Clint” Garza
        phone (512) 393-2150.
    5. No consideration for additional traffic load during an emergency evacuation of residents using Crystal Hills Drive in the event of wildfires: all of this is entirely legal. Fire Chief Scott Collard of North Hays County Fire and Rescue has literally signed off on this project. Chief Collard recommends “sheltering in place” if you can’t get out. In case you want to share your thoughts about your safety and your family’s safety with him:  phone (512) 894-0704.
    6. Huge commercial operation with loud, amplified music impacting our neighborhoods and families, including at night.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Join the Friendship Alliance’s opposition:

Tuesday March 13, 6:00pm-9:00pm
Public hearing: City Council chambers
City of Dripping Springs City Hall
511 Mercer Street
Dripping Springs, TX 78620

Some facts at a glance:

208 North Main St.
Lockhart, TX 78644

Members: Terry Black, ————-, Mark Black, Michael Black

Where: MARK BLACK WEDDING VENUE (also called Black Market Wedding Venue and now apparently “BLACK RANCH”)

Proposed for: 130 West Concord Circle, Austin, TX 78737, impacting Goldenwood, Goldenwood West, Radiance, and other neighborhoods

What: 2 event buildings capable of hosting 300 guests each for a maximum total of 600 people onsite
+ assorted staff (caterers, setup and breakdown crews, office support)
+ 3000+ square foot commercial kitchen
+ administrative office building
+ 1 well
+ 1 On-site Sewage Facility
+ 2 parking lots: approximately 153 parking spaces at Venue A and 136 at Venue B, and since one venue alone may accommodate up to 300 guests and up to 300 cars. Thus overflow parking can be expected on naturally vegetated areas affecting water quality control devices and fire lanes.
+ Wedding DJ music (noise)
+ Live bands (more noise)
+ Aerial Fireworks (noise/fire hazard and no commitment not to use)
+ Reduced property values

Rebuttals to common misconceptions about the Black’s proposed project, including rebuttal to “it could be much worse.”

“The Blacks say they have been meeting with neighbors and are responding to neighbor concerns.”

The Blacks showed a presentation to some neighbors at the Driftwood Volunteer Fire House on 27 July 2017, informing attendees of this project. Neighbors voiced concerns after the presentation. These concerns still stand–they are neither addressed nor resolved.

There has been one listening session in 2018 by Terry Black, Mark Black and Mike Black, resulting in zero commitments, in writing or otherwise. Concerned homeowners and property owners sharing common boundaries with the Black’s parcel have outstanding concerns and no fruitful, meaningful dialogue with the Blacks.

“Be happy it’s not a 200-house residential development.”

Superficially plausible but actually wrong and in fact illegal. The entire 64-acre parcel lies either in the Barton Springs Contributing Zone or Recharge Zone (even more stringent rules). The maximum density for any residential development on the Black’s land would be 10-15 houses by law: 10% impervious cover for the entire tract, or about 6.4 “paved acres” is the maximum allowed.

“Be happy it’s not a cement factory or pig farm–it’s only an event venue.”

Superficially plausible but actually wrong. The amount of engineering required to keep everything on 6.4 paved acres and observe water protection rules (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) would make a pig farm or cement factory economically unfeasible to operate. No banker in his or her right mind would loan money on a business plan with those parameters; the return on such an investment would be far too long. And the project itself has two buildings at 300 guests each (600 total), each building could easily be used for several events per day.

“You can’t do anything. The laws aren’t on your side. Just give up.”

We have been doing things from 27 July 2017 up to this point, and the Blacks do not have their permits yet. Those could have been had August 2017.

We have found multiple flaws in their processes (engineering 1, 2; public notification, etc.), all along the way. We are still committed to working with the City of Dripping Springs to forge a written commitment from the Blacks. We have all legal means at our disposal to register our dissent with this project. We are still working to get unresolved issues addressed sensibly, properly and effectively.

“I like barbecue.”

Do you like the possibility of drunk drivers close to your home and family and pets? Like the idea of escalated wear and tear on our narrow county-maintained road? Do you go for a walk (maybe with your dog) outside in your neighborhood with no sidewalks? Are you sensitive about property values? Thinking about additional fire hazards? Emergency evacuation complications? The Black’s have applied to TABC for a liquor license for their 600-guest event venue. You will undoubtedly be sharing your neighborhood and its roads and connectors with people who have had alcohol to drink.

“I am too busy to deal with all this.”

The lives and property and value you can protect are your own. What are those truly worth to you? We have been advised, and now we do need as many people as possible to show up at Dripping Springs City Hall. Bring a neighbor who may be unable to drive at night. Bring your kids or the neighbor’s kids, and show them what civil engagement and public participation in our great nation’s political process looks like. It’s Civics Class 101 only real.

“Roy and Penny Williams run Chapel Dulcinea wedding venue, and everything is fine so far. What do you have against wedding venues?”

Answer: Chapel Dulcinea and Tuscan Hall (and Wizard Academy) are well-run.

Talk to our neighbors (some with infant children) affected by the Garden Grove Wedding Venue who can’t even sleep in their own houses with the doors and windows shut–every single weekend–because of fireworks, live bands, wedding DJ music and more. These affected homeowners lost their first lawsuit and are now on appeal. We all need good neighbors. We need livable neighborhoods. We need homes that feel like homes, and not, as one neighbor said recently about Garden Grove, feel “like a warzone.”

Friendship Alliance community organizing meetings are hosted by Radiance Foundation, a 501(c)3 Texas nonprofit directly affected by its proximity to the Black’s Wedding Venue project. Its building, the Radiance Dome, has been the home of silent meditation for more than 30 years. As you can guess, silence and wedding DJ music and live bands and fireworks definitely are not compatible. We are grateful for their donation of meeting space.

Commentary by Richard Oppel: “For weddings in Hays County, count on guns and roses”

Rally in front of Terry Black’s BBQ, 19 February 2018

Protest at Terry Black’s BBQ on Barton Springs Road. Protesters unhappy with the BBQ owners developing 2 wedding venues on a 64 acre lot they purchased in Dripping Springs.

Posted by KVUE on Monday, February 19, 2018




A big name in Central Texas BBQ wants to build a wedding venue near Dripping Springs, but the development's future is in limbo.Brittany Glas reports on the face-off between Terry Black's family and area homeowners on KXAN at 10:

Posted by KXAN News on Tuesday, January 23, 2018



Engineer’s comments from February 2018

Here are the reviews from two professional environmental engineers hired by Friendship Alliance to provide the further analyses of revisions to the Mark Black Wedding Venue site development plan permit application provided to the City of Dripping Springs. These reviews were submitted in February.

Lauren Ross, PhD., P.E. (Glenrose Engineering) letter to Chad Gilpin, Dripping Springs City Engineer, February 17, 2018

Drainage review by Jeff Kessel, P.E.

Dripping Springs neighbor next to wedding venue writes in

We received an email full of bracing information. Thank you, Mr. Simanton, for writing to Friendship Alliance. We appreciate your time, and we are grateful for your insights. In full:

Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 4:06 PM

I was at the Dripping Springs City Council meeting last night [February 13, 2018] to support your efforts to control the development of a large wedding venue in your neighborhood.  I had planned to speak if needed, but it seems you had quite a few folks wanting to speak.

But, you may ask, who am I and why do I want to support you and speak out on your behalf?  I do not live anywhere near your neighborhood, nor do I really know anyone in your neighborhood other than the nice folks I met at the council meeting.

I want to support your cause because I have painful, first-hand knowledge of what happens when a wedding venue moves into your neighborhood.  Two wedding venues opened up near my land.  One is next door to my land, the other is a little over half a mile away.  So I have experience with both very close and nearby wedding venues.  I don’t want others to suffer the way my neighbors and I have.

Here is what you can expect:

1. Noise.  Remember those quiet weekend nights where you can sit on the porch and look at the stars, listen to the breeze in the trees, hear the sounds of nature?  I say “remember” because you will no longer get to enjoy those nights.  Even if the venue close to me is not having an event, the one further away is still so loud we can hear music, yelling, hooting, hollering, traffic, car alarms, arguments in the parking lot, buses backing up, loud bass noise bumping through your bones…I could go on.  Again, that place is half a mile from me, over a hill, and it is STILL loud.

Even after we sued the venues to keep all their music INSIDE (the suit is still ongoing) and they have mostly complied, you still get the bass noise, which travels for miles.  And of course you get the yelling, the hooting, hollering and general idiocy of drunk city folks out in the country.   How many cars will there be?  Each one will give you the “beep-beep” or “honk” whenever someone locks or unlocks the vehicle.  Buses and trucks will beeep-beeep-beeep when backing up, and some back up for a loooong time.  I recorded one that had the backup alarm going for over 5 minutes.

A side note on noise:  Like most venues, Mark Black has promised to keep it “under 85 decibels”  Why is this?  Because 85 decibels is a criminal statute.  They THINK that they can legally do anything up to 85 decibels with no repercussions.  But noise at 50 decibels 200 feet from our house can easily be heard inside our house, quite loudly.  85 decibels is like someone running a chainsaw 10 feet from your head.  It is LOUD.  Call them out on this when they mention the 85 db number.

2. Drunks.  What do people do at weddings?  They drink.  A LOT.  They get loud.  They yell.  They hoot.  They argue.  They fight.  They break bottles on the road.  And they drive, while drunk, on your roads.

3. Traffic.  Buses LOVE to block roads.  For some reason, bus drivers think it is perfectly acceptable to load, unload or even park right in the middle of a road.  Sometimes they pull a little off to the side so you can get around them, where you cannot see oncoming traffic.  Sometimes they park in front of your mailboxes, or your driveway.  Or they turn around and run over plants and things on your property…but if you aren’t there to see it and take pictures, you have no proof.

Then there are the hundreds of cars.  They tend to drive and park where they please.  They love to rev their engines, especially the city kids with 4WD trucks when they encounter any kind of hill.  And they are often piloted by people who have been drinking.  Don’t let your children go anywhere near the roads on weekends.  Don’t jog or walk your dogs along the roads on weekends.  And hope your animals don’t ever get out of the fence.

4. Strangers.  I think this actually bothers me the most.  What good is a neighborhood and knowing your neighbors when HUNDREDS of complete strangers are allowed to invade your neighborhood each week?  They don’t care about your neighborhood.  They litter, make noise, destroy property and then have the audacity to yell at you to be quiet when you try to mow your lawn on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
And they trespass.  We have good fences, signs and gates, yet we still have “adventurous” wedding guests come on our land and even try to get in our house.  Maybe they do just want to “pet the donkeys”, but in my experience, city folks have little respect for rural property.  Sheds and cabins on our property seem to be a magnet for bored wedding guests, often of the teenage type.  (Admittedly, I was probably like this when I was a teen boy, so I know how they are.)

I could probably come up with even more reasons to fight a venue nearby, but I think this is enough.  Note that these are only 150 person (next door) and 250 person (1/2 mile away, over a hill) venues.  I cannot imagine how disturbing a 600 person venue would be.  You have my sympathy, and you have my help if needed.   …Please share this email with the Friendship Alliance, you may post it on your web site if you wish.  If possible, have someone read at least an excerpt from the list above to help convince the council to delay the permit until Mark Black et al has addressed all of these issues.  I’m convinced that there are probably good wedding venues that do respect their neighbors, but my experience is not proof of that.

You can never get your peace back once it is gone.

I wish you the best.

Dripping Springs, TX 78620

Watch out, neighbors

Originally printed here:

Watch out, neighbors


Regarding the article: Protests grow as wedding venue sets to open in residential area

My advice to Friendship Alliance is: stop them; stop them at all cost. 

We live in a residential area where several years after we moved here a wedding venue was quietly built right next to our property.  We also heard the same kind of rhetoric from the owners about community concerns and operating the venue on a low-key basis with strict rules. Once they were established, it became obvious there was very little concern for the residents. Their focus was to grow the business.

Now, delivery and trash trucks are frequent, busses park near our property and continuously run through the event duration. Litter along the roads has increased. Noise levels are no longer monitored and “supposed” restrictions are not enforced. Most importantly, residential property values fell. No one wants to live next to or near a wedding/event venue!

Michael & Mark Black say they are giving “heavy” consideration to community concerns but the article in the News-Dispatch raises serious red flags about their intentions.   

S. Schouten

Dripping Springs

New board members for Friendship Alliance in 2017

A mighty big thanks to the men and women who have served on the board previously! Rob Baxter, thank you. Brian Dudley, thank you too.

For continuing to serve, we thank now our current at-large Board members: Dixie Camp and Neil Carman.

Welcome back to Jonathan Steinberg, one of the original board members of Friendship Alliance. He is back for more! He is our institutional memory in addition to being our third at-large Board member now.

We are pleased to announce these officers added to Friendship Alliance Executive Committee: Carlos Torres-Verdin as President, Terry Shaw as Vice President, and Jeanine Christensen as Secretary.