Violations force work to stop at Driftwood venue site

A trio of environmental violations at the construction site of a controversial Driftwood-area wedding venue has neighbors worried about the integrity of the project.

Those violations were issued by the city of Dripping Springs and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Mark Black Wedding Venue, located on Crystal Hills Drive in Dripping Springs’ extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

The project was approved by the city of Dripping Springs in March 2018. The developers, Mark and Michael Black, began construction on the development in 2018.

However, TCEQ officials notified the developers of two violations, while the city informed the contractor of a separate violation to the site development plan. 

“During the investigation, certain outstanding alleged violations were identified for which compliance documentation is required,” wrote TCEQ Water Section Team Leader Robert Sadlier to the developers in a letter. 

The violations include the failure to provide proof of deed recordation within 60-days of receiving written approval from the Edwards Aquifer Protection Plan and failure to submit construction notification to the agency no later than 48-hours prior to the commencement of regulatory activity. 

For members of Friendship Alliance, an organization representing neighborhoods near the construction site, the violations reflect a time when representatives said the project could cause environmental harm to the area.

Jeanine Christensen, secretary for the Friendship Alliance, said drone footage recorded Jan. 26 by a neighbor “appeared” to show areas at the venue site where trees were not only cut, but stumps were also cleared.

“In my experience, earth-moving equipment must be used to pull the stumps from the soil, and once the soil is disturbed, soil erosion is possible,” Christensen said.

Christensen said she was unable to see any sediment or erosion control measures on the property based on the drone footage. 

Aaron Reed, code enforcement and construction inspector for the city of Dripping Springs, was notified of the clearings on the site, leading to the city’s notification. 

“The contractor had not contacted the city for an inspection of temporary erosion control devices prior to construction,” Reed said. “When the city’s construction inspector visited the site on Jan. 31, it was determined that erosion and sedimentation control devices had not been installed per the approved site development plan.” 

Reed issued a verbal order to stop work; contractors at the site ceased work and installed the appropriate erosion and sediment control measures. 

As of Feb 7, construction on the wedding venue had ground to a halt due to the violations. In an email exchange between Reed and the Friendship Alliance, multiple visits to the construction site in early February concluded that construction was at a standstill. However, it’s unknown at this time if construction at the site is still stopped.

Further enforcement of the stop would be limited without additional action from city staff.  

“Depending on the violation we could issue a stop work order,” Reed said. Due to the fact that this project is located within the city’s ETJ, the city would have to file a lawsuit in Hays County Court to enforce the stop work order if the owner does not comply.” 

City officials confirmed that they have not been in contact with the developers at this time and are communicating with the contractor.

Reed and TCEQ officials were scheduled to meet Feb. 13 regarding the matter, but the briefings of that meeting were not disclosed to The Hays Free Press at publication. 

The Hays Free Press reached out via email to both Mark and Michael Black for comment on this story. Neither responded back as of press time.

This story is developing. We will provide updates online at haysfreepress.com.

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