Council denies Special Events Center permit to local home


By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

The twist of a West San Antonio Street home continued at last week’s meeting of the Lockhart City Council.

Ben and Lauren Siegel of Austin had purchased the home at 703 W. San Antonio St. in 2022. While the Historic Landmark designation was removed at the Nov. 21, 2023, City Council meeting, the Siegels were denied last week of a Special Events Center Special Use Permit (SUP) – they did receive an approval of a Lodging and Boarding House permit SUP – at the property.

The appeals submitted to the City of Lockhart were from Rebecca Hawener and Michel Royal.

The Siegels, of Austin, had purchased the house but were never advised of the Historic Landmark designation in any manner until they had begun restoration of the house. Councilmember John Lairsen had previously described the failure of the Historic Landmark designation as “unfortunate missteps.”

Among the Siegels’ plans had been making a wedding venue for 200 guests (with a capacity of 360). While there had only been plans for 12 parking spaces on site, the Siegels had agreements with both a local business and local churches to park vehicles at those locations during such an event.

Several people opposing the Siegels’ plans addressed the City Council, some arguing the noise would be a problem for the local residents, others noting the danger of pedestrians crossing West San Antonio Street. There were some on hand supporting the Siegels’ plans.

Lockhart Planning Director David Fowler said his office had received 19 letters in opposition to the venue being used for such large gatherings.

The house was built in 1907.

A large wooden deck was to be added, as well as a bridal suit/overnight suite. There would be four bedrooms to rent. Off-duty police or private security firms would have been hired for the events.

Ben Siegel said he and his wife “love old buildings” and wanted to find something within an hour’s drive outside Austin.

“We wanted to find one we could maybe fix up and maybe rent out as a (bed and breakfast),” Ben Siegel said. “What we wanted was an old building. What we did not want was a historic building. The first piece of real estate we ever bought, which is a restaurant we operate in Austin, was unbeknownst to me was in a National Registered Historic District. It ended up taking twice as long and ended up taking a lot more money. There were a lot more restrictions and a lot more hassle. We didn’t want to deal with that.

“My wife fell in love with the City of Lockhart. This is where we wanted to come. Part of our plan was to turn the attic of the house into another suite. The addition in the back was cheap and moldy. (During remodeling), we called the city and that was the first time we found out the property potentially had a Historic designation. It didn’t come up in the county records. It was not a Historic Property on the seller’s disclosure.”

Ben Siegel noted there were other houses on West San Antonio Street which could have up to 150 guests at weddings, and that the plans for 703 W. San Antonio were to have the weddings indoors in hopes of “deadening the sound.

Ben Siegel said monies would go to local florists, photographers, as well as people to work the events.

Rebecca Hawener, who lives next door to the residence in question, said the venue plan was “not part of what we are and what we want. It makes me think long and hard about what my future is in Lockhart.”

Other people who spoke in favor of the appeal included the following:

Michel Royal: “Lockhart is truly our home. Part of the charm of Lockhart is the beautiful old homes and friendly people. Lockhart is losing its small-town appeal at an astonishing rate. While growth is certainly necessary and inevitable, we would like to see it achieved with a historical consideration.”

Christine Ohlendorf: “Most, if not all, of the members of this residential area know how difficult it already is to leave our driveways on West San Antonio Street. It’s a huge safety concern. If you add an event to the street; a filming, a gathering, etc., it’s darn near impossible. Frankly, it seems negligent to even consider the request for SUP for the event hall.”

Julie Ohlendorf cited the elderly who lived nearby. “They do not have the option to pick up and move.”

Mary Lou Wiegant: “I fell in love with Lockhart about 32 years ago. Neighborhoods do matter. That’s why we moved here. We moved out of Austin for that reason.”

Kevin Thuerwaechter: “I live in an old house too, and I want to be able to peacefully enjoy my old home. My experience with another wedding venue is it’s loud, with the windows shut and the TV on. One time there was even a drunken brawl out in the street.”

Anita Baldridge: “Some people seem to think that any growth is good. I can tell you that Austin used to be a nice place to live. They raised the property values, and they raised the taxes to the point where people who had worked all of their lives and paid for a house could no longer afford to live in it. So, growth is not always a good thing. This will be a very destabilizing influence if you allow it to happen.”

Theresa Ramirez: “We have three senior citizen sites within a couple of blocks of this place. Offsite parking does not work. People are going to park wherever is convenient for them.”

Paul Rodriguez spoke on behalf of his mother, whom he said lived nearby. “I’m concerned for her health. I’ve been accosted by a homeless guy that wanted me to give him money. I don’t envy your position. But that’s why we elected you. You’ve got to ask yourself this: are you going to stand for the out-of-town developer whose motivation is profit, or are you going to stand with your constituents whose motivation is maintaining a high quality of living?”

Kara McGregor lives on West San Antonio Street. She said if the SUP was approved it could help her financially, but added, “This is about more than my interest. This is a bad thing for Lockhart. There is a significant public safety issue. There are of course other deep-pocketed out-of-town investors watching this decision and planning on how they want to make the dominoes fall next. I ask you not to privilege the needs and agendas of outside investors over the people who live here.”

Among those speaking against the appeal and in favor of the Special Events Center permit included the following:

Brooke Maurer: “We wanted to get away from the craziness of Austin. We don’t want Lockhart to turn into Austin. They (the Siegels) are trying to be as respectful and as thoughtful as they can.”

Levi Garrett: “The Siegels are trying to preserve this property. I think we should be very grateful that they have taken the time and energy to be as transparent as they have been considering it’s not 100 percent necessary.”

Jana Sensat: “I strongly support the project. Special events are already happening. How is this one any different?”

Donna Daniels: She said the house was not conducive to modern family living. She also said at least the Siegels were not a corporation looking for tax breaks or benefits, adding, “Someone is going to develop this property and I would really love for it to be the Siegels.”

The City Council unanimously denied the Special Events Center Special Use Permit and unanimously approved the Lodging and Boarding House Special Use Permit.

Before the vote, Lairsen addressed the Siegels. “If this doesn’t pass, I hope we can find a way for you to remain in Lockhart, do something in Lockhart, invest in Lockhart. If y’all can figure out something else to do with that property, you’ve got my ear.”

In other business:

Lockhart Police Chief Gary Williamson presented the City Council with the department’s Racial Profiling Report.

Williamson said there were 3,711 traffic stops in 2023, slightly up from the 3,441 stops in 2022. The breakdown of those stops, were as follows:

Hispanics, about 48 percent

White, about 42 percent

African American, about 9 percent

All others, less than 2 percent

There were 157 probable cause searches.

As far as Contraband searches, 117 were for drugs, and 60 for alcohol.

The City Council unanimously approved Blake Reed’s request for a zoning change from Commercial Heavy Business District and Agricultural Open Space to Commercial Heavy Business District and Industrial Light District on 11 acres at 1820 South Colorado St. Reed, of Austin, said he was looking at possibly putting office spaces in the back and perhaps two retail pads in front.

KidFish will be held at Lockhart City Park on Saturday, March 16 beginning at 9 a.m.

The City-wide Bulk Cleanup will be Saturday, March 23.

A proclamation declaring February as Domestic Violence Awareness Month was presented to Roxanne’s House.

Also, a proclamation was presented to Lockhart ISD proclaiming February as Career and Technical Education Month in Lockhart.

Andrew Devaney is Lockhart’s new Building Official. With more than a decade of experience, Devaney recently served the City of Alpine as its Director of Building Services. He earned certifications through the International Code Council and Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners.

Several board appointments and reappointments were approved by City Council:

Animal Shelter Advisory Board – Suzy Falgout, Alexandra Worthington, Andrea Theriot, Dr.Morgan Siewert, DVM, Caldwell County Commissioner BJ Westmoreland, Lockhart Police Chief Gary Williamson, and Lockhart Animal Shelter Supervisor Nikole Lockard.

Board of Adjustment and Appeals –Patrick Stroka was appointed to a term that will expire in November 2026.

Airport Board – Jake McCullough

Board of Adjustment – Wayne Reeder

Board of Adjustment Alternate – Lucy Knight

Construction Board – Ian Stowe, Jerry West

Lockhart Economic Development Corporation – Doug Foster

Historical Preservation – Marcia Proctor

Library Board – Donaly Brice, Jean Clark Fox

Parks and Recreation – Russell Wheeler, Warren Burnett

Planning & Zoning – Rick Arnic, Philip McBride

Lockhart Economic Development Corporation – Sally Daniel

Electric Board – John Voight

Historical Preservation – Jerry Haug


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