Proposed Amphitheater Near Dripping Springs Faces Neighbor Opposition
Traffic concerns clash with 5,000-capacity plans off Fitzhugh Road
By Chad Swiatecki,
9:30AM, Fri. Jan. 6, 2023
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.”