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Eastside neighborhood wins out over outdoor music venue permit

Monday, March 1, 2010 by Austin Monitor

Residents of the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood in East Austin have won a victory against what they consider a impending invasion of outdoor music. It came when the Austin City Council upheld their appeal of an Outdoor Music Venue permit that had been awarded to Sustainable Waves. Daniel Llanes, who represented the River Bluff Neighborhood Association at the hearing, told In Fact Daily that he was still convinced that the outdoor music permitting system was broken.


“We were all trapped by this flawed (OMV) ordinance and the negligence of the city permitting staff,” he said. In his testimony, Llanes had suggested that the process under which venues can apply for an OMV permit was backward. With current rules, venues are granted permits before community input. Neighbors can then appeal the awarding of the OMV permit, as Llanes did.


Llanes and his neighbors had met with Sustainable Waves’ Neal Turley and city officials in an attempt to find a compromise solution. Turley’s company offers a variety of solar-powered equipment for outdoor music performances and is based on East Caesar Chavez Street. During the 2009 South by Southwest festival, a Red Bull-hosted event on property located adjacent to their facility ran, against city regulations, until 5am. Llanes cited this event as one of the reasons that Turley’s company could not be counted on to reliably fulfill the requirements of an OMV permit. Turley maintained that though Sustainable Waves played a part in the Red Bull event, it was not responsible for its permit violation.


The ruling doesn’t preclude Turley from applying for one of the other city permits that would allow his company to host an outdoor music event. His options include a 24-hour permit, and a recently unveiled 96-hour permit. The OMV permit would have been valid for at least a year.


Indeed, Council Member Randi Shade suggested that Turley’s needs might be more appropriately served by one of the shorter permits. Turley insisted that he’d gone the OMV route because of some personal confusion about the process, and his need “as a business owner, to have some kind of permanency to give someone a job.” That statement reflects Turley’s belief that the OMV permit would have allowed him to schedule a handful of concerts throughout the year.


Mayor Lee Leffingwell also tried to encourage Turley to look to a solution that didn’t involve an OMV permit. He suggested that Sustainable Waves consider setting up a venue that would be solar-powered but would host events inside. Turley resisted. He noted that his firm would then have to build such a facility, and that the new venue would represent a “very different experience” for show-goers.


A running theme in the residents’ testimony was what they viewed as a recent influx of requests for live music venue permitting. “People are targeting Govalle/Johnston Terrace as the next music district,” said Llanes. He referenced what he saw as a residential turn in his community. “We are no longer the edge of town; we are no longer the warehouse district,” he said.


Llanes said that he was looking forward to further challenging the city’s OMV ordinance. “Mr. Turley is one of our neighbors,” he said. “We want harmony, we want peace. We don’t want to be at odds. It’s the outdoor (music) venue (ordinance), the way that it is written that put us in this position.”

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