I attended every one of the TxDOT meetings about the proposed expansions of U.S. 69 around our community. The first meeting provided statistics from TxDOT, but no discussion was allowed. The last two meetings had large maps spread on tables, showing choices of possible routes, and sympathetic TxDPT staff members were on hand to de-escalate tensions. If we had questions, comments or opinions, we were told to turn in a comment sheet, which was the only avenue for citizen feedback. That hardly constitutes an “open meeting.”
As it now stands, according to TxDOT's projected path and Google Maps, this bypass would demolish 65 homes, including my own. These are homes where people raise their children, and families create traditions and memories. I am devastated!
Businesses will also be destroyed. On farms and ranches like my family's, livestock will be cut off from water and grazing pastures, and ag exemptions to property taxes may be terminated, making property ownership untenable. Hay production also would diminish, as would other agricultural products like our Jacksonville tomatoes.
Property owners on Lake Jacksonville should not think of a bypass as an asset. Their property value may decrease, and the run-off from the bypass will create water pollution, not to mention the noise pollution of traffic ruining the peaceful ambience.
And what about directing half or more of our traffic away from our businesses on South Jackson? Whataburger just completed an expensive remodel and McDonald's is in the process of a total rebuild. According to two University of Texas studies, taking away approximately 50 percent of traffic from a town our size will critically impact the majority of our convenience stores and eating establishments. Does our town really want more empty buildings and more unemployment? The Chamber of Commerce, JEDCO and our city council should work to increase business by opposing the bypass.
This project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. According to one of our city councilmen, the town usually pays 10 percent of this. Ten percent of hundreds of millions is still tens of millions. This same councilman noted that the City of Jacksonville does not have these funds.
As I've mentioned earlier, this bypass affects me personally. I live on my daddy's land that he left to me. I live in a house lovingly designed and built by my husband to be our “forever home.” I enjoy sitting on my back porch with my dogs, watching the cows graze, the red-tail hawks diving for their dinner and the numerous birds and wildlife that inhabit my family's land. I get to enjoy impromptu visits from my grandchildren living next door (baited by ice cream and Dr Peppers). My grandson walks to the pond whenever he gets the urge to snag a fish. We have creek excursions, hayrides and bonfires. I don't want all of this taken from me. One of the proposed bypasses cuts right through my living room, destroying my house and bisecting my family land, cutting our cattle off from their water and grasses, and eliminating my grandchildren's backyard.
If we need a smoother access through our town, remove red lights, add another lane or two, but please do not destroy so many people's lives and livelihood with this bypass.