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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 05.015 Performance Standards
- 90% Removal of 3 Constituents (Section (c)(3)), and
- 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:
- 05.016 Impervious Cover
- Impervious cover downstream from water quality controls (Section (f)), and
- 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:
- 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.
Carlos Torres-Verdin, Ph.D.
President, The Friendship Alliance, Inc.
Brian Dudley, P.E.
City of Dripping Springs’ Council Members, Michelle Fischer, Ginger Faught, Chad Gilpin, P.E.
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.
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
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com phone (512) 393-7385,
County Commissioner Ray Whisenant Ray.Whisenant@co.hays.tx.us phone (512) 858-7268,
Development Services Director James “Clint” Garza firstname.lastname@example.org phone (512) 393-2150.
- 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: email@example.com phone (512) 894-0704.
- 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.”
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.