Commit now to safe roads, safe neighborhoods

From:
Carlos Torres-Verdin
President, Friendship Alliance

To:
mayor@cityofdrippingsprings.com
bfoulds@cityofdrippingsprings.com
tmanassian@cityofdrippingsprings.com
tcrow@cityofdrippingsprings.com
wking@cityofdrippingsprings.com
jkroll@cityofdrippingsprings.com

Dear Mayor Todd Purcell,
Dear Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds,
Dear City Council Member Taline Manassian,
Dear City Council Member Travis Crow,
Dear City Council Member Wade King,
Dear City Council Member John Kroll,

Regarding: Mark Black Wedding Venue

PLEASE WATCH THIS 15-minute VIDEO!

On Saturday, March 3, 2018, at 3 PM, Friendship Alliance (FA) conducted an organized live traffic study to assess the effects of vehicular traffic on Crystal Hills Dr. expected from the operation of the Mark Black Wedding Venue (MBWV). The study was conducted with 78 vehicles, which would correspond to approximately 50% and 25% of the vehicular traffic expected from the operation of 1 and 2 of the venues projected for the MBWV, respectively, without taking into account additional traffic due to vehicles to be used by staff, caterers, musicians, and other venue operators, competing weddings held at the Wizard Academy, or circumstances requiring.

https://youtu.be/Nc8oJJ-94sg

Previously, in January, 2018, we conducted a formal traffic impact analysis based on road counts over a 5-day period. Results from this January study are here.

However, the live traffic study serves for the important purpose of visualizing a partial projected impact of vehicular traffic on Crystal Hills Dr and confirms professional findings from the January, 2018 study.

Please take a look at the video and judge the traffic impact of the MBWV with your own eyes! Seeing is believing beyond the calculations.

What you see on the video should be multiplied by at least a factor of 2 to visualize what Crystal Hills Dr. would be like with the operation of one single wedding venue at the MBWV. Multiply that by 4 and then you can visualize the effect of two wedding venues in simultaneous operation (actually, a factor of 4 is a very conservative estimate because of the “choke” effect at FM 1826).

Some important observations:

Current time of travel from the MBWV entrance to FM 1826 is approximately 2 minutes without venue operations.
Average travel time with one venue in operation = approximately 10 minutes.
Average travel time with two venues in operation = approximately 20 minutes.
These times are conservative estimates during the time window when MBWV clients will be entering and exiting the venue.

What does it mean to anyone driving on Crystal Hills Dr during Fridays or weekends?

(1) You will be significantly delayed if you happen to drive during the time windows of ingress and egress of invitees of the MBWV.
(2) The safety of Crystal Hills Dr. will be significantly degraded because of the excess vehicular traffic during ingress and egress of clients of the MBWV. The video shows that sharp curves and blind curves become alarmingly unsafe with the excess vehicular traffic.
(3) The traffic already generated by Wizard Academy compounds the safety problems because of the narrow and sharp ingress and egress of cars into that facility. The possibility of MBWV clients egressing under the influence of alcohol consumption compounds the problems even more.
(4) You won’t be able to walk, jog, or bicycle on Crystal Hills Dr. during ingress or egress of clients of the MBWV because of the deteriorated road safety conditions.
(5) The intersection of Crystal Hills Dr. and FM 1826 will become a serious “choke” point that will also affect residents of Rim Rock.
(6) You will not be able to safely evacuate in the event of fire because Crystal Hills Rd. will become a long, static parking lot with the traffic generated by guests of the MBWV and neighbors attempting to evacuate.

What are the solutions to the above problems?

(1) Reduce the size of the MBWV so that Crystal Hills Dr. is safe to drive during ingress and egress of their invitees with the current road conditions.
(2) Improve and widen Crystal Hills Dr. before the MBWV starts its operations. However, this will only be a partial solution because of the “choke” point at FM 1826.
(3) Widen and improve the bridge on Crystal Hills Dr. at the intersection of FM 1826 before the MBWV starts operations. The northbound turn into Crystal Hills Dr. is too sharp and becomes too dangerous with the excess vehicular traffic.
(4) Place a traffic light at the intersection of Crystal Hills Dr. and FM 1826 to partially alleviate the “choke” traffic point at that intersection.

Conclusion

It is highly irresponsible to allow operations of the MBWV with the current design of Crystal Hills Dr. The MBWV needs to be resized to be consistent with the level of service and safety standards of Crystal Hills Dr. Business operations of the MBWV should not start until Crystal Hills Dr. is safe and enables expedient evacuation of neighbors and MBWV guests in the event of fire. Who will be responsible and accountable for accidents and loss of life if the current design of the MBWV is approved by the City of Dripping Springs, by Hays County, and by the State of Texas?

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all the neighbors who participated in the live traffic study; they made a great difference in perception. Mike Dunmire and Carlos Torres-Verdin coordinated the preparation and execution of the live traffic study. Laurel Treviño organized and tabulated the times of travel submitted by most of the drivers in the study and measured the baseline times used in the calculations. Thanks to all!

Traffic Study: A Look at Existing Constraints of Crystal Hills Drive

Friendship Alliance engaged Dr. Siamak Ardekani, PhD, P.E. of University Texas at Arlington to provide Traffic Impact Analysis re: the Mark Black Wedding Venue project, Agenda Item F, for the City of Dripping Springs Planning & Zoning Commissioners on January 23, 2018.

Dr. Ardekani reviewed data (professionally gathered by GRAM Traffic Counting, Inc. )  and wrote this Traffic Impact Report  which was the basis for his presentation to the Commissioners, as below:

Fire safety, evacuation logistics, and the Mark Black Wedding Venue project

Cristian Granucci, City of Los Angeles Fire Captain and a resident of Goldenwood subdivision, spoke to the City of Dripping Springs Planning & Zoning commissioners on January 23, 2018 about evacuation logistics and fire safety as impacted by the proposed Mark Black Wedding Venue project. The project accommodates up to 600 wedding guest in two buildings. Hundreds of families already resident rely on a single 20-foot wide unlit winding county road as a sole lifeline to RR1826 in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Cristian Granucci has served 28 years in the fire department, with deep experience fighting wild land fires. As a resident who lives close to the proposed project, he has seen the dense fuel loads, including juniper trees, as well as the size and condition of existing roads that serve hundreds of residents.

His analysis of current conditions is certainly sobering.

Open letter to City of Dripping Springs Mayor and City Council, March 6, 2018

To: mayor@cityofdrippingsprings.com
bfoulds@cityofdrippingsprings.com
tmanassian@cityofdrippingsprings.com
tcrow@cityofdrippingsprings.com
wking@cityofdrippingsprings.com
jkroll@cityofdrippingsprings.com

Dear Mayor Purcell,
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds,
and Councilmembers Manassian, Crow, King and Kroll,

We are concerned about the many issues still to be resolved re the Mark Black Wedding Venue (MBWV) project. Namely:

  1. Project plans most recently resubmitted by the Applicant to the City still do not address previously noted water quality ordinance violations. Recognized, professional engineering experts engaged by Friendship Alliance (FA) have shown that the water drainage/water treatment design of the MBWV continues to violate City ordinances and engineering design code adopted by the City itself. The City is compelled to comply with its own codes and ordinances, even if there is the threat of possible lawsuits by the applicant. The City should deny the Applicant its development permit because the latter has consistently submitted deficient engineering design and has not provided sufficient evidence of calculations and methods.
  2. The Applicant did not adequately respond to technical comments requested by the City and stemming from the technical objections raised by Friendship Alliance on February 20.
  3. The City Council should inform FA of any feedback given to the mayor and councilmembers by the City Engineer concerning the FA technical/engineering comments, in the same way the City informs the Applicant of comments received by FA. This communication should take place well before the City Council meeting on March 13, 2018.
  4. The City Council should allow public comments about the MBWV on March 13, 2018 because the Applicant has systematically failed to abide by city ordinances and professional engineering code. As long as unresolved issues continue to be unaddressed, the public and especially all affected residents should be allowed to freely express their views about the design of the MBWV and its impact on the neighborhoods and the neighbors who live there now, some of whom have lived in for up to 35 years.
  5. The City Council should allow public comments on March 13 about the MBWV by the recognized professional engineering experts who provided their feedback to FA.
  6. Health and safety issues re emergency egress on an inadequate road as shown by FA’s traffic engineer expert have yet to be resolved by the Applicant.
  7. The size (600-guest total capacity) and design of the MBWV are not consistent with Crystal Hills Drive and the spiritual makeup of the surrounding existing neighborhoods.
  8. The Applicant has not made any written commitments / concessions to neighbors concerns, despite the fact that his project will overload Crystal Hills Drive beyond accepted levels of vehicular traffic service, will impair any fire evacuation efforts, and will forever disrupt the peaceful and spiritual communities around his property.