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Dripping Springs residents travel to Austin to protest possible venue

Continued frustration over a controversial Driftwood wedding venue led area residents to protest in Austin Monday.

The protest, held in front of Terry Black’s BBQ, was done in opposition to the Mark Black Wedding Venue, which is proposed to be located on Crystal Hills Drive.

The protests erupted roughly 24 hours before the Dripping Springs City Council was scheduled to potentially decide on the venue’s fate. Dripping Springs city leaders Feb. 13 opted to postpone a decision on the venue to Feb. 20 in order to obtain more information.

But in the interim, customers at the barbecue joint, which is co-owned by Mark Black, watched from their seats as residents who live along Crystal Hills Drive carried signs down the sidewalk to display their discomfort with the proposed project.

On Jan. 23, the Dripping Springs planning and Zoning Commission recommended the venue’s approval by a 5-1 vote. Since that time, two public hearings were held on the venue, with a third having taken place Feb. 20.

The public hearings and dialogue between residents and Mark Black was the buildup to the protest, a final showing by the concerned residents before the vote.

Jeanine Christensen, secretary of the Friendship Alliance, a nonprofit organization representing neighborhoods in northern Hays County, said neighbors had sought for a rally in front of Terry Black’s BBQ since July.

The focus for the rally was to spur discussion between the Friendship Alliance and local and state officials.

“We wanted to work things out with the city, Hays County and Representative Jason Isaac,” Christensen said.

Doug Marsh, a resident in the Goldenwood West neighborhood, said he is not completely confident in the outcome of the Feb. 20 meeting, but hopes council listens to neighbor concern.

“We have presented wastewater, fire and traffic concerns all of which have been studied and analyzed by professions,” Marsh said. “If a person just goes out to the road, they can see that it is not built to accommodate all of the residents and the hundreds of people for a wedding venue.”

Black, who watched from his restaurants outside dining deck, said he wasn’t surprised with the protest.

Regardless of the neighbors’ display, Black said he is still confident city council will approve the permits for the wedding venue.

“It’s unfortunate that they continue with the false claims that we haven’t engaged in conversation even though we met last Tuesday,” Black said. “We’ve done everything by the book. The engineering has been cleared.”

On Feb. 13, the Dripping Springs City Council voted to delay a decision on the venue.

That was followed by heated comments from community members against the development of the venue.

If the city council approves the project, Black said development will begin in the near future.

During the meeting, Carlos Torres-Verdin, president of the Friendship Alliance, spoke on behalf of the concerned citizens.

Although no new scientific developments were presented Feb. 13, Torres-Verdin and other community members addressed concerns that ranged from fire safety to an increase in traffic on the road leading to the venue.

Other concerns extended to the potential for noise issues and wastewater treatment, Torres-Verdin said.

“Unless something comes out of left field, I’m confident we got it right,” Black said Feb. 13. “We had our presentation at P&Z and (the neighbors) had theirs. All of the engineering has been cleared and approved by the county.”

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