More than 100 people attended the second town hall meeting on the Parker County Thoroughfare Plan where residents shared their concerns and gave input to the commissioners, county judge and other officials involved.
The town hall began with opening statements from the county commissioners.
“This thoroughfare plan was developed in 2003. It came to light because we did a review of it and a little revision in December of 2017, so this is nothing new — it was done a long time ago. The benefit to us is looking down the road. We don’t have any money and the only money we have comes from the transportation bond of 2016 that enables us to build the East Loop,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said. “So there’s no funding, no work about to start and whenever somewhere down the line when some of these [roads] do become a necessity to build, then those meetings and that input will help you to determine where we are and where exactly we need to be. We can do all the planning in the world, but we don’t know where the growth is going to come — it’s not going to be in an organized fashion. Would you rather nobody did any planning and we just wait and have a problem down the road? Probably not, we need to do some planning so we have an idea of the roads we can be working on now that are eventually going to be main arteries.”
Precinct 4 Commissioner Steve Dugan wanted residents to know that the thoroughfare plan is a living document.
“It’s collecting thoughts from cities in the county to where we predict the heaviest areas of traffic and it can easily be reviewed on a regular basis — it can be moved at any time one way or another — but I think the most important thing about having [a thoroughfare plan] is it gives us all an opportunity to be aware of what may happen 10, 20, 30 years down the road,” Dugan said. “The main thing is that people are informed before it happens. To my knowledge, there is absolutely no funding for any of this that we’re talking about.”
Brian Crooks with Freese and Nichols engineering firm gave a slideshow presentation about the thoroughfare plan, saying that none of the projects will be built today or tomorrow and that it’s a long-range visionary document.
“We’re looking at making sure the connections make sense, that there are no gaps and good connectivity. We do look at population and employment and we’re seeing a lot of growth within the county. In 2010, we had about 120,000 people and 2045 is forecast to have over 200,000 so that’s about 44 percent growth, so how are we going to manage our roadway system to accommodate this growth?” Crooks said. “So what’s the next step forward? Well, we’re going to take all your comments and we’re going to compile them and submit them to the commissioners court for consideration in the future.”
Residents came up to express their concerns and make their comments about the plan.
“I know planning for the future is important, but you can only do so much to plan for it. It has its limits, things are going to change on a daily basis, a weekly basis. When I bought my place, my wife and I, 30 years ago we were in the country, it’s not so anymore,” resident Don Fox said. “This is nice, all these pictures you have, but we don’t have any alternative routes moving around Greenwood [Road] and some of the other ones — we have no way of getting a lot of places like to 180 or Ellis Road or further south to the freeway. I think before we worry too much about some of these circles, we might look to see what we can do to ease the burden of traffic of where we’re at now.”
Walden said the plan tells the county which roads are eventually going to become arterial roadways.
County Attorney John Forrest said the commissioners are required to approve subdivisions if the developers meet all the requirements.
“Under the local government code, it defines what the commissioners are able to look at to make a determination if they’ve met all the statutory requirements to approve a plat,” Forrest said. “If all those requirements have been met, then it’s their ministerial duty to then approve that plat. The state does not give the commissioners the discretion to refuse to approve that particular plat if they’ve met all the requirements.”
Resident Larry Bartoli said that the county should look into implementing environmental impact fees for new development.
“I presented the environmental impact fees for the [new] people that are coming in and causing the impact to the environment. Let’s just say you had a 4 percent environmental impact fee, when [developers] build a half-a-million-dollar home, they would pay $20,000 into an environmental impact fee and that would give the school, the county, the maintenance, the courthouse annexes, the revenue to pay for capital improvements in those areas. That’s one thing that I’ve looked into that we can’t do, but through legislation, through our representatives, the state can give a county the authority to pass on environmental impact fees,” Bartoli said. “This way, the people on the other side that have lived here for 40 years, that are not causing the growth, don’t pay for that impact. In my research, the state could grant the county the option of presenting environmental impact fees, but that would have to be done through your state legislature and that’s something that we want to lay the groundwork for to control the taxes.”
Wayne Lee said the commissioners should focus on the main roadways that are in place today and make improvements to those.
“We’re focusing here today on the west side of Parker County and that’s not where the crisis is, the crisis is over in the east. Everybody that travels to Fort Worth goes through it and sometimes it will take an hour to go from [Interstate] 820 to Weatherford and we’ve not really addressed those issues,” Lee said. “White Settlement Road, Bankhead Highway, 1187 and the Old Weatherford Road, all four of those are existing roads that could be widened for pennies on the dollar compared to going out and building these new roads. I know these commissioners know how to do that.”
Arlene Chapin, who lives off of White Settlement Road, said the residents that have been in the county for years should have priority over new development.
“The people on White Settlement Road, we’re a community, we’ve grown up together and our children have grown up together, and that should be a factor when you’re looking at putting a 120-foot road through our neighborhood and dividing our community,” Chapin said. “Communities used to matter out here, we came to the country because community is important. I would like for you all to take into consideration that we’re a community, we were planned as a community and we should have priority as opposed to the people that are going to be moving in. When you put a line on that map, you’ve devalued my property — you’ve caused me stress, you have allowed someone to build a $400,000 house where they probably shouldn’t have built because this is a long-range plan.”
Dugan said it makes no sense at this point to have a line across that area and that it needs to be put further south and that’s the point of the public town hall.
“That road is just a figment of imagination at this point,” Dugan said.
Jim Webster said the commissioners should be the ones drawing the lines on the map and being more involved, not Freese and Nichols.
“There’s no crystal ball and you can’t draw lines on a map that makes everybody happy, but neither does the engineering firm. I think, and I was a commissioner for eight years of Precinct 4, I think the commissioners ought to draw the lines. I think the commissioners know the roads, they know where the bypasses should be and they know where to avoid the most dense population,” Webster said. “Freese and Nichols is a wonderful engineering firm; however, they’re in an ivory tower and you guys are on the front lines. I think the commissioners should have more input into this process than just handling questions, making people happy, they should be the ones to draw the lines and the engineering firm be the ones that do the numbers.”
Allison Scherz said there should be requirements in place for developers coming into the county to build and bring more people in.
“I just appreciate y’all listening to what we have to say. What I would like to say to the engineers is please spend more time on the ground in our neighborhoods, I don’t care if you’ve been here one day or 100 years, we are a community whether you’re out there on White Settlement Road or Garner Road, we are all a community and this matters to all of us. As far as the developers, I come from another place and what the counties and other places did there — and I’m not a believer in more government — they required developers to put in green space to manage the open green space, so perhaps you can look into doing more of that,” Schertz said. “I know that’s more government, but frankly, we need more parks for all of these people coming in too. There must be something you can do, environmental fees or something, to make these people that are coming in and buying these large tracts of land and making these huge profits pay something. Let them pay their share while they’re bringing all these people in and protecting these older people that have been there their whole lives.”
Dugan said he appreciated all the comments and concerns that were expressed during the meeting, and that it does make an impact on what they do moving forward.
“You all being here tonight does make an impact and it helps us see what you see on the map. We may be looking at something a little differently than what you see and that’s perfect and what we’re here for,” Dugan said. “I totally agree that there are probably way too many lines on it and you don’t really realize how much it disrupts your lives if we don’t have these public meetings. Thank you for coming and it does make a difference.”
A brainstorming meeting between county officials, city mayors, Texas Department of Transportation, North Texas Council of Governments and Regional Transportation Council will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at New River Fellowship Church in Hudson Oaks. There were be no questions asked by the public during the meeting and the goal will be to discuss partnerships and funding for major projects, such as I-20 congestion relief and Farm-to-Market Road 51.
A meeting about the East Loop will be held on Feb. 6 to discuss the construction of the loop going through the historic Byron Farmstead, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. The public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Mary Martin Elementary School cafeteria. Officials will inform the public on the proposed adverse effects to the farmstead and discuss the National Historic Preservation Act.
For more information about the thoroughfare plan or upcoming meetings visit parkercountytx.com.