Wedding venue expansion causes concern for residents

Driftwood residents are pushing Dripping Springs city leaders to reevaluate site development plans for a local wedding venue future expansion.

Earlier this month, Mark Black, owner of the controversial Mark Black Wedding Venue on Crystal Hills Drive in Dripping Springs’ extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), submitted new site development plans to Dripping Springs city officials to build additional structures on the property. This new revelation caused heartburn for those who oppose the project.

Carlos Torres-Verdin, president of Friendship Alliance, an organization representing a group of neighbors, said Black started construction of the new structures before the city approved the changes, which he argues is illegal.

“It’s as simple as it sounds—they are breaking the law,” Torres-Verdin said. “They did not disclose the size of the septic system and the size of the stormwater containment devices. That’s significant considering the property is on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.”

A Hays County official in the planning department said plans have not yet been submitted to the county; Dripping Springs, however, has a copy of the plans.

Black said the new plans will add several housing units on the property for wedding venue parties to stay the night.

“We’re still building the most beautiful wedding venue in Texas,” Black said. “That’s not going to change.”

But Black refuted rumors he was planning to construct a restaurant on the property. Black said the original plan included a commercial kitchen for the wedding venue.

“Of course, there will be concerns but we’re working hand in hand with the city to comply with everything we need to,” Black said.

However, Torres-Verdin said there is still information missing from the site plans. Additionally, he said the county and TCEQ do not have the plans, which is grounds for the project not to be approved.

“They were building something they were not approved to build and never told TCEQ about that,” Torres-Verdin said. “The new building is a size up. They need to revise the volumes of water, septic and other issues.”

Torres-Verdin said the Blacks have shown disregard to the law and environment.

Black refuted those claims, adding he has addressed environmental concerns throughout the development process.

A call for a public hearing
Friendship Alliance officials are now hoping the plans will be brought back to the Dripping Springs City Council with an added public hearing. That request comes after Black’s addition to his site development plan and with recent citations from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on the project.

“They have not cleaned up the creek and it continues to be polluted,” Torres-Verdin said.

Black said the erosion control issues have been addressed per the TCEQ requirements and he said the creek is clean.

Dripping Springs Deputy City Administrator Ginger Faught said there are no variances with the new site development plans, which means it can be administratively approved.

A stop-work order is in effect for the portion of property affected by the new site plans, but the rest of the property can still be developed.

Additionally, analysis by engineering firm Kimley Horn, which has provided the engineering for the project, indicates the new site development plans will reduce impervious cover from 6.30 acres to 5.91 acres.

However, Kimley Horn’s analysis has been disputed by independent engineers throughout the initial approval process of the wedding venue.

“Because the plans have changed so much with so much unknowns, we are urging the city to hold a public hearing on this matter,” Torres-Verdin said. “We already know these folks don’t care about the environment. We need a public hearing.”

Black said city officials are on-site at the development every week monitoring the progress of the construction.

He said the pollution of the creek was caused in part by a flood that swept through the Western portion of the county in May, damaging erosion controls which have since been addressed.

“No matter what I do or change, they’ll throw allegations,” Black said. “We are still building two wedding spaces and this is going to be an event facility. That is not changing.”

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