Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"I will not let the voices of Leon Valley citizens be silenced."

Council delays toll-road decision


Amanda Reimherr
San Anonio Express-News
Copyright 2006

LEON VALLEY — The City Council on July 18 again took no action on a decision regarding elevated toll roads along Bandera Road.

After the matter was tabled at the July 6 council meeting, many residents were expecting a decision last week on one of two resolutions — the original, which states the city does not support the elevated road, or an amended version.

The concern is over what type of project to alleviate heavy traffic congestion along Bandera Road will be recommended by the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Residents still have an opportunity to voice their concerns about elevated lanes or toll roads at the public meeting the authority is conducting on proposed improvements to Texas 16/Bandera Road from the intersection of Bandera Road and Loop 410 West to Loop 1604 from 6:30-9 p.m. Thursday at Marshall High School, 8000 Lobo Lane.

At the July 6 meeting, Councilman Art Reyna presented a resolution stating the city did not want an elevated roadway in Leon Valley under any circumstances. Councilwoman Liz Maloy presented numerous modifications that were incorporated into an amended resolution, which was presented at the July 18 meeting.

Following passionate comments from speakers during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the meeting, as well as comments by authority Executive Director Terry Brechtel, Reyna stated that he wanted to pull his original resolution and said the amended resolution should not be allowed for consideration.

"The motion for the amended resolution did not receive a second at the (July 6) meeting, so we should not be allowed to vote on it," he said. "The tabling was done because my colleagues on council wanted to see the amendments incorporated into the resolution. I did not agree with the amendments at all. I think the amended resolution absolutely gutted the original one and took away any teeth it had by saying elevated toll roads could be used as a last resort. The original one said they were not wanted at all, and I believe that is what most residents really want."

Neither this resolution, nor any other action, will affect the already-approved flyover lane under construction that will run from the Bandera/Loop 410 interchange to the median at Rue Francois.

Resident Cathy Nelson spoke against that change in the language as well.

"It opens the door for the possibility and I don't want there to be any kind of loophole," she said.

City attorney Adolf "Jake" Jacobson disagreed with Reyna's opinion about voting on the amended resolution. He said the resolutions were connected and either could be voted on. Reyna, who also is a lawyer, said he did not agree with Jacobson's interpretation of the rules of order because the amended version never received a second.

Maloy then announced she wanted to "pull down" her resolution as well.

"Well, I think both resolutions were premature since we have not had any public hearings on the matter yet," she said. "I think we need more public input. We are at the very beginning of a very long process and pursuing the resolution any further, did not seem like the right thing to do at this time."

With both resolutions off the table, Mayor Chris Riley consulted with Jacobson. She said since nothing was presented for discussion or action, they had to move to the next agenda item.

"I was utterly and absolutely perplexed," Riley said of the moves by Reyna and Maloy. "I really don't understand why they both pulled them down and I don't know if any resolution will be on the table anytime soon. However, this issue will continue to be looked at because we want TxDOT and the RMA to really look at all of their options. But I think that the overwhelming majority — including myself — don't want elevated toll roads."

The Thursday meeting was cited by Reyna as part of the reason he withdrew his resolution.

"I will not let the voices of Leon Valley citizens be silenced," he said. "I proposed this resolution because I felt it was saying what the majority of the residents want. After the RMA meeting, when they have said what they want to say, we might want to look at a resolution again because it is their resolution, not mine. It is their voice, not mine."

Brechtel said she sees the council's actions in a positive light.

"I really see this as a vote of confidence by the city in the RMA to allow us the appropriate amount of time to conduct research and talk with citizens," Brechtel said after the meeting.

"Ultimately, we will take every suggestion into consideration and see if tolls are even viable. What I heard tonight is the city is willing to wait for citizen input before they pass anything."

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