How to Shield a Ranch
New coalition makes noise to stop proposed concert venue in Southwest Austin
It’s not often that Austinites hear complaints about more music venues, but it’s all about location, location, location. Downtown spaces are trying to keep their heads above water — or more specifically, above all the luxury condos eyeing the area — but things change out in nature. In Southwest Austin, a coalition called Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue believes the area would be better off without a proposed music venue.
Fitzhugh Concert Venue, the moniker for an unnamed venue proposed for 14820 Fitzhugh Rd. out near Dripping Springs, started generating controversy at a public meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), on November 29. Blizexas LLC, the company proposing the 5,000-person venue, was seeking a wastewater permit, and the community had further questions about how the venue would impact the environment.
Community Impact reports that “[t]he 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.” Google Maps shows the proposed location neighboring a church, stables, and a baseball training facility, backed by a large swath of seemingly unoccupied land.
As the coalition points out, it is also situated near Shield Ranch, which protects 6,400 acres within the Barton Creek watershed. Some of the area is wild, but Shield Ranch recently broke ground on an ambitious, ecologically progressive campsite with permanent structures to host up to 200 visitors. The coalition expresses concern not just for ecological impacts on the ranch, but urban interruptions to a quieter life in the surrounding community.
“In just a few weeks’ time, more than 700 neighbors have organized against this proposed concert venue that our community does not want,” coalition member Sue Munns said in a press release. “This would fundamentally change the quality of life for all of us who have chosen to live out here because of the pace of life and natural beauty. We don’t want to hear the concerts from our homes. We want to be able to see the night sky not glare from bright lights. We want to feel safe driving on our narrow, two-lane roads, and we don’t want Barton Creek compromised from water runoff.”
Munns continued, “The bottom line here is the developers are forcing safety degradations and quality of life changes on a community that doesn’t want it, and they don’t seem to care about the impression they are making or the families they are upsetting in the process.”
The Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue website lays out its objections in four categories: light, noise, traffic, and water. Each is accompanied by a map. The light and noise maps spread across both sides of Barton Creek, denoting places that would be able to see and hear the venue, given hypothetical specifications like 20-foot light poles and maximum decibels allowed by state law. It cites ecological concerns from National Geographic and the International Dark Sky Association.
In the traffic section, the website notes not only an increase in traffic, but a high potential for alcohol-impaired driving and overflow parking. (If the whole venue capacity of 5,000 came two per car, there would still be 500 cars looking for parking spots.) The wastewater section — the initial topic at hand in the November 29 meeting — asserts that based on data from other businesses in the area, it is exceedingly unlikely that the venue would keep its pollutants within its legal limits.
Most of the grievances put forth by the coalition are not unique to concert venues, but they are dramatically heightened. The website does not offer recommendations, except that the venue simply is not built. The only calls to action include a form to join the coalition, and information on contacting local representatives. The coalition has three official partners: The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA), the Save Barton Creek Association, and the Save Our Springs Alliance.
For now, people nearby interested in seeing live music will only get as close as the handful of breweries, distilleries, and wineries already lining Fitzhugh Road, but it is reasonable to assume that a less disruptive venue would also offer a milder repertoire.
“The Austin region is experiencing rapid growth and development, which is good for the economy and creates opportunity for the people who live here,” Shield Ranch co-owner Bob Ayres said in the release. “However, no one is asking for this proposed venue. It’s unnecessary, poorly devised and threatens to significantly impact Barton Creek and the natural and human communities in the region.”
More information about Stop Fitzhugh Concert Venue is available at stopfitzhughconcertvenue.com.