Over the past couple years, plans for Sagebrush Drive have intended that those who live on and traverse the road would be safer and less inconvenienced.
Now that the project is underway, talk has resurrected regarding the actual likelihood that plans as approved will do both. A few have called for the project to be halted, but most who disapprove are just hoping that their voices have been heard.
“When this started, in 2013, one of my neighbors read an article in the paper that Sagebrush was to be a new four-lane urban collector through town,” said Sagebrush resident Linda Martin. “We thought, ‘A collector to where?’ A parking lot, that’s strange, why? So we had three days to contact the others and were so shocked and unprepared for a town hall meeting to diffuse it.
“None of us ever had to deal with anything like this before and many of my neighbors are older and not on line to keep up with this all,” she said. “Some of us are just hard working citizens that work lots of hours and some have kids involved at school activities that I have to admit, our heads were in the sand about any changes. Surely the town would have contacted us directly since this did affect our daily lives and property values. Nope, that was not the case.”
The project includes replacing 2,500 linear feet of open section two-lane asphalt roadway with a modified urban collector roadway consisting of concrete pavement, storm sewers, irrigation, street lighting, and traffic signal relocations at FM 2499 and Old Settlers Road.
A design contract cost about $300,000 and was awarded to Freese and Nichols, Inc. in February 2014. Earlier this year, on June 1, the town council awarded the construction contract to CD Builders, Inc. for $2.44 million. Work began on June 9 and is expected to be complete in August 2016.
Some residents have said they feel the plan for Sagebrush does not meet the needs of those who already live on the road.
Martin attended a 30 percent design meeting in May 2014.
“The plan originally looked so pretty as they described in the town council meeting that this median we were opposed to was to have beautiful trees lining the middle since some of our trees were going to be taken, what a great way to put them back,” Martin said.
“Then we noticed that many driveways that were not given access properly. Tad Marko’s drive was originally completely left off. So, here we all go, they gave us all a big bunch of red markers and three large plan tables to start drawing, trying to fix this design. It was red everywhere, looked like a bunch of 2-year-olds making a big red mess.”
According to Mayor Tom Hayden, residents were invited to many meetings, including charrettes held at the 30-, 60- and 90 percent design stages. Martin said concerns were voiced at each of those meetings.
“Well, the repairs that some drew on the 30 percent meeting ended up causing other concerns and the median still had issues,” she said. “Many of us have large lots for a reason. My husband and I own a cattle ranch and bring our large cattle trailers home after we have been to the sale barns. The proposed plan showed no room and no radius to turn in to our drive without running over the median.
Martin said other neighbors would have to go one direction or go down and make a U-turn in order to access their driveways, thus causing more unsafe conditions for the residents of Sagebrush.
“So again, problems and here comes the red markers,” she said.
The 90 percent meeting went much the same way, Martin said. After being told residents would not be met with the 100 percent design, Martin asked some town council members to come out and hear residents’ concerns.
“My neighbors said they were just giving up,” she said. “They had complained throughout all the design meetings and felt that they had no more say. No one listened in the beginning and the town would do what they wanted in the end. That really bothered me, so after the last election reading about the changes to town council the last election, I emailed the three new town council members to see if they would listen.
“Mr. Rountree and Mr. Gelbman came to see our concerns on a Saturday morning,” she said. “… Politics had nothing to do with it. My neighbors and I just had a glimmer of hope that this design could be better if someone would just listen. We just wanted to be heard. If this would have happened in the very beginning we would not all be here now in this unfortunate situation of diversity.”
Mayor Tom Hayden said it’s simply not true that residents were not heard by town officials.
“When it’s not 100 percent what they ask for, then we’re not listening,” he said, mentioning several communiques between town staff and Ms. Martin.
Rountree did not return a request for comment on this issue, but he did make his stance known in a letter published by a local media outlet on July 2.
“… We new members of town council are placed in a difficult situation having not been alerted to Sagebrush residents’ displeasure with the medians planned for their road until we had already voted for the project’s approval,” Rountree wrote. “I could have said, ‘Too bad, it’s too late to do anything about this now.’ However I chose to follow one of my core principles of listening and doing what I can, within the scope of the project. I do not support cancelling this project and never did.”