After two years sitting empty, the bar and beer garden in the Brodie Barn development will open today, Oct. 27.

"We are happy just to be moving forward," owner Anita Dunn said. "I said to my husband it felt like when we signed the papers [to purchase the property] seven years ago, we fell down a 1-square-mile rabbit hole and nothing made sense after that."

A contentious Sunset Valley City Council meeting Tuesday ended with council members approving three requests put forth by the Dunns, including one that stated the owners complied with the city's land development code by installing a clay liner in the property's water quality pond.


Originally intended as land for a USA Olympic curling facility, the Dunns purchased the 1.7-acre property at 6218 Brodie Lane in 2011. While the land falls within unincorporated Travis County, Sunset Valley has jurisdiction over the watershed, Anita explained, meaning any impervious cover variances would have to be approved by council.

Prior to purchasing, the Dunns said they met with City Manager Clay Collins and former Council Member John Moore to gauge interest in the project. According to an email correspondence provided by the city, Collins confirmed council had expressed its satisfaction with the curling center concept; however, in absence of a clear plan of how the owners intended to control water quality, council was not ready to move forward with a variance.

The Dunns moved forward with purchase of the property. Days later, Anita said Sunset Valley passed a master plan designating the land residential. The site plan for the curling facility was denied.

"This city was very effectively enforcing zoning in the ETJ [extra-territorial jurisdiction] where no zoning is allowed," Dunn said at a Sept. 5 City Council meeting. "According to the laws of the state of Texas, that is illegal."

The Dunns decided to put the curling facility on hold and instead work with Travis County on developing "The Barn," a food-truck park and bar.

"I told Clay Collins we are more than willing to do whatever Sunset Valley wants us to do for this project, but we were not going to start with them this time because it's an exercise in futility," Anita said. "I wasn't going to make the same mistake a second time."

Once the bar was built and the park was operational, Sunset Valley responded in January 2015 with a lawsuit that claims the Dunns violated the city's land development code. By including food trucks in the Barn's site plan, Sunset Valley claimed the Dunns had exceeded the city's allowable amount of impervious cover—a maximum of 18 percent. Anita maintains she was following Travis County laws.

The Dunns filed a counter lawsuit against Sunset Valley, alleging conspiracy and government corruption.


In order to open the bar, the Dunns still needed to meet Sunset Valley's watershed regulations, so Anita said she and her husband invested $250,000 in a water quality pond equipped with a clay liner. A test to ensure the liner's ability to withstand a rain event was performed by the Dunn's engineer; however, the city's inspector was not present.

As a result, Sunset Valley requested its inspector perform his own test by drilling holes into the pond, a request Anita flatly refused.

"The inspector Josh Ronson and [Public Works Director] Katy Phillips insisted that I override my engineer's stamp of approval and let them mess with it," Anita said. "I said if they were going to put holes in it, they needed to accept liability of its future performance."

When the city declined, the parties were at a standstill. Sunset Valley gave the Dunns three options for how to move forward: find a third-party geotechnical engineer to approve the pond's liner, obtain a Water Pollution Abatement Plan from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or pursue a surety bond to ensure financial responsibility if the pond's liner fails.

"What we are all trying to do here is figure out a way we can do our job and meet the expectations of the people that put us here," Council Member Walter Jenkins said Tuesday. "We live over the [Barton Springs] aquifer recharge zone. Everybody in our city is very concerned about water quality."

Anita argued the pond had already proven to hold water during major rain events such as Hurricane Harvey and that a maintenance plan should be sufficient in ensuring liability for the pond's liner. Council members expressed continued hesitation to approve the Dunn's request.

"Since we don’t have that statement that it meets that standard, we have to hold it a higher degree of certification that it will be repaired," Mayor Pro Tem Marc Bruner said during Tuesday's meeting. "A maintenance agreement alone does not give me that assurance. We need a bond."

Eventually, Anita and her husband agreed to the option of a surety bond. After an hour of back and forth between both parties, the requests were approved.

The surety bond will remain in place for two years, council explained. If during that time the pond passes periodic inspections, the bond will expire and the principal amount will be returned to the Dunns.

"We didn't set out to pull the wool over anyone's eyes," Anita explained. "At the end of the day we didn’t lose. We’ve been hemorrhaging money, but the way I see it now is at least we have a business."

Plans for the curling facility are still underway. Anita said the Dunns have been in talks with the property owner behind the Barn's lot about purchasing their land; if they chose to move forward, the Dunns would need to pursue an impervious cover variance with Sunset Valley.

"We are still going to build a curling facility and we are going to bring the Olympic trials to Austin," Anita said. "We have been guaranteed six major events, which will fill Sunset Valley's shops and restaurants six times a year at least. Cities who host events like this see $1 million per event."