News

Community members hold up signs for Fitzhugh Neighbors, a grassroots organization against the development, at a public hearing Jan. 30. (Elle Bent/Community Impact)

Fitzhugh Neighbors to host benefit, raising money to fight proposed concert venue

April 11, 2024

Source: https://communityimpact.com/austin/southwest-austin-dripping-springs/development/2024/04/11/fitzhugh-neighbors-to-host-benefit-raising-money-to-fight-proposed-concert-venue/

Community members opposed to a concert venue with plans to build off Fitzhugh Road in Dripping Springs have begun to fundraise for their cause.

Fitzhugh Neighbors and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, or GEAA, are hosting a benefit concert May 18 to support the legal fund of Fitzhugh Neighbors as they fight the proposed venue.

The overview

Fitzhugh Neighbors is a grassroots organization that formed to stop the concert venue’s development. The GEAA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the protection of the Edwards and Trinity aquifers.

The benefit will include performances by country music artists Robert Earl Keen, Tony Kamel and Kym Warner.

“However, this event isn't solely about advocacy—it's also about celebrating our community and safeguarding its future,” GEAA Technical Director Mike Clifford said in a news release.

The background

The proposed venue is slated for Fitzhugh Road near the intersection of Crumley Ranch and Trautwein Road, and would serve up to 5,000 people a day, three times a week, with room for 2,000 cars to park.

Neighbors have been voicing concerns about the venue since 2022, citing both safety issues with the location and environmental concerns.

Fitzhugh Road is two-lane road, no shoulders, with multiple low-water crossings. It intersects with RM 12, Hwy. 290 and Hamilton Pool Road.

We don't have the infrastructure,” Fitzhugh Road resident Steve Warntjes told Community Impact in 2023. “I'm talking about 14 miles of two-lane roads. They're windy; they're unlit. There's no shoulders on any of these roads, and they were just never designed for that much volume.”

There have been two public hearings hosted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding the venue’s wastewater permit. One took place in November 2022 and another in January. An additional community forum was called by Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra on Oct. 2.

Residents said they are worried about how the developer plans to avoid runoff that could pollute local waterways. The TCEQ maintains that the permit will not allow for the applicant to discharge any pollutants into water and that the permit “includes provisions to protect local surface water and groundwater resources."

Clifford said the amount of impervious cover, or features that block rainfall, such as the parking lot, may cause runoff. The impervious cover combined with small fields about half an acre in size within the venue’s lot to irrigate treated sewage could result in runoff that is both stormwater and wastewater, he said.

“We plan to develop a world-class and well-run venue near Dripping Springs that is respectful of our neighbors, the land and the Hill Country’s unique character,” Bill LeClerc, director of real estate developments and investments at Lexor Investments, told Community Impact in 2022. Lexor Investments is the parent company of Blizexas LLC, the company behind the proposed concert venue.

What’s next

Organizers are now selling tickets to the benefit for groups of eight and will begin selling general admission tickets at $75 on April 23. The event will take place at 6 p.m. May 18 at the Dripping Springs Ranch Park and Event Center, 1042 Event Center Drive, Dripping Springs. For more information, visit www.fitzhughneighbors.org. For more information on permits submitted by Blizexas, visit www.tceq.texas.gov.

Barton Creek flows near Dripping Springs. LOLA GOMEZ/AMERICAN STATESMAN

Neighbors angrily reject proposed 5,000-seat amphitheater due to environmental concerns


January 30, 2024

Source: https://www.statesman.com/story/news/local/2024/01/30/austin-amphitheater-environment-wastewater-tceq-fitzhugh-neighbors/72389648007/

A proposal for a 5,000-seat amphitheater on a 32-acre tract of land on Fitzhugh Road has drawn significant ire from neighbors who would share a single-lane road with concertgoers in their rural neighborhood southwest of Austin.

At a Monday night meeting requested by state Sen. Donna Campbell, a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality panel heard two hours’ worth of testimony and questions from opponents of the development. The TCEQ has drafted a wastewater permit for the development, though public outcry and legal challenges could shape its outcome.

As currently drafted, the permit would allow the daily disposal of 12,000 gallons of wastewater through a subsurface irrigation system. Fitzhugh neighbors have armed themselves with a coalition and retained substantial legal counsel, a sign of their general affluent background and ability to fight back against a large-scale real estate developer they say could endanger nearly 30,000 acres of land.

The panel said it would take public comments into account and would consider neighbors’ appeals. It did not give a timeline for the permit’s approval or rejection, nor was a timeline provided for construction of the amphitheater should the permit be approved. 

According to the coalition of residents, the event venue would draw crowds, vehicles and waste to an enclave that values its connection with nature. Aquifer-fed springs bubble up at several properties along Fitzhugh Road, and some protesting homeowners are concerned the development would distress an already fragile ecosystem; threaten the golden-cheeked warbler, an endangered bird; and cause irreversible soil erosion, among other issues. 

“There is no doubt that it would have an extremely negative effect on the ecosystem from a biodiversity, noise, light, water quality perspective. Open space is quickly disappearing in the Austin area,” Bradford Wilcox, a professor of ecohydrology at Texas A&M University, told the American-Statesman in an email. 

Mike Clifford, a director at the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said that if Blizexas LLC, the California-based property developer, “does not sell the land or settle with local landowners, then the fate of the Fitzhugh Amphitheater will be decided by the courts.” 

Clifford spoke tenaciously at the meeting, expressing concerns that the permit, if granted, would be among the laxest ever approved by the TCEQ. The permit would not require the removal of nitrogen or phosphorus, which can cause lethal algae blooms, and it would have limited requirements for E. coli testing. He said the pollution limits set by the TCEQ are four times what they should be for a 30-acre development. 

He told the Statesman that the aquifer alliance has worked to block or negotiate settlements on similar developments in the past. A heavily contested plan for a 20,000-seat Violet Crown Amphitheater, near Bee Cave, has been stalled since 2022, while Honey Creek Ranch near Bulverde, previously at risk of being turned into a housing development, was sold to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for $25 million, and it will be part of the Honey Creek State Natural Area. 

Carrie Napiorkowski, a member of the Fitzhugh Neighbors coalition, said Blizexas’ proposed amphitheater threatened her Polish immigrant husband’s American dream. Their 13 acres on Fitzhugh’s winding road has eight karst features in the form of natural springs, which could be contaminated by runoff from the amphitheater, making their well water dangerous. 

“This dream is being taken away by the selfish desire of a developer who doesn’t understand the sensitive ecosystem in our area,” she said. 

Another member of the coalition said she resides downhill from the proposed development. Sue Munn worries the pollution could infect Barton Creek and springs connected to the Trinity aquifer, located near her property. Should the amphitheater be developed, she noted that her 3-year-old grandson might no longer be able to play in the creek, and that the pollution of Barton Creek at large “would be everyone’s problem.” 

While speaking to the panel, Brian Zabcik, an advocacy director at Save Barton Creek Association, noted that should the permit be approved, it would be the first wastewater permit of that magnitude on Barton Creek.

“The threshold for approving it must be very, very high,” Zabcik told the TCEQ panel.






Concerned Area Residents Showed Up In Force For The TCEQ Public Meeting In Dripping Springs Last Week.

Despite sharing immediate goals with StopFitzhughConcertVenue.com, FitzhughNeighbors.org benefits only from donations made directly to FitzhughNeighbors.org. It's notable that Change.org and StopFitzhughConcertVenue.com each retain their donations for themselves.

Only You Can Stop the Fitzhugh Amphitheater Now!

January 29, 2024


  Hello Fitzhugh Neighbors,

 

Those of you who took time out of your busy schedules to attend last week’s TCEQ public meeting in Dripping Springs were likely disappointed by the fact the Fitzhugh Amphitheater developer was a no-show and the TCEQ hadn’t even bothered to review the amphitheater site plan prior to issuing a draft wastewater permit.

 

It is now clear that the only ones who can stop this atrocious amphitheater from happening are the local community, but we need your help. Fitzhugh Neighbors has retained powerful environmental attorney, Lauren Ice, from Perales, Allman, and Ice to oppose the amphitheater developer Blizexas in court. We have the facts and evidence on our side that this development would not only pollute our water but destroy our wells, and we will win!

Please consider donating whatever you can to help cover our legal costs, so that we can beat this developer in a way even they’ll understand… in court!


Residents in Rural Austin Neighborhood Fighting Plans for Large Concert Venue

Source: https://www.kvue.com/article/money/economy/boomtown-2040/fitzhugh-concert-venue/269-4bd75eb1-ba56-421f-917c-6aa70cf45a4a

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — A California developer is looking to bring a new concert venue to the Austin area. But some neighbors say they don't want it and are working together to fight the plans.

Just north of Dripping Springs sits a small Austin neighborhood nestled in Hays County where the concert venue is looking to call home.

"A rural life, it's a quiet street, has been a quiet place to live, and great neighbors," said Sue Munns with the Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue Coalition.

Munns has lived right off of Fitzhugh Road for years. She said to see the possibility of a 5,000-person concert venue come their way is concerning.

"Two of the roads have one-lane bridges on them and there is the absolute certainty of traffic gridlock. It's just a no-brainer that it doesn't belong here," said Munns. 

For neighbor Will High, he said there are also negative environmental impacts a venue like this could bring.

"This venue is very, very close to Barton Creek, so the impact of the overflow of wastewater into Barton Creek is going to be felt not only by the people in this community here but all the way into Austin," said High.

But Bill LeClerc, a director with Lexor Investments, the parent company of Blizexas, which is developing the site, said they have plans to make sure these issues are handled with care. He said they have hired an engineer who knows the area well and are making sure they are following strict guidelines.

Neighbors say they're concerned, as the only thing separating their homes and the proposed venue is a small, two-lane road, saying it poses safety hazards.

LeClerc said his team also has a plan to control the exits, making sure people aren't flooding the streets after events. They will operate on a system that lets a certain amount of cars out at a time.

"We'd rather have a few unhappy customers that have to wait an extra couple of minutes to leave the site than to have a mass flow out, that we have issues that we can't control once they leave the property," said LeClerc.

Munns said for her neighbors, water conservation is also top of mind, saying the area doesn't have full access to water and sewer connections for some residents.

"It'll break your heart to observe the people whose wells have run dry or they're having trouble knowing they're going to run dry," said Munns.

LeClerc said they have plans to make sure the area continues to thrive.

"It will be creating a number of jobs. We estimate probably close to 200 jobs in the area. And along with that we'll also be having transportation improvements there out in Fitzhugh," said LeClerc.

For now, LeClerc said they are currently in the process of securing permits for the site. He said they are waiting to fully move forward until those are secured.

Proposed music venue along Fitzhugh Road facing opposition from some residents

Source: https://www.kvue.com/article/money/economy/boomtown-2040/dripping-springs-fitzhugh-road-music-venue/269-4e4c681a-e305-40e2-a5b1-153250910e09

DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas — A California-based developer wants to bring an outdoor music venue to Fitzhugh Road just north of Dripping Springs. The venue could hold as many as 5,000 people.

But there is some opposition to the proposed project. The Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue Coalition has now submitted a letter of opposition to Hays County and Travis County leaders. One of its biggest concerns is the impact on traffic.

"We have requested a roadway safety audit and, are they actually safe enough handle the traffic? Fitzhugh Road, as you can see, has no shoulder. There are lots of turns. There are no street lights. How is that going to work with that many people on the road?” said Kevin Fleming, who is part of the coalition.

Fleming has lived on Fitzhugh Road for more than 20 years. He said he is concerned about the possibility of long lines of cars on the two-lane road.

"Safety is top for everybody, envisioning 2,000 cars driving on this road," he said.

RELATED: Residents in rural Austin neighborhood fighting plans for large concert venue

The coalition is also worried about noise and the venue's potential impact on the environment. But not everyone opposes the project.

Jackson Lucht lives about 15 minutes from where the venue would go.

"I think it’s cool," he said. "I mean, this area does not have an outdoor amphitheater music venue other than bars and breweries and restaurants in the area, so personally we'd love to go to an outdoor music venue."

Luxor, the parent company of Blizexas, which would develop the site, told KVUE in December they hired an engineer who knows the area well and the company is making sure they are following strict guidelines.

When it comes to traffic, the company plans to make improvements to the road and control the exits, making sure cars aren't flooding the streets after events.

The coalition said it is asking for a public hearing before any new permits are issued for the project.


Environmental groups, neighbors rally against proposed concert venue

Source: https://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2022/12/environmental-groups-neighbors-rally-against-proposed-concert-venue/


A coalition of environmental groups last week announced its opposition to a proposed 5,000-seat concert venue at 14820 Fitzhugh Road, near Dripping Springs.

The coalition, Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue, says it’s concerned about negative impacts the venue might bring to Barton Creek, as well as increased traffic on narrow country roads, drunk driving, and noise and light pollution members say would disrupt neighbors and harm wildlife.

Bob Ayres, co-owner of neighboring Shield Ranch, said in a press release that while Austin’s growth has brought many good things to the region, the concert venue would not be one of them. 

“No one is asking for this proposed venue,” Ayres said. “It’s unnecessary, poorly devised and threatens to significantly impact Barton Creek and the natural and human communities in the region.”

Coalition members include Shield Ranch, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, Save Barton Creek Association, and Save Our Springs Alliance.

The concert venue is planned on a 22-acre property in Hays County, with California developer Blizexas LLC spearheading the proposal. According to reporting by KVUE, the developer plans to follow all state environmental guidelines and has a traffic management plan. Bill LeClerc with Blizexas said the venue could help create 200 jobs in the area.

Before any construction can begin, the venue needs a wastewater permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. On Nov. 29, TCEQ held a public hearing, at which around two dozen residents spoke against the project. 

Neighbors aired a variety of concerns, among them impacts to Barton Creek. Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue claims that the buildings and activity associated with the venue, including parking for 2,000 cars, will significantly impact the water quality in the creek and ultimately Barton Springs. 

“The amount of proposed impervious cover will increase wastewater and stormwater runoff, causing erosion and delivery of sediment and pollutants to Barton Creek. These impacts will degrade water quality and be harmful to the environment and people recreating downstream,” the release stated. 

An analysis by the group also shows that noise and light pollution could affect neighbors for miles around. 

TCEQ is expected to issue a decision on the wastewater permit next year. Blizexas has not revealed detailed plans for the venue or when it might begin construction and open for concerts.

A community forum was held in October at Dripping Springs Ranch Park and allowed residents to ask questions and bring up concerns. (Elle Bent/Community Impact)

Dripping Springs residents to voice opinion on proposed concert venue at TCEQ meeting

Source: https://communityimpact.com/austin/southwest-austin-dripping-springs/development/2024/01/17/dripping-springs-residents-to-voice-opinion-on-proposed-concert-venue-at-tceq-meeting/


Community members concerned about a concert venue proposed for Fitzhugh Road are preparing for an opportunity to voice opinions to officials from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, as well as the developer.


The overview


Sen. Donna Campbell made the request to the TCEQ on behalf of concerned residents, including the Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue coalition. Residents have been aware of the proposed venue for over a year.


The public meeting will be held at Dripping Springs Ranch Park, 1042 Event Center Drive, Dripping Springs, on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.


A closer look


This is the second public meeting in regard to a wastewater permit filed by California-based company Blizexas that would serve a concert venue with up to 5,000 seats, according to the permit.


The permit, which is still pending approval and is the only one filed so far, would provide the development with its own municipal wastewater service. The concert venue would serve up to 5,000 people per day up to three times a week for up to six hours, according to the permit.


The project’s engineer, Erin Banks, estimates the venue would use 12,000 gallons of water per day averaged over a week, based on another event venue built by the company in California. The water use would come from a well installed on the site, Banks said.


The wastewater permit, if approved, would not allow for "a discharge of pollutants into water," according to TCEQ documents.


Mike Clifford, technical director for the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said the amount of impervious cover, or features that block rainfall such as the parking lot, may cause runoff. This amount of impervious cover combined with small fields about half of an acre in size within the venue’s lot to irrigate treated sewage could result in runoff that is both stormwater and wastewater.


Additionally, the treated wastewater permit as proposed would not remove nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen from the wastewater that can pollute waterways when runoff occurs, Clifford said.


“A developer that can get that type of a permit that’s so loose does not need to spend very much on wastewater treatment,” Clifford said. “Whereas, a development like Headwaters that does that removal—that extra environmental protection—that's a much more expensive wastewater treatment plant. So, you can see what this developer has done is basically trying to make this thing as cheap as possible.”


Diving in deeper


Water is not the only concern for those in opposition to the project.


In July, Fitzhugh Neighbors, a grassroots organization part of the coalition, wrote a letter to 20 elected officials urging a re-evaluation of a traffic impact analysis, or TIA, submitted by the developer to Hays County officials in February 2022. In response, Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith requested a third-party review of the TIA.


The letter emphasized the TIA fails to “account for significant public safety concerns.”


The proposed venue would be located off Fitzhugh Road near the intersection of Crumley Ranch and Trautwein Road. Fitzhugh Road is a two-lane road without shoulders with multiple low-water crossings. It intersects with RM 12, Hwy. 290 and Hamilton Pool Road.


Businesses, such as Jester King Brewery and Fitzhugh Brewing, in addition to community members' homes, sit off Fitzhugh Road.


“When a development that also has these impervious cover problems and wastewater problems happens to want to be on one of the most dangerous roads in Hays County, it creates a very egregious proposed development,” Clifford said.


The TIA concluded a need for several improvements to the road, including adding police or traffic personnel at the intersections of Crumley Ranch and Trautwein Road with Fitzhugh Road during events; new turning lanes at the intersection of the road with RM 12; and lastly, additional warning signs.


The TIA also conducted a site distance study, which determines how far a driver can see when stopped and looking down an intersection. The study looked at four driveways from the venue onto Fitzhugh.


It found three driveways met the Hays County minimum sight distance regulation, which is 350 feet for a road that has a speed limit of 35 miles per hour. A fourth driveway measured at 250 feet did not meet the regulation, which would be rectified with additional signage, according to the TIA.


Dripping Springs local Steve Warntjes has lived off Fitzhugh Road since 2015 and told Community Impact in July he’s concerned about safety on the road if the venue is built.


“I'm not against music,” Warntjes said. “What I am against is concerns about public safety and whether or not we're going to be able to handle this volume of traffic in a reasonable manner.”


Other concerns community members will likely express Jan. 29 include noise and light pollution.


Shield Ranch Barton Creek, 6,400 acres of sustainably managed land, sits nearby the site of the proposed venue. Marshall Bowen, a member of the Shield Ranch family and attorney with Butler Snow LLP, told Community Impact in February the renderings of the venue are “shocking” because of how it would transform the area.


“We have to be mindful of the decisions we're making now that are going to have impacts for generations of folks who will live in Austin, and the real impacts on our infrastructure, our water quality and our way of life," Bowen said.


In case you missed it


At a community forum called by Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra to discuss the proposed venue Oct. 2, Smith told the community the county is limited in its ability to regulate the development.


“Under state law, and especially the changes that happened in [the 88th legislative session], if a project meets regulatory standards then we have to place what's called a mandate for approval,” Smith said Oct. 2. “If we get certain materials submitted in a timely fashion, once we get the final submission, if they meet the standards, we have to approve those projects within 30 days under state law.”


Going forward


The wastewater permit has not been approved or denied by the TCEQ as of press time. Any community member can attend the public meeting Jan. 29.


“We plan to develop a world-class and well-run venue near Dripping Springs that is respectful of our neighbors, the land and the Hill Country’s unique character,” said Bill LeClerc, director of real estate developments and investments at Lexor Investments, in a previous statement to Community Impact. Lexor Investments is the parent company of Blizexas.


The renderings of the venue can be found here. For more information on the coalition, visit www.stopfitzhughconcertvenue.com. For more information on Fitzhugh Neighbors, visit www.fitzhughneighbors.org. For more information on permits submitted by Blizexas, visit www.tceq.texas.gov.

Developers Lexor Investments are also behind the Mountain Winery venue in Saratoga, California, shown here (Courtesy of Lexor Companies)

Proposed Amphitheater Near Dripping Springs Faces Neighbor Opposition

Traffic concerns clash with 5,000-capacity plans off Fitzhugh Road

A 5,000-capacity amphitheater proposed for a portion of Hays County just southwest of Austin is meeting stiff resistance from residents who say the project will greatly disrupt life along the rural Fitzhugh Road.

The Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue group has worked since the spring to bring together concerned residents along the two-lane county road. The coalition argues that the outdoor music venue, planned on a 32-acre tract at 14820 Fitzhugh Road, would create several safety hazards with up to 2,000 vehicles entering and leaving the venue for each event.

You get a lump in your throat thinking about the traffic, the congestion. As it is… on an average day you really pray that there’s not some terrible accident with the many cyclists who are up and down Fitzhugh Road,” said Sue Munns, whose family lives across the street from the proposed venue site.

“There is no [musical act] that belongs at a venue the magnitude these people are proposing. It's ridiculous. It's completely unsafe. How anybody can think this is logical is really beyond me. And that's the same sentiment by almost everybody around here.”

The still-unnamed project is the work of California-based Lexor Investments Inc., which has a similar venue in Saratoga, California and does business in Texas as Blizexas LLC.

Munns and other residents weighed in on the proposed venue in late November during a public hearing in Dripping Springs held by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to discuss the wastewater permit needed for the site.

That state-level regulation could be the only possible check on the project, since it is located outside the jurisdiction of Dripping Springs and state law doesn’t give zoning authority to counties. The state has not reached a decision on the permit for the subsurface drip dispersal system, which would keep wastewater contained to the site.

Walt Smith, Hays County commissioner for Precinct 4, has called into question Blizexas’ traffic study, which claims 80 percent of traffic to the venue would come from the East along Fitzhugh Road. He says other neighboring county roads are likely to experience heavy traffic and safety issues that the county will have to pay to address, unless the developer volunteers to make needed safety improvements.

“The developer has voluntarily stepped up to do a number of improvements along the property where they're at on Fitzhugh Road,” said Smith. “If they were building this facility within a city limits or on a state roadway, the state of Texas or the city of Austin or Dripping Springs could say, ‘Here are the traffic improvements that we are going to make you pay for in order to open this facility on a county roadway.’ Counties don't have that same ability, so any improvements that happen, we have to pay for them as a county.”

The 5,000-capacity project is one of three large venues being proposed for the Hill Country surrounding Austin. The 20,000-capacity Violet Crown Amphitheater is part of a development off Highway 71 in Southeast Austin, and has attracted similar opposition from nearby residents. And a development known as the Backyard, proposed for Bee Cave Parkway near Highway 71, has plans for two music venues including an amphitheater.

Bill LeClerc, director of real estate development and investments for Lexor, said the venue will fit with the eventual expansion plans to turn Fitzhugh into a four-lane road, with the company paying for a center turn lane from the west and a right-hand turn for eastbound traffic. If other surrounding roads require improvements due to safety issues caused by venue traffic, he said “we would be open to discussions” with county officials.

As to Lexor’s amphitheater possibly joining two others in roughly the same region southwest of Austin, he said differences in capacity and the area’s overall growth would prevent them from cannibalizing each other.

“We would not view the 20,000-seat venue as competition by any means, because there would be a much different talent pool for a place that size,” he said. “At [a 5,000 capacity], there’d be a much different kind of artist we’d be booking, and we feel there’s plenty of room in the market for an outdoor facility to the west of Austin.”

A schematic of the proposed 5,000-seat venue

Coalition Fighting Another Proposed Amphitheater Near Dripping Springs

Environmental groups call on TCEQ to reject wastewater permit

Source: https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2023-03-03/title-coalition-fighting-another-proposed-amphitheater-near-dripping-springs/

Nearly a year after community pushback slowed progress on the planned Violet Crown Amphitheater in Southwest Austin to a crawl, another mammoth music venue is trying its luck, this time with a proposed 5,000-capacity amphitheater on Fitzhugh Road (about 25% the size of the Violet Crown proposal). Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue, a coalition of neighbors and environmental advocates, has been organizing against the plan since last spring, arguing that it would unsustainably increase noise and light pollution, traffic along the rural two-lane road, and runoff that may affect water quality; the land lies in the Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone and includes habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. California-based Lexor Invest­ments Inc. – Blizexas LLC in Texas – says it is willing to pay for road improvements to reduce traffic congestion and has asked for a wastewater irrigation permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the only regulator with control of the project as it it lies outside both Dripping Springs' and Austin's extraterritorial jurisdictions.

Two weeks ago, the developer released a schematic, doing nothing to assuage community concerns. The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance's subsequent letter of dissent cites the proposed 66.45% impervious cover, which "will likely degrade Barton Creek and local groundwater quality in violation of the Clean Water Act and state law." GEAA worries particularly about 1,823 parking spots and asphalt road surfaces from which auto pollutants can migrate into runoff, and that the temporary detention ponds proposed for the construction phase won't prevent runoff from traveling the half mile to Barton Creek. A mile away, within the city of Austin ETJ, impervious cover in the contributing zone is capped at 20% by the Save Our Springs Ordinance; in the Dripping Springs ETJ, the limit is 35%.

The letter also points to TCEQ's failure to maintain detention ponds at this scale: "During the past eighteen years we have seen numerous stormwater detention plans that were never fully implemented or that failed to function properly coupled with a failure on the part of TCEQ staff to make sure approved plans were adhered to and functional through follow-up. Given the budgetary and staff shortages of this agency, we urge caution in approving high-maintenance plans such as this one."

Though GEAA would prefer no development at all on the site, it offers alternatives with less impervious cover, such as structured parking or a "park and ride" model with remote garages and shuttles. Save Barton Creek Association points to other amphitheatres built in "more sensible locations," such as the Grove at Southpark Mead­ows next to I-35, or Circuit of the Americas next to SH 71, instead of "next to a pair of winding two-lane roads." TCEQ has not yet issued a decision on the permit, and Blizexas has yet to release a timeline for the construction or opening of the venue.

Steve Warntjes with a banner that reads "Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue" on his property. Warntjes is one of multiple Fitzhugh neighbors part of a coalition that is concerned for the safety and environmental impacts of a proposed 5,000-person concert venue on the road. (Elle Bent/Community Impact)

Fitzhugh neighbors urge county to re-evaluate traffic plan for 2,000-car venue

Source: https://communityimpact.com/austin/southwest-austin-dripping-springs/city-county/2023/07/26/fitzhugh-neighbors-urge-county-to-re-evaluate-traffic-plan-for-2000-car-venue/


Dripping Springs local Steve Warntjes has lived off Fitzhugh Road since 2015, and already has traffic concerns for the two-lane road consisting of breweries and resident’s homes.


With a proposed 5,000-person concert venue in consideration at 14820 Fitzhugh Road, Warntjes and other neighbors are worried about the safety impacts that increased traffic would bring to the area and wrote a letter to 20 elected officials July 17 in response to a Traffic Impact Analysis, or TIA, submitted by the developer to the county in February 2022.


“I'm not against music,” Warntjes said. “What I am against is concerns about public safety and whether or not we're going to be able to handle this volume of traffic in a reasonable manner.”


Warntjes is part of Fitzhugh Neighbors, a group within The Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue Coalition, which is in opposition to the project as proposed by California-based developer Blizexas LLC.


What’s happening?


The proposed venue will be located off Fitzhugh Road near the intersection of Crumley Ranch and Trautwein Road. Fitzhugh Road is two-lane road, no shoulders, with multiple low-water crossings. It intersects with RM 12, Highway 290 and Hamilton Pool Road. 

The letter sent by the coalition members requests Hay County Commissioners to:

In addition to the letter, the coalition began an online petition to push their request to Hays County, which has surpassed 1,000 signatures.


Zooming in


The TIA collected data in 2021, and studied peak traffic periods at three intersections with Fitzhugh:

The venue is proposed to have 2,000 parking spaces, with the TIA assuming 2,000 vehicles would be the maximum at the venue during an event. The TIA assumed that 2.5 people would be in each vehicle and that 1,000 attendees would arrive during a peak hour. Five percent of vehicles are assumed to be drop-offs, such as from a rideshare.


With this information, the TIA concluded a need for several improvements to the road, including adding police or traffic personnel at the intersections of Crumley Ranch and Trautwein Road with Fitzhugh Road during events, new turning lanes at the intersection of the road with RM 12 and lastly, additional warning signs.


The TIA also conducted a site distance study, which determines how far a driver can see when stopping and looking down an intersection. The study looked at four driveways from the venue onto Fitzhugh.


It found that three driveways met the Hays County minimum sight distance regulation, which is 350 feet for a road that’s 35 miles per hour, except for one at 250 feet, which would be rectified with additional signage, according to the TIA.


“We don't have the infrastructure,” Warntjes said. “I'm talking about 14 miles of two-lane roads. They're windy; they're unlit. There's no shoulders on any of these roads, and they were just never designed for that much volume.”


Zooming out


On Nov. 29, a public hearing was held by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in order to discuss a wastewater permit submitted by Blizexas that brought initial attention to the venue.


The permit, which is still pending approval, would provide the new commercial development with its own municipal wastewater service. The venue would serve up to 5,000 people per day up to three times a week for up to six hours, according to the permit.


The November meeting brought neighbors and members of the Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue Coalition together to discuss concerns in regards to noise, traffic, light pollution and water pollution that the coalition believes the venue could cause.


“We plan to develop a world class and well-run venue near Dripping Springs that is respectful of our neighbors, the land and the Hill Country’s unique character,” said Bill LeClerc, director of real estate developments and investments at Lexor Investments, in a statement to Community Impact in November. Lexor Investments is the parent company of Blizexas LLC.


Who it affects


Businesses, such as breweries and wineries, in addition to community member’s homes sit off Fitzhugh Road.


Nearby the proposed venue site is also Shield Ranch Barton Creek, which is 6,400 acres of sustainability managed land. Shield Ranch, which has been part of a family for over four generations, conserves the natural habitat and water quality but shares the land with the community through programs such as nature immersion camps.


Marshall Bowen, a member of the Shield Ranch family and attorney with Butler Snow LLP, said the renderings of the venue are shocking because of how it would transform the area and bring environmental concerns.


“I think it's a critical moment in the future of this part of our state, because this is a fundamental change forever in this part of natural land,” Bowen said. “We have to be mindful of the decisions we're making now that are going to have impacts for generations of folks who will live in Austin, and the real impacts on our infrastructure, our water quality and our way of life.”


What’s next?


The coalition is awaiting both for response from elected officials and county leaders to the letter sent July 17 and for a decision from TCEQ on the venue’s wastewater permit.


The renderings of the venue can be found here. For more information on the coalition, visit www.stopfitzhughconcertvenue.com. For more information on permits submitted by Blizexas, visit www.tceq.texas.gov.