Thursday, January 24, 2008

“We don’t have anybody out there defending us.”

North vs. South

Victoria County property owners upset over possible I-69 southern route

January 23, 2008

The Victoria Advocate
Copyright 2008

Lee and Ellen Buchanan were looking forward to spending the rest of their retirement years in their new home near the scenic Guadalupe River bottom.

Now they’re wondering whether that dream will become a nightmare.

Their $290,000 house in southern Victoria County and 266 acres that have been in Ellen’s family since 1883 could be in the path of the Trans-Texas Corridor/Interstate 69.

“We’d just be devastated,” said Lee, 69. “This is a very serious subject.”

An environmental impact study done for the Texas Department of Transportation shows the preferred route for the super highway would be north of Victoria. State transportation officials have said that’s based strictly on environmental issues and could change.

Local officials know that and are pushing for a route south of Victoria that uses as much existing U.S. 59 right of way as possible.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county’s transportation coordinating body, is drafting a letter calling for the state to take the highway south. The county commissioners court and the city council have passed resolutions requesting the state use as much existing right of way as possible in developing the highway.

“I feel like the county commissioners and city folks aren’t really looking at the situation,”Buchanan said. “It doesn’t make logical sense to go south of town.”

That would involve building more and larger bridges, which would add tremendously to the cost, he said. The highway would also act as a dam and cause the Guadalupe’s floodwaters to back up into downtown Victoria, he said.

Charlie Baros, 75, owns three tracts of land that total 400 acres. Each could be in the south path of the highway.

“Our property wouldn’t be worth anything,” he said. “It would totally destroy it.”

But the landowners south of Victoria aren’t speaking up and they aren’t being represented by their elected officials, Baros said.

“We don’t have anybody out there defending us,” he said. “That’s why I’m a little concerned about it.”

County Commissioner Wayne Dierlam, who is also chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said either route would come through his precinct.

“I don’t know how you’re going to win in this situation,” he said. “Nobody wants it to go over their property. There’s no easy answer.”

While Dierlam said he needs more time to study the issue, the south route seems to make more sense.

It would be closer to the industrial plants and the ports in Victoria and Calhoun counties. It could also use some of the U.S. 59 right of way, which means less private property would be needed.

“I don’t want to take anybody’s land,” he said. “I feel sorry for anybody that’s going to get it.”

County Commissioner Gary Burns’ precinct in the southwest part of the county would also be affected by either route. But he prefers the south.

“I really don’t think they’ll choose the northern route when they get all of the facts,” he said. “Preferably it will be the southern route using existing right of way.”

But Burns said that’s why he’s urging everyone with an interest to attend a town hall meeting Tuesday on the project. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Victoria Community Center.

David Tewes is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6515 or

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