Bee Cave clears way for movie studio, music venue, office districts

During the early hours of Dec. 10, Bee Cave City Council approved planned development districts, or PDDs, for The Backyard at Bee Cave and Terrace at Bee Cave—projects slated to add office space, movie studios, a music venue, dance hall, hotel, residences and dining to the site on Bee Cave Parkway at Hwy. 71.

The vote for The Backyard came after hours of presentations by city staff and the projects' representatives and developers, including Chris Milam of IDM Development Corp. and John Paul DeJoria, who heads up the Paul Mitchell line of hair products and Patron Spirits Co.

"This [project] is a game-changer for the community," Councilman Bill Goodwin said.

Both projects were denied approval in September by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, resulting in the development team's scaled-down proposals approved by City Council Dec. 10.

The Backyard's original venue design was changed to a bowl-shaped stage, oriented inward to help regulate noise with respect to the nearby residential neighborhoods, said Steve Metcalfe, the project's attorney. The venue's capacity was also reduced—down to 3,410 seats from an original projection of 7,500 seats, he said.

A sound-attenuation system will decrease the level of noise released from the music venue at its border, Milam said.

The height of most of the two PDD's office buildings were decreased as well as the height of the movie studios, making the projects closer to compliance with Bee Cave's building codes than previous plans for the districts.

More than 75 percent of the residents addressing council during the meeting were opposed to the projects and cited concerns about losing the Hill Country feeling of the area, the increase in lights that would detract from the Dark Skies community, and increased traffic and congestion.

Dark Skies is a part of Bee Cave's Comprehensive Plan ensuring minimal lighting in development to maintain natural, dark skies.

Residents said the council members have a duty to uphold Bee Cave's Comprehensive Plan and to abide by the sentiments reflected in this year's Comprehensive Plan update survey.

"We are about to do something tonight to kill us and turn us into Houston," former Mayor Pro Tem Sage Johnston said.

The Homestead resident Karen Phillips said The Backyard project was economically risky, should the film industry relocate out of Bee Cave after the studios were built. The Homestead is a neighborhood on W. Hwy. 71 just past RR 620.

The studio buildings have the capability to add windows and be converted into office space should the need arise, Milam said.

Proponents of The Backyard and Terrace projects included members of the Bee Cave Arts Foundation, who said the developments would bring an artistic identity to the city and add cultural value for residents as well as local high school students who may have the opportunity to learn about the film industry on-site.

City Council members questioned the extended hours of operation for the film studios, the amount of parking requested for recreational vehicles, the exclusion of the Watch Tower in the original design, sufficiency of parking, tree removal, need for office space in the area, the airplane hangar-type architecture of the buildings and The Backyard's sound system's ability to maintain the noise leaving the venue at 85 decibels.

DeJoria told council members that he originally shared ownership of The Backyard with Tim O'Connor but eventually took over total control when O'Connor needed financial assistance. He said O'Connor had planned more music venues on the tract, and the new proposal is much better—in terms of density—than what could have been built on the property.

The Dec. 10 vote only encompassed the rezoning of the Bee Cave Parkway tracts into PDDs with a corresponding change to the city's Future Land Use Map and did not include a decision on site plans for The Backyard and The Terrace.


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