Hollywood Park & local cities have power to stop toll projects

Margaret Byfield of Stewards of the Range is an expert in using local government to fend off overreaching and overbearing state and federal government. Local government coordination is at the fingertips of ANY local unit of government willing to flex its muscles. For all the cries for local control, this one is a sure-fire way to make it happen….it’s the LAW!

Link to article here.

Could Hollywood Park stop the 281 North toll road project?
North Central News
November 19, 2007


San Antonio Toll Party and Texans United for Reform and Freedom Founder and President Terri Hal addresses the Hollywood Park City Council. Photo by Eva Ruth Moravec

By Eva Ruth Moravec
Staff Writer
Some citizens following toll roads issue have recently claimed, and to some extent proven, that individual cities and groups of cities can stop toll road projects that affect them by demanding to be involved in the process.

The town of Hollywood Park could be the next to try.

“I thought it would be a good idea for her to come out,” said Hollywood Park Mayor Richard McIlveen at a recent city council meeting where he introduced SA Toll Party and Texans United for Reform and Freedom Founder and President Terri Hall. “We need to start thinking ahead.”

Hall attended the meeting at the urging of TURF’s Treasurer, Hollywood Park resident Sudie Sartor.

According to Hall’s presentation, a city—specifically, Hollywood Park—affected by the toll road—specifically, the U.S. Highway 281 North toll road project—could effectively tattle on the Texas Department of Transportation to the federal government and stop the toll process here dead in its tracks.

TxDOT should have included Hollywood Park in its long-completed environmental assessment, Hall said, since the city will likely experience more cut-through traffic, an increase in accidents and lower sales taxes and property taxes.

Moreover, the Texas Statutes Local Government Code, which all local governments follow, encourages coordination and thus provides local governments with armory to attack TxDOT, Hall said.

“If you demand coordination, that will require another study, and that will stop the toll project,” she said. “We have got to stop this now. It really just adds up to more economic damage.”

McIlveen said he isn’t sure what the city council will do with Hall’s information. She advised the body and citizens to write a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which approves environmental assessments on projects like the U.S. 281 toll project, and “include what you thought was inadequate,” said Hall.

“We need to get the city attorney’s interpretation,” McIlveen said. “Obviously, the residents can do whatever they want, but we have to run it through our legal department.”

TxDOT Spokeswoman Laura Lopez said since the project only required an environmental assessment, and not an environmental impact statement, then the coordination clause doesn’t hold true.

“This far in the process, it can’t be stopped that way,” she said.

Stewards of the Range, a group dedicated to legislation on private property rights in America, has determined that the “coordination clause” is valid no matter what the study’s name is.

“The law is really clear, it says that they have to coordinate with the local government,” said Margaret Byfield, Executive Director for Stewards of the Range. “The National Environmental Policy Act is what mandates how environmental assessments and impact statements are done, and that statute says they have to coordinate.”

Byfield’s group has been involved with the city of Bartlett and others’ efforts to stop the Trans-Texas Corridor. Bartlett and others have used the “coordination clause” to stop TxDOT there and demand to be a partner by forming a commission. However, Lopez said the TTC 1-35 project is undergoing an environmental impact statement process, not environmental assessment process.

Moreover, Lopez said Hollywood Park was invited to be involved in the process through quadrant meetings and stakeholder meetings, but added that the city won’t feel impacts from the toll road project that ends at the northern border of the city, Loop 1604.

“They [Hollywood Park] should not be affected by it at all. The purpose of adding capacity is to add more lanes for drivers not to have to go through any shortcuts,” she said, “so there should be no impact whatsoever.”

Hollywood Park already experiences cut-through traffic by drivers who want to avoid the U.S. 281/Loop 1604 interchange. After Hall spoke, council discussed ways to limit cut-through traffic in the city, as a separate agenda item. Further action will be taken in the future.

To solve the interchange issue, the toll road plan will include ramps that will directly connect the two roads, but the ramps won’t be built for years after the toll project begins, and will be tolled.

Byfield said that the skepticism about Hall’s plan is because “local governments haven’t really understood how involved they should be in the process, and TxDOT’s not real happy that some of the local governments are realizing this. They’re going to try to avoid it to the best of their ability.”

The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority is finalizing plans for the 281 North Toll Road project and will seek funding from the Metropolitan Planning Organization on Dec. 3. After that, three bidding teams will prepare entries for the project, and a winner will be selected next spring.

ARMA Spokesman Leroy Alloway said that his organization invited Hollywood Park council members to public meetings and that they were given the opportunity to be involved.

McIlveen said he wasn’t sure if an action item on the subject would be on the agenda for the next council meeting, scheduled for Dec. 18.