RESIDENTS TO TAKE FINAL STAND AGAINST MARK BLACK WEDDING VENUE BEFORE DRIPPING SPRINGS CITY COUNCIL: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”

Press release: 12 March 2018

Despite overflow crowds at three public hearings—and a sustained, fact-based campaign by Friendship Alliance to document the dangers imposed by the project—the Dripping Springs City Council has rejected any further public input on the Mark Black Wedding Venue, scheduling its final vote for Tuesday, March 13th, at 6:30 pm.

“This is a disturbing sign,” says Dr. Carlos Torres-Verdin, President of Friendship Alliance, “that the City will bend to the pressure of an Austin business to approve a project that we contend violates the City’s very own ordinances.” The ordinances in question concern water quality, a critical issue given the venue’s location in the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones.

On several occasions in February, experts for the Friendship Alliance identified at least five engineering deficiencies related to water drainage and water treatment that put the venue in direct violation of Dripping Springs’ Water Quality Protection Ordinance as well as the engineering design code adopted by the City. The City Engineer, Chad Gilpin, requested that the applicant’s firm (Kimley-Horn) respond to these specific concerns. Recognized, professional engineering experts—Brian Dudley, P.E., Lauren Ross, PhD and P.E., and Jeff Kessel, P.E.—have determined that the newly produced materials from Kimley-Horn fail to address the deficiencies that we contend exist, thus, the project “remains materially out of compliance with the City ordinance[s] … listed.” (See the attached letter from Dr. Torres-Verdin and Mr. Dudley to Mayor Todd Purcell, which summarizes the specific findings in Dr. Ross’s and Mr. Kessel’s reports—also attached.)

A letter from Austin attorney James M. Richardson of Richardson + Burgess LLP, writing on behalf of Friendship Alliance, further details the violations that the Friendship Alliance contends would occur if a permit is issued —“prohibited material increase in storm water runoff into creeks and neighboring lands…; prohibited material increase of pollutants into creeks…; prohibited runoff from roads and parking lots into the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone…; failure to analyze phosphorous and oil and grease pollution”—noting as well the many troubling discrepancies in the project applications submitted to different regulatory agencies. There are, for example, “material unexplained discrepancies in the volume of water to be used and wastewater disposed of by the facilities … in project plans and applications submitted to Hays County, Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the City of Dripping Springs.”

Such inconsistencies in key baseline calculations and divergent designs in “required certifications for applications to governmental authorities” are serious and should trigger heightened scrutiny from the City, but there has been a notable lack of concern over these and similar “process irregularities,” according to Torres-Verdin. He asks, for example, “Why did Mr. Gilpin fully approve the project at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on January 23, 2018 when our engineering experts testified not only then but several times afterward that there were serious deficiencies and irregularities in the site development plan?”

City oversight has been “perfunctory at best,” he continues. “It’s obvious that the City Engineer doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to carefully review site development applications, and to request and track the necessary changes to them.” The applicant has had the ability to take advantage of the situation, Torres-Verdin says, and, despite being “given three different opportunities to produce a design in regulatory compliance, they and their engineers have, according to experts, failed three times.” Friendship Alliance, on the other hand, has enlisted significant technical and legal assistance to mount a strong case against the wedding venue. “This shouldn’t be necessary,” says Torres-Verdin. “Very few citizens will have the knowledge or engineering or legal representation to stop a faulty engineering project from affecting their neighborhood.”

Friendship Alliance also commissioned its own study—two of them, in fact—to measure the greatly increased traffic that the wedding venue will bring and to document the tangible threats to life and limb owing to its location in the heart of three semi-rural neighborhoods, all of them sharing just one narrow road in and out, especially in the event of an emergency evacuation. “We’re concerned enough about the safety of our neighbors to do the research that the applicant—and the City—should have done,” says Torres-Verdin. Friendship Alliance marshaled evidence—“undisputed,” he points out—from Dr. Siamak Ardekani, Professor of Civil Engineering and nationally recognized traffic engineer, and City of Los Angeles Fire Captain Cristian Granucci, who has twenty-eight years’ experience fighting fires in the urban-rural interface that typifies the surrounding area. But, despite this evidence of the unsafe conditions that will prevail when the wedding venue operates at capacity, creating traffic “choke points” blocking fire and emergency vehicles along the single road in and out, neither the City of Dripping Springs nor Hays County nor the developer will commit to make any improvements to the road.

“It may be that, even in the face of all our scientific evidence, City Council members fear legal action if they don’t approve the venue,” Torres-Verdin hypothesizes in a nod to the development lawyer (Richard Suttle) whom the applicant has retained. And a developer’s threat of legal action usually works remarkably well in a town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ, where political accountability is intentionally fragmented and spread so thin that it cannot serve as a check against the power that money buys. “But we want to remind Council members that state law also compels them to comply with—and to enforce—their own codes and ordinances, even in the face of possible lawsuits.”

“From the very beginning,” notes Torres-Verdin, “Friendship Alliance was told that the law is on the developer’s side. He can do whatever he likes with his property.” But, besides pointing out the harm to his neighbors’ own property rights and their enjoyment thereof posed by a large, busy, and noisy commercial enterprise bulldozed in the heart of long-established neighborhoods—several of them explicitly spiritual—Torres-Verdin also points out “the irony of it all. No, the law isn’t on ‘their side.’ At least some of it is squarely on our side—and on the side of the City Council if they choose to enforce those water quality ordinances, for instance.”

Ultimately, Friendship Alliance aims to hold all officials, City, County, and State, to enforcing whatever laws haven’t been designed precisely to “tie their hands” with respect to disputes between commercial and residential property owners—and, more broadly, to uphold their civic duty to preserve the safety, well-being, and rights of all 30,000 citizens within the ETJ, not just the 1,600 or so registered voters in the City proper.

Torres-Verdin insists, “Our fight against this particular wedding venue is not an isolated event. Honestly, everyone across Hays County should take heed, even if they haven’t been threatened just yet by a giant storage facility, or a big box store, or a pricey wedding venue going up next door.” The Mark Black Wedding Venue offers an urgent reminder that citizens living in an ETJ—a kind of unincorporated “Wild West”—must have better protection under the law and a more robust voice in the political process.

He concludes: “Enough is enough. The Applicant is taking advantage of the City Council—all of them unpaid for their efforts—and taking advantage of their future neighbors and fellow Hays County citizens.” In an area where development policy has systematically favored businesses over communities, Friendship Alliance aspires to “set a precedent with the City of Dripping Springs,” says Torres-Verdin, “to restore accountability and oversight of businesses that fail to respect either their neighbors or the environment.”

Letter to Dripping Springs Mayor and Assistant City Attorney, March 9, 2017

March 9, 2017

City of Dripping Springs City Council Honorable Mayor Todd Purcell
511 Mercer St,
Dripping Springs, Texas 78620

c/o
Ms. Laura Mueller
Attorney at Law
Assistant City Attorney
City of Dripping Springs
511 Mercer St,
Dripping Springs, Texas 78620

Re: Site Development Permit – Mark Black Wedding Venue

Dear Mayor Purcell:

I write on behalf of The Friendship Alliance in connection with the City of Dripping Springs’ consideration of a pending site development plan application for the Mark Black Wedding Venue. The application proposes construction of two buildings for events, a front office and commercial kitchen with associated parking, sidewalk, septic system, private well water, and utilities located at Concord Circle, Driftwood, Texas.

The proposed site is located within the sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones. Strict compliance with applicable water quality ordinances is required.

For all of the reasons stated below – and as presented to the City Council in writing at the public meeting on February 20, 2018, and later on March 2, 2018, and previously by way of a series of presentations and expert reports

(See Reports of Brian Dudley, P.E., Lauren Ross, Ph.D., P.E., and Jeff Kessel, P.E. The Friendship Alliance hereby incorporates by reference all its written submissions, presentations, and expert reports – and analyses of those reports – previously submitted to the City of Dripping Springs.)

– the issuance of a site development permit for the Mark Black Wedding Venue should be denied because such action will result in at least five if not more distinct violations of the Water Quality Protection Ordinance, and other laws, as follows.

1. Issuance of a permit will result in a prohibited material increase in storm water runoff into creeks and neighboring lands in violation of Water Quality Protection Ordinance Sec. 22.05.023;

2. Issuance of a permit will result in a prohibited material increase of pollutants into creeks in violation of Water Quality Protection Ordinance Sec. 22.05.015(c);

3. Issuance of a permit will result in a prohibited runoff from roads and parking lots into the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone of in violation of Water Quality Protection Ordinance Sec. 22.05.019(a);

4. Issuance of a permit will result in a prohibited construction of impervious cover downstream of water quality controls in violation of Water Quality Protection Ordinance Sec. 22.05.017, and;

5. Issuance of a permit will result in a prohibited failure to analyze phosphorous and oil and grease pollution in violation of Water Quality Protection Ordinance Sec. 22.005(c) (3).

In addition, required certifications for applications to governmental authorities by the Mark Black Wedding Venue are inconsistent and violate city and county ordinances as well as state law. Specifically, project plans approved by Hays County for the construction of the On- Site Sewage Facilities System (OSSF), including the site collection system, are inconsistent with the OSSF previously acted upon by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Edward’s Aquifer Group.

For example, the design set filed with the City of Dripping Springs and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is believed to identify totally different sewage collection systems than the system actually approved for construction by Hays County. The defect is fatal to the applicant’s position because the sewage collection system, as approved by Hays County, requires the applicant to develop an Organized Sewage Collection System Plan (OSCS) in compliance with Chapter 26 of Texas Water Code and 30 TAC 213 and 217, and applicable regulations, and submit such plan to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for approval.

The applicant has also declined to address material unexplained discrepancies in the volume of water to be used and disposed of by the facilities. These discrepancies are evident in project plans and applications submitted to Hays County, Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the City of Dripping Springs.

Estimates of water required, as specified in the HTGCD application – and the water usage and disposal rates in the Hays County OSSF application – are completely contradictory. The basis calculations specified are inconsistent. Assumption of domestic sewage rates do not include a demonstration or required basis for values provided for the proposed commercial kitchen. Moreover, no calculations are provided for estimating the Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) load to the domestic treatment system included with the plan set from the wedding venues or the commercial kitchen.

These material deficiencies should be considered in the context of other troubling violations. For example, the applicant has failed to demonstrate that it obtained a permit necessary to a “taking” of an endangered species in the designated habitat of the proposed development.

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the proposed development lies well within the habitat of the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler (GCW). However, to the best of our knowledge at this time, the applicant has not demonstrated the required permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Nor has the applicant addressed the fact that bulldozing, construction, development, amplified noise, and loud parties typically contribute to a finding of a “taking”2 under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Activities within the habitat of the GCW, including activity that may disturb its habitat, are prohibited during the nesting season of March 1 through September 1. The Code of Ordinances requires proper collateral permitting prior to issuance of a site development permit.

2 The term “take” means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. Moreover, the term “harm” may include significant habitat modification or degradation where it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including breeding, feeding, or sheltering.

Apart from the serious deficiencies addressed above, please also respectfully accept this objection to the City’s decision to disallow a public hearing related to the completely new site development plan and design filed by the applicant after the February 20th public hearing.

Indeed, it was only recently discovered that the City Engineer privately informed the applicant before the February 20th public hearing of a request to defer City action on the application until March 13, 2018. The City Council – without informing the public on February 20th of the City Engineer’s request – granted it with the notation that no public hearing would occur on March 13th. By implication, the result is that continued material deficiencies and ordinance violations will not be addressed in a public hearing.

Unfortunately, the City’s position today is that it never needed to grant a public hearing in the first place on an application for site development permit, and that with respect to the proposed ordinance violations reported by the Friendship Alliance, the City can now decide not to allow resolution of continuing violations and engineering deficiencies in a public hearing.

Finally, the City also inexplicably extended the deadline it imposed on the applicant at the public hearing on February 20, 2018. At that time, the City – in response to numerous potential violations of ordinances – imposed a new deadline on the applicant to file a new, most- hearing site development design and engineering report. On the record, the City directed The Friendship Alliance to file a written response to the new report no later than the close of business on March 2, 2018. As we now know, the applicant effectively ignored the City’s request by filing a new report that failed to address any of the City Engineer’s questions.

On March 8, 2018, however, nearly a full week after The Friendship Alliance’s response was timely filed identifying these continued violations, the City inexplicably allowed the applicant to file additional expert reports after the deadline passed, all while insisting – in a significant change of the protocol announced on February 20th – that the Friendship Alliance would have only twenty-four hours to respond.

Such procedural irregularities – including ‘hopscotching’ from public hearings to nonpublic hearings with the result that important comments regarding potential violations of ordinances cannot be lodged – seriously interfere with the fair and proper application of the site development plan permitting process.

Respectfully, The Friendship Alliance reiterates its previous request for a public hearing on March 13th regarding issues of the City’s compliance or lack thereof with its ordinances.

For all of the reasons stated above, and pursuant Sec. 28.04.011 of the City of Dripping Springs Code of Ordinances, the application for a site development permit should be denied without leave for further continued opportunities to amend.

Thank you for your attention to this letter.

Sincerely,
RICHARDSON + BURGESS LLP

By: James M. Richardson

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.

Mark Black Wedding Venue/Engineering and Code/Ordinance Review, March 2, 2018

City of Dripping Springs City Council
511 Mercer Street
Dripping Springs, Texas 78620

Dear Honorable Mayor Todd Purcell:

The three engineers previously engaged by The Friendship Alliance (FA) for this project have reviewed the Mark Black Wedding Venue (MBWV) design documents submitted with a letter from Kimley-Horn dated February 19, 2018. These documents were produced by the applicant in response to the February 12, 2018 letter from Dripping Springs’s (DS) City Engineer, Mr. Chad Gilpin, which included five “specific items that are being requested by the City to be included in the Site Development Plan Set and/or Engineering Report to address the FA letters”. Four reports from FA engineers were also referenced, which were provided to Kimley-Horn by the City.

The FA engineers (Brian Dudley, P.E., Lauren Ross, PhD, P.E., and Jeff Kessel, P.E.) have determined that the newly produced Kimley-Horn materials are unresponsive to the City Engineer’s letter and the other engineering review reports referenced therein. The deficiencies that remain in the Site Plan are summarized below in the order of the comments contained in the City Engineer’s letter, dated February 19, 2018. Additional details are provided in the attached FA engineers’ reports. The project remains materially out of compliance with the City ordinance provisions listed at the end of this letter.

Items requested by the City are listed below and followed by our summary review comments:

  1. Final design for Curb Inlet/Bay‐Filter system that you volunteered to add to address a specific FA concern. Basic design was previously shown in supplemental data.

Sheet 41: Curbs adjacent to inlets need to be labeled and the drainage area serving the curb inlets needs to be correctly delineated (including the handicapped parking area downgrade from BF-1 and the roadway containing a ditchline downgrade from BF-2).

In reviewing the Bay Filter performance tables on Sheets 37, 38 and 43 (2 places), the TSS results are different in every one of the tables. Also when compared to the 12/18/2017 Plan set, the same areas, IC and results show up in the various tables. The filter system has not been redesigned even though K-H said that BF-2 would have to be “upsized” with the added curb inlets (2/12/18 letter). Also, nowhere do we find any required stormwater storage calculations that are discussed in the Guidance Manual Appendix that was part of K-H’s resubmittal. Thus, the added curb inlet system has not been engineered as proposed by K-H or as required by the WQP ordinance.

Other deficiencies are listed in both Dr. Ross’ attached letter and her February 17 letter. These have not been addressed by the resubmittal and additional engineering is necessary for compliance with City of DS’s Ordinance.

  1. Clarification of the pollutant load removal efficiency of the Bay Filter units you are proposing.

The Technical Guidance Manual that was provided details design and calculation methods including pretreatment, bypass, stormwater storage and filtration. The Application does not contain complete calculations and the design features described in this manual. See also comment in No 1 above. Information on the Flexstorm product was included, but it is not apparent how this project may use this product. Dr. Ross’ attached letter further describes limitations of some of the provided resources.

  1. Oil/Grease and Phosphorus removal back up calculations including VFS areas per BMP sub-basin.

Dr. Ross’ attached letter lists a number of factors that have not been properly considered or designed which result in the project failing to meet the 90% removal of the increase in Total Suspended Solids and Total Phosphorous.

  1. Existing vs Proposed condition hydrograph(s) to clarify your statement of “no increased flow resulting from proposed conditions”. In addition, provide discussion elaborating on the “improved conditions of site vegetation” after development and resulting curve numbers.

The Engineer’s selected points of analysis (along the downstream creek channel) are too far from the drainage systems that would be most affected by the proposed development. In particular, the drainage channel immediately below the developed Venue A site will be subject to larger volumes of runoff, over longer flow durations as a consequence of the added impervious cover. The City’s water quality code (22.05.019 (e) is written to protect these on-site drainage ways from the erosive effects of the increase flow volumes and velocities. The Engineer’s updated plans do not comply with this code requirement. His original calculation was not done per code at this location or using the proper design storm as outlined in my original review comments (Feb 19), and this comment was not addressed in his recent (Feb 26) response. Applying this WQ code, we estimate a much lower allowable peak flowrate than that implied by K-H estimates near this location, by a factor of 10. In my opinion the natural drainage channel in Drainage Area 2 (PR-2) will be subject to a significantly higher erosion potential under the proposed conditions than under today’s conditions. A drainage analysis is required for this channel using the 2 year, 3 hour storm information and demonstrating a flow rate a prescribed in the ordinance.

Other analysis concerns, including additional engineering design needed for the temporary sedimentation ponds, are contained in Jeff Kessel’s attached letter. Dr. Ross’ letter contains information supporting use of more appropriate curve numbers in the drainage analyses.

  1. Updated roadway typical section with notes and symbology to clarify your stated intent to place topsoil and revegetation up to the edge of pavement.

This is a nonstandard design as 2.5 inches of topsoil over compacted crushed stone is not a sufficient root zone to establish vegetation and create conditions significantly different from impervious cover. With calculations and maintenance provisions it may qualify for partial area credit towards the impervious cover percentage.

Because of limitations, errors, and calculation omissions listed above and in described in reports from our engineers, the design and alleged performance has not been demonstrated and is not verifiable. The Site Plan remains out of compliance with:

  1. 05.015 Performance Standards
  • 90% Removal of 3 Constituents (Section (c)(3)), and
  1. 05.019 Erosive Flow Control
  • Stormwater discharge into a waterway (Section (e)).

Additionally, until BF-2 is engineered to filter water captured by the curb inlets, the design is out of compliance with:

  1. 05.016 Impervious Cover
  • Impervious cover downstream from water quality controls (Section (f)), and
  1. 05.019 Erosive Flow Control
  • Untreated runoff over a CEF (Section (a)).

Finally, the impervious cover calculations require revision using innovative method credits to demonstrate compliance with:

  1. 05.016 Impervious Cover
  • 10% Impervious Cover Limit (Sections (a)-(e)).

In sum, the newly produced materials only serve to confirm that the Applicant’s design fails in numerous material respects to comply with the City’s own ordinances, which the City itself is required by state law to enforce. We remain seriously concerned about these engineering deficiencies and resulting regulatory noncompliance by the proposed Mark Black Wedding Venue. Supporting reports prepared by engineering experts are attached, and objections raised in their previous reports, which were attached to our February 19, 2018 letter, persist as significant problems that have not been addressed at all, much less adequately addressed by the Applicant.

Based on the engineering deficiencies and proposed code/ordinance violations associated with this project, which are again confirmed by the newly produced materials, the Application should be denied, as Kimley-Horn has already been granted more than sufficient time to achieve compliance. If additional revisions are made by Kimley-Horn, we respectfully request that we be given sufficient “quality” time to verify and vet those revisions.

Finally, pursuant to state law and the City’s own procedures, please also accept this letter as a formal request by The Friendship Alliance to submit public comments at the next City Council meeting with respect to the late filed materials produced last Monday at 5 p.m., which were required to have been furnished by the Applicant prior to the last city council meeting. Unfortunately, through no fault of anyone except the Applicant, Kimley-Horn did not timely furnish any of these materials or other data necessary to correct previous deficiencies. However, the omission deprived citizens of the legal right to comment on those materials.

Accordingly, please advise us in writing before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, whether the City will allow public comment at the March 13, 2018 City Council meeting regarding the newly furnished materials.

We thank you for your consideration of this letter requesting that the application be denied, or alternatively, that any decision by the City be postponed in order to bring his project into regulatory compliance with the City’s own ordinances and state law.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully,

Carlos Torres-Verdin, Ph.D.
President, The Friendship Alliance, Inc.

Brian Dudley, P.E.

cc:
City of Dripping Springs’ Council Members, Michelle Fischer, Ginger Faught, Chad Gilpin, P.E.

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.

YOU MUST ACT NOW TO PROTECT YOUR PROPERTY VALUES AND WAY OF LIFE

    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 jerry@co.hays.tx.us phone (512) 393-7385,
      County Commissioner Ray Whisenant Ray.Whisenant@co.hays.tx.us phone (512) 858-7268,
      Development Services Director James “Clint” Garza james.garza@co.hays.tx.us
        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: scollard@northhaysfire.com  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:

Who: BLACK MARKET INVESTMENTS LLC
208 North Main St.
Lockhart, TX 78644

Members: Terry Black, Christina 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.”

Answer:
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.”

Answer:
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.”

Answer:
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.”

Answer:
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.”

Answer:
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.”

Answer:
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”

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.

Regards,
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Dripping Springs, TX 78620