Jan 29, 2024 - News

Hays County residents fight proposed concert venue

Map: Axios Visuals

A coalition of Hays County residents and environmental activists is sounding the alarm on a proposed concert venue near Dripping Springs.

Why it matters: The friction over the proposed concert venue illustrates heightened tension between conservationists and those who want to bring big-city amenities to the Hill Country as Austin's population pushes outward.

  • The venue, which would seat 5,000 people on 32-acres at 14820 Fitzhugh Road, is the latest proposal for a Hill Country entertainment site.

Driving the news: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hold a second public meeting Monday on a permit application submitted by California-based developer Blizexas.

  • If approved, the permit would authorize the disposal of treated wastewater and establish the conditions under which the concert venue must operate.

Details: The event comes after Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, urged the commission to hold another meeting for the water quality permit after community pushback.

  • "Our responsibility to protect the Texas air, water and natural resources while balancing economic development is an integral reason in having a public meeting with all parties involved," Campbell wrote in a letter to the commission in September.

Zoom in: The venue would neighbor Shield Ranch, a 6,800-acre site that's been with the Bowen family since 1938.

  • The ranch hosts overnight camps for children, including Camp El Ranchito — primarily for youth who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program and may not otherwise have access to a nature immersion camp.
  • Marshall Bowen, an attorney at Austin's Butler Snow Law and a member of the family that owns Shield Ranch, said the proposed venue would be in close proximity to where they hold the camp, causing noise and light pollution.

What they're saying: "It just runs counter to everything we're trying to do at the ranch, which is to preserve these open spaces to keep especially these sensitive areas in the Barton Creek watershed and Edwards Aquifer recharge zone," Bowen tells Axios.

An aerial view of Shield Ranch, which would neighbor the proposed venue. The family who owns the ranch is opposing the proposed site. Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Vail/Shield Ranch.

Of note: The coalition opposing the venue includes Travis Audubon, Save Our Springs and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, who fear that — in addition to noise, light and traffic issues — the venue's proximity to the Barton Creek watershed could have environmental consequences.

  • Community pushback slowed progress on the Violet Crown Amphitheater in Southwest Austin, while the mixed-use concert venue Backyard in Bee Cave is set to open later this year.

The other side: Bill LeClerc of Lexor — the parent company of developer Blizexas — is working with the state environmental commission to address those concerns, the Austin Business Journal reported.

  • Lexor also operates The Mountain Winery, a similar venue in a neighborhood near Saratoga, California.
  • "We do understand the concerns and we do understand that there will be an impact," LeClerc told the Business Journal in October. "That impact will be for a short period of time when we have events."

What's next: The commission meeting will be held at 7pm Monday at Dripping Springs Ranch Park at 1042 Event Center Drive.

  • Commissioners aren't expected to make a decision on the permit Monday.
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