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Vote on controversial wedding venue delayed to March

Two hours of public comment and deliberation Tuesday wasn’t enough to push Dripping Springs city leaders to make a decision on a controversial Driftwood wedding venue.

Instead, the Dripping Springs City Council voted unanimously to postpone a vote on the Mark Black Wedding Venue until March 13.

The postponement came in light of new information presented by the Friendship Alliance and several independent engineers, who claimed the current venue development plans harbor five violations to city ordinance.

However, Dripping Springs City Engineer Chad Gilpin said the site development plan was determined by city staff to be compliant with city requirements.

According to an engineering study by three different environmental and industrial engineers, the site’s development plan does not meet the requirements set by city ordinances.

Those engineers who participated in the study were Lauren Ross and Jeff Kessel, both of whom hold a Ph.D in Environmental Engineering studies and are professional engineers (PE), as well as Brian Dudley who is also a PE.

The engineers said in the study the venue increases storm water velocity in creeks that could cause erosion.

Other issues are venue allows untreated road and parking lot runoff into recharge creeks and builds impervious cover downstream from water quality control, which the engineers said violates a section of city ordinance.

Carlos Torres-Verdin, president of the Friendship Alliance, said four “experts on water quality and engineering” found the creek on Black’s property is a drainage feature of the Edward’s Aquifer.

“We believe in science and engineering. And I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that there are violations of the law here. This project cannot go because of that,” Torres-Verdin said.

The engineers claim the applicant has not submitted an analysis concerning phosphorous, oil and grease pollution into the creeks on the property.

According to Dripping Springs’ city ordinance, a city may refuse to grant development, construction or occupancy approvals for improvements for a property that does not fully and completely comply with all terms and conditions.

In addition to water runoff concerns, residents relayed issues surrounding fire safety, noise pollution and potential evacuation risks on Crystal Hills Drive.

Mark Black and his development team also presented new information during the meeting Tuesday.

Andrew Evans, civil engineer for the Mark Black Wedding Venue, said the goal of the site development is to create lighter environmental impact.

The team has done this by adding vegetative filter strips that they said meet standards set by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

Kevin Olsen, lead architect for the wedding venue, said development plans have changed in the past to help preserve the natural landscape.

Of the the 64 acres of land available at the site, only 10 percent will be developed.

However, Dripping Springs Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds exercised a motion to postpone a vote on the venue to March, which was approved unanimously.

Foulds said the postponement was to give the city engineer more time to evaluate the site’s development plans before council can come to a solution. However, city officials said there will not be a public hearing on the item when it comes back to the city council

Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell said the city has limited power on zoning outside of the city limits.

Purcell said if he could have prevented the wedding venue development next to his parent’s home, he would have, but council must work within the framework of the law.

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