WAXAHACHIE — A four-to-one vote during the Monday session of the Waxahachie City Council signaled that change is coming to the downtown business district.
After tabling the motion July 10, the city council approved a right-of-way acquisition request submitted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the viaduct reconstruction and expansion project.
The project involves the demolition and replacement of the existing U.S. Highway 77 viaduct with a northbound bridge, as well as the construction of a new parallel bridge to the west of the viaduct for southbound traffic. The project would also reconstruct areas near Elm and Monroe Streets to provide a couplet system that would tie into the proposed bridges.
Several businesses around the project area will be affected by the construction, which includes Pearman Oil and L.P Gas. The longtime provider of propane and fuel has been at its current location at 101 S. U.S. Highway 77 in downtown Waxahachie for over three decades.
“We were told from the beginning that the council wanted to make sure that the businesses were taken care of. That has not happened,” POG President Patti Junkin said. “We have not even had an offer yet from TxDOT. They don’t know how this going to work. The highway department and the city do not know — with the way they have that road planned to come through here — if we're going to be able to operate our business like we have been operating for 55 years.”
Junkin noted the Pearman Oil and Gas (POG) has been in business since 1962 and has been at their current location since 1981. The business employs 15 people and offers a variety of products that include gas, oil, lubricants and propane.
According to Junkin, the project would likely take all of the parking to the Pearman building, extend through the gas pumps and awning and call for the demolition of Los Tapatios, which is located across the street and owned by the family.
“We have nothing against the city. The city trades with us. It is just disappointing when you have been in business for 55 years and you have paid lots of city taxes and supported the community and done everything you have done for Waxahachie. Then you kind of feel like they say, ‘oh well,’” Junkin stated.
Junkin added the family-owned business does not have any plans in place for relocation at this time. She estimates that it would take several million dollars to relocate.
"It is disappointing that the council went ahead and approved TxDOT's offer on city property last night when only two weeks ago they tabled it because several council members felt like the business properties affected by the project should be taken care of first," Junkin added. "Nothing has changed from two weeks ago. What kind of stand did they really take for local businesses?"
During the city council meeting Monday, Waxahachie Mayor Kevin Strength asked representatives from Texas Land Professionals, Ryan Abernathy and Larry Montenegro, if the council did not approve the agreement what would happen next.
Abernathy and Montenegro told the council the next likely step in the process, if the resolution was not approved, would be the first steps of the eminent-domain process.
The Texas Department of Transportation is also looking to use three pieces of land owned by the city for the viaduct project.
According to a July 3 memo in the council packet, the first area is below the existing viaduct and features a section of the hike-and-bike trail. It has an appraised value of $33,271. The second area is below where the new southbound bridge will be located and also features a portion of the city’s hike-and-bike trail. It has an appraised value of $38,860. TxDOT would be responsible for reconstructing both sections of the trail.
The third piece of property needed for the project is the driveway area at the City of Waxahachie Parks Building located at U.S. Highway 77 and Madison. This property would only be used as a temporary construction easement. The value of the easement is $2,610. The project is set to go out to bid in June 2019
In voting against the motion, councilman Mark Singleton stated that more time was needed before passing the motion, as to give the affected property owners another opportunity to assess their options.
“I think that it is improper for us as an elected body to come and sign before the parties that are taxpayers and voted us in have had the time to sign on or say no. It is not to try to get a higher price,” Singleton said. “I just believe it is inappropriate and an over reach of local government.”
Singleton added there should be more sensitivity to this issue because of the people it affects. He noted that 1,300 residents lost their homes when the Supercollider project was under way.
Councilwoman Mary Lou Shipley disagreed with Singleton, stating that the council needed to move forward with the agreement.
“Our position in the city council is to represent the city as a whole. I think that the people involved have been advised by legal counsel,” Shipley said. “I don’t think we have anything to gain by a delay.”
The council approved the acquisition agreement with Singleton serving as the lone vote against.
In other business the council:
Approved a zoning change from single-family two to planned-development single-family two with a concept plan for a development located at 500 Royal St. See Friday's edition of the Daily Light for the full story. Named Tabatha Dotson as the honorary council member for July. Presented a proclamation naming Wednesday as Waxahachie Chautauqua Day. Approved a resolution as a half designation of state enterprise zone project. Approved a preliminary plat of the Garden Valley Meadows subdivision that contains 86 lots and one opens space. Approved a request from Chris Acker for a replat of a lot located at 1015 E. Ross St. Approved to continue a public hearing to the Aug. 21 city council meeting on a zoning change from general retail to a single family-two zoning district located at 320 Lynn St. Approved a request by the Waxahachie Independent School district for a specific use permit for a temporary portable building to be located at 411 N. Gibson. Approved a request from Waxahachie ISD for electronic message signs to be located at 1000 N. U.S. Highway 77, 614 N. Getzendaner and 2401 Brown St. Approved the engineering service agreement with Birkhoff, Hendricks and Carter for the Broadhead Road sewer lift station. Contact Andrew at email@example.com or 469-517-1451. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI.