Dripping Springs halts work at controversial wedding venue

After multiple environmental violations and allegations of polluting a neighboring creek, Dripping Springs city officials have placed a stop-work order on the Mark Black Wedding Venue.

The stop-work order is the latest chapter in a saga that began with Mark Black’s plan to build a wedding venue on property along Crystal Hills Drive in Dripping Springs’ Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), or external boundaries.

On July 9, Dripping Springs Mayor Todd Purcell announced the stop-work order, which was met with applause from residents who attended that evening’s city council meeting.

“At 11:05 we issued a full stop work on the project,” Purcell said. “It’s not a victory or ‘let’s run the lap.’ I want you all to understand we are looking at this very carefully.”

Purcell said the city council is consulting with city staff and its city attorney to educate themselves on the matter and how to move forward.

“But I felt like we needed to take a pause and look at this closely before we move forward,” he said.

The decision to halt construction is in light of a new site development plan submitted by Mark Black. The plans would expand the wedding venue, which has been a cause for concern from residents.

In early July, Black said the plans would add several housing units on the property for attendees to stay the night, according to a News-Dispatch report.

After the site development plans were made public, Friendship Alliance officials, an organization representing neighbors in the area, called for a public hearing on the change.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued multiple citations against the developer over faulty erosion controls that could have caused pollution to the nearby creek.

Carlos Torres-Verdin, president of the Friendship Alliance and who has opposed the project since its inception, cited the TCEQ violations to city leaders July 9.

“The creek to this day remains polluted,” he said. “This guy is a trespasser of the law. He doesn’t care. He was building a thing that was not permitted to be built, never.”

Torres-Verdin said the issues were only addressed when the neighbors contacted the city, county and TCEQ to report construction of a structure that was not included in the original site plans.

“The predicament here is we have a liar, a trespasser of the law,” Torres-Verdin said. “We need time. Time to check and quality control everything Mark Black does…”

It’s unknown at this time how long the stop-work order will remain in effect. City leaders have periodically listed an executive session item related to the wedding venue in recent meetings.

Items discussed during executive session can relate to possible or pending litigation or matters that involve the city attorney.

Local resident Robert Christensen said the order by the council was an acknowledgment of the importance of natural resources in the Dripping Springs area.

“We are a nation of laws and I ask for full accountability of Black Market Investments and its associates,” Christensen said.

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