Michael and Mark Black come from a family tradition of Texas barbecue from Lockhart to Austin.
But with the purchase of a 64-acre plot of land in Dripping Springs, the brothers are looking to expand into the wedding business with a proposed venue that can accommodate up to 600 people.
Those plans, however, have drawn the ire of nearby neighbors who are opposing the venue.
The new proposed wedding venue, located off of FM 1826 on Crystal Hills Dr., will have two separate event spaces each capable of hosting 300 people each.
The three neighborhoods, Radiance, Goldenwood and Goldenwood West, along with Radha Madhav Dham Hindu Temple all border the proposed project site. Crystal Hills Drive is a two lane county road and is the main way in and out of the neighborhoods to FM 1826.
Debra Morris, a resident of Radiance, said there is a great deal of community concern with the project that go beyond the scope of the development.
“This venue is located at the heart of a residential community and a place of worship,” Morris said. “Crystal Hills Drive is the only way in and out of this neighborhood. If you have a wedding with 600 people, that could be around 300 cars coming in and out of neighborhoods.”
Along with traffic, Morris said residents are concerned about the potential noise and fire hazards that may be present with the venue. In 2006, the Rim Walk subdivisions were evacuated due to a wildfire that burned down more than 950 acres of land.
However, Black said he has a few clients already lined up for the venue, and none of them have a guest list that would be beyond 200. The 600 person guest list is a maximum number of potential people, and most weddings do not reach that capacity, he said.
On Jan. 23, Texas State Rep. Jason Isaac met with Black on the property to discuss concerns Isaac and his constituents had regarding the project.
Since Crystal Hills Drive is a county road, the city of Dripping Springs does not have direct authority to widen the roads for traffic in and out of the venue.
Black said he and Isaac are both planning to talk with county officials for ways of alleviating some of the community’s concern.
“Some of the main concerns in my neighborhood is that we have not been able to have meaningful dialogue addressing our issues with Mark Black,” said Jeanine Christensen, secretary for the Friendship Alliance, a nonprofit organization representing neighborhoods in northern Hays County. “If alcohol will be served, we are going to have people driving down a dark, two lane county road with blind turns after they’ve had a few drinks.”
Christensen said the Radiance community has received no commitment from Mark Black and his team to keep music indoors and restrictions over the use of fireworks at the venue.
Christensen said Scott Collard, North Hays County Fire Rescue chief, “has his signature on the site plans.”
“It is my understanding from Chief Collard that the applicant (Mark and Michael Black) has met all of the legal requirements for the site, but we still have issues with the plan,” Christensen said.
All community concerns are valid and being taken into “heavy” consideration, Mark Black said. He added he will have two, 40,000 gallon tanks of water on the property that will be made available for emergency services in the event of an emergency not only at the venue, but also in the surrounding area.
“I understand there is concern and we are committed to hearing the community,” Mark Black said. “This is going to be the most beautiful venue in the state. This venue will be neighborhood and environmentally friendly.”
Mark Black said the project will accommodate both indoor and outdoor weddings, but the main appeal will be on the outdoor aesthetic of the venue.
However, the site development has not been approved by the city of Dripping Springs.
According to a notice by the city, Dripping Springs is considering the approval for the site development. The site development permit application is scheduled to be administratively approved on Feb. 1 after the review of the site development permit application and allowing time for consideration of public comments, the notice said.
If the project is approved, Mark Black said he is hoping construction will be complete for the venue to open by early 2019. The architectural design is 95 percent complete and Black is working with MF Architecture and Landwest Design Group for the project development.
“Matt at MF Architecture has won many awards and they are known for their beautiful designs and being environmentally friendly,” Black said. “Landwest Design Group is the best landscape architecture group in the nation and they work on a level above the competition. One we get these permits approved, development will start.”
“We have a presentation for the public hearing and I look forward to having a discussion on our concerns regarding the project,” Christensen said.
A public hearing was held Jan. 23 on the matter.