Planned 20K-Seat Amphitheatre Back to Drawing Board After Enviro Board Loss

Violet Crown venue withdraws city water and sewer extension request

A rendering of the Violet Crown Amphitheater shows the proposed venue that environmental groups say would be detrimental to Barton Creek and surrounding wildlife (Provided by Christine Haas Media)

Central Texas environmental organizations won their first battle last week in an effort to quash plans for the proposed Violet Crown Amphitheater, the 20,000-plus-capacity music venue planned on and near environmentally protected areas in Southwest Austin. The city's Environmental Com­mis­sion voted unanimously Feb. 16 against the developer's request to extend and widen miles of city water and waste­water pipes out along Texas 71 to the proposed site near the intersection with Southwest Parkway. City Council would have had the final say on the water line expansion, but developers requested to withdraw the water and wastewater service request Tuesday, February 22, confirmed Christine Haas, a spokesperson for the project. Haas said the decision will not stop the development. "We had expected this and have had several back up plans in place for water."

The commissioners who voted no weighed feedback from the city's Watershed Protection Department, which opposed the request. Kaela Champlin, an environmental program coordinator with the department, told the board that the site's water needs would be equivalent to a 766-single-family­-home subdivision to serve the proposed amphitheatre, golf course, nightclub, offices, and two residential towers. All those facilities and others would sit on the 71-acre site, which borders the Nature Conservancy's Barton Creek Hab­i­tat Preserve and lies within the Barton Creek Water­shed and Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone, Champlin said.

Developer Craig Bryan, president of International Devel­op­ment Management, emphasized that he wanted to make the project "a crown jewel of how to do something right, especially from an environmental standpoint." Part of his plan involves raising money for local nonprofits through concert ticket sales, and Bryan said the project would raise money for environmental groups regardless of the commission's decision. His engineering team argued that running water lines right along Texas 71 would not hurt the surrounding environment more than the highway itself does.

A series of opponents lined up to argue that the project in its proposed location could not possibly be environmentally friendly. Some of the proposed water and wastewater lines would cross tributaries of the creek, Champlin said, adding that if the project did not tie into Austin Water's infrastructure, the developers could seek another provider to irrigate treated wastewater on approximately 30 acres, or 42%, of the site.

Nicole Netherton, executive director of Travis Audubon, took the podium to describe impacts to the endangered golden­-cheeked warblers who live in the adjacent preserve. Bill Bunch of the Save Our Springs Alliance reminded commissioners that Austin taxpayers have spent millions to protect habitat and water quality with land acquisitions in the area. Because some of the site was platted prior to the 1992 Save Our Springs Ordinance, the property could be grandfathered out of compliance with the code, though Bryan has said his team would follow current regulations voluntarily.

Mike Clifford, technical director with Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said the organization will reach out to developers to ask if they would consider selling the tract to the Barton Creek Habitat Preserve.

"That is a pretty long shot but it's our job to make that call," Clifford said.

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