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Cabaret construction currently on hold

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Photo by Judith Pannebaker
The former Cabaret Dance Hall in its present incarnation

For some time now, the Bandera County Courier has fielded calls from readers asked what's going on with the restoration efforts at the former Cabaret Dance Hall on Main Street. The short answer is "nothing." The "why" of the short answer requires a longer explanation.
The last official movement on the proposed reconstruction occurred during a January meeting of the City of Bandera Planning and Zoning Commission. As the minutes stated: "Sid Gibson made a presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission, saying that he would provide more detail when the plans were fully submitted. (Chairman) Tony Battle feels that it is a good concept." Gibson of Craftsman Custom Homes serves as contractor.
As architect on the project, Barry Ehrmann prepared the preliminary documents that Gibson submitted to P&Z, which included grading and drainage plans drawn up by Mangold Engineering Company of Devine. At the January meeting, P&Z Vice Chairman Jason Williams made a motion for moving forward with the project, "including all civil, mechanical and electric related to the project in the permit process." After Tom Brosz seconded the motion, it was approved unanimously.
An initial flurry of demolition activity ensued, but six months later the project remains at a standstill.
Subsequently, Brian M. Cope, PE, vice president of Klein Engineering, Inc., had reviewed the plans. Rudy Klein is engineer for the City of Bandera.
Need more documents
After reviewing the grading, site and building plans, which were submitted to him on April 2, Cope wrote to then-City Administrator Mike Cardenas in April.
Essentially, Cope had listed a litany of required documents that were missing, including a site utility and soil and erosion sediment control plans and a letter of approval from the Texas Department of Transportation for the drainage discharge and other improvements, such as curbs and sidewalks, proposed within the right-of-way (ROW) of Main Street, among others. Additionally, foundation and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) plans and structural drawings had not been signed and sealed by a licensed engineer.
Other concerns more easily rectified included providing ADA access on the grading plan, ensuring the restroom addition would not encroach into the side building setback or that the addition would not be constructed over the proposed concrete channel and providing detail of the fence to ensure runoff from Lot 29 is not blocked. Also, neither details of a proposed retaining wall and elevations nor details of a proposed sidewalk and curbing had been provided.
However, one finding of note by Clean Environments, Inc. was that the building contained no asbestos, eliminating a costly abatement process.
New or old?
Another sticking point seemed to be the rules and regulations under which construction at the Cabaret should comply.
After receiving Cope's report, attorney Cynthia Cox Payne, who represents Cabaret owner, Steve Ball, responded to Cardenas. According to Payne, Ball planned to "refurbish and update" the former dance hall, not build an entirely new structure.
On April 24, she wrote, "In order to comply with the city engineer's requirements, Mr. Ball believes that he will effectively have to completely demolish the existing building and scrap the proposals submitted, destroying any notion that the 'Historic Bandera Cabaret' is being restored. If the 'new structure' route is the only plan the city will entertain, then Mr. Ball may propose alternative uses for the Cabaret site."
According to Schulz and other sources, if a rebuild consists of over 50 percent, then it is considered new structure and must follow standards different from a renovation or reconstruction.
Payne also requested a complete list of all the city's demands and requirements before work would begin on the gutted structure. Additionally, she requested an on-site meeting with herself, Ball, Cardenas and other relevant parties, such as engineer, consultants and advisors, "to clarify all matters before any further work is undertaken." The meeting, Payne indicated, should take place prior to Ball traveling overseas on May 3.
"If we are unable to resolve matters before Mr. Ball departs, all work on the Cabaret restoration will stop until next year," Payne wrote. The meeting never happened.
Schulz responds
In a letter dated May 21, City Administrator Lamar Schulz addressed Cope's findings with Payne.
In particular, Schulz indicated that a comprehensive review of the building plans could not be completed until the city received a detailed set of plans, duly signed and sealed by a licensed engineer. "Until this detailed set of plans is completed and submitted to the City, the City cannot provide you with 'a comprehensive list of all its demands and requirements.' Once the detailed set of plans and submitted and reviewed by City staff and the City Engineer, the City can provide such a list."
According to Schulz, Cardenas will serve as the municipality's point man on the project and asked Payne to submit subsequent questions to him. "After careful review and collaboration with other City resources, one response will be made," Schulz wrote.
In an interview on Thursday, July 3, Schulz indicated that the requested on-site meeting between representatives of Ball and the city would have served no clear purpose. "We need more details before the city can give its okay to move forward on the project," Schulz said. "The engineer's letter documented what other items are needed. We don't intend to spend more time on this until we receive the documents and plans listed in the letter. We want to do things correctly and protect the citizens and taxpayers of the city."
As an example, he referenced proposed renovations of the Shell service station and construction of a Burger King adjacent to it on Main Street. "They provided us with all the required documents and plans upfront and after a couple of minor changes, that project will be going forward," Schulz said.
Ball fires back
However, Ball feels city administrators are asking for more than he is willing to produce at this time. In a Thursday, July 3, email from the United Kingdom, he wrote, "On the one hand, they want chapter and verse on construction details before granting permits to start the work. On the other, the city doesn't employ anyone qualified to discuss in detail with us what their requirements are."
Ball continued, "I wish to upgrade and improve, but they are acting as if we are going to build the Empire State Building. At this rate, the Cabaret may get completed sometime in the next five years. It could have been completed earlier this year.
"In the meantime, the city gets no tax take on the property or business generated and they are holding up the creation of several jobs in Bandera, not to mention the $1 million investment in the building and infrastructure!" Ball concluded.