Dripping Springs City Council opts for partial refund to Mark Black in wedding venue fee dispute

A photo of the Dripping Springs City Council.
Dripping Springs City Council decided on a partial refund for Mark Black's fee waiver request at a Nov. 12 meeting. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Dripping Springs City Council decided on a partial refund for Mark Black's fee waiver request at a Nov. 12 meeting. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

After a months-long back and forth, Dripping Springs City Council issued a decision Nov. 12 on a fee waiver request by Mark Black related to costs associated with his wedding venue development project in the Dripping Springs extraterritorial jurisdiction. Black, who had contested over $12,800 in city fees, will receive $2,121 of the amount he requested back, per the council’s unanimous vote.

Black’s project, a 300-person wedding venue located at 130 W. Concord Circle, Driftwood, garnered renewed controversy this spring when neighbors alerted the city that the project had diverged from its approved site plans. The city issued a stop work order until Black submitted updated plans for the project, which is subject to few developmental regulations since it is located in the ETJ.

The council’s decision came after three previous votes to table the issue, most recently on Oct. 8, when Black’s attorney Kenneth Chaiken spoke on his behalf. Chaiken argued that the fees were directly instigated by the project’s detractors.

“We know that the city is bombarded almost every day with communications from groups who oppose the project,” Chaiken said in October.

At that meeting, City Council chose to seek clarification from city engineer Chad Gilpin on the cause of certain fees before making a final decision, despite city attorney Laura Mueller’s initial recommendation that Black’s request be denied in its entirety.

Mueller reported to council Nov. 12 that she had consulted with Gilpin and found that $2,121 of the fees in question could indeed be linked to comments from neighbors, although they were still considered “appropriate and justifiable.” Mueller recommended that the council issue a refund of that amount, less $1,619.88 in fees that were still owed by Black for consultant fees he had appealed prior to payment.

Neither Black nor Chaiken was present for the Nov. 12 vote. In an October interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Black said he anticipated being “involved in litigation” with the city.


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