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Planned McKinney Road Threatens Home, Trees

McKinney: FM543's path could change. Steve Houser says, it's about many different things, but most importantly it's about quality of life.
McKinney's FM 543 expansion is causing distress for some property owners.

Published January 5, 2008 By JIM GETZ


At first glance, the planned six-lane FM543 could be seen as the inevitable march of progress north of McKinney.

When complete, the connector road will link FM1461, near 45 acres of Baylor Health Care System land on the city's north-central side, to Central Expressway, where a new interchange could spur development.

But as it's drawn now, the route also would trample down a half-mile line of trees and at least one home near Central.

That has led some neighbors and City Council members into a discussion about whether to nudge the road over. City officials say they would like to save some of the trees but that it may be difficult to save the home because it's too close to the planned interchange.

A Baylor representative, meanwhile, has said Baylor does not want the road to encroach upon its land.

Council member Brian Loughmiller said he is working to set up a meeting next week among affected property owners to discuss the issue. The council is next expected to take up the issue Feb. 5.

Once the council approves the road alignment, a few years of engineering and right-of-way acquisition would follow, then a few more years of construction. But the council would prefer a consensus on the alignment before proceeding, Mr. Loughmiller said.

"I think what it's going to come down to is getting everybody out there and coming up with a consensus that everyone may not like but that they can live with," he said.

Given the resistance from some neighbors, that could prove to be a challenge.

Kathy Harris, a landowner in the area, wants to save at least half the trees that line the south edge of her and her neighbor's land.

"They hear from the developers all the time," she said. "I never liked getting involved in politics, but they need to hear from us."

Meanwhile, Delores Clay, who lives at the Central Expressway end of the proposed route, surprised some at a December council meeting with her remarks.

"I've heard about saving trees, saving ponds and saving land," she said then. "What about saving my home?"

Ms. Clay and her husband, Billy, have lived in their modest, 1,110-square-foot home since 1980. Part of the home of another neighbor, Delia Bravo, also could be affected; although it's a mobile home, she doesn't want to move it.

"When we first moved here, my husband planted these weeping willows so someday we could swing in a hammock," Ms. Bravo said.

Mr. Loughmiller said his goal has always been to respect the desires of people who moved out to the country. But as development inevitably creeps toward them, he said, residents need to be aware of plans a city may have in its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

"That road would have come up sooner or later," he said.

However, Mr. Loughmiller said, the road doesn't have to follow the "technically preferred" alignment that engineers have come up with.

"I've had this issue come up in other areas of town, and what we've tried to do is maintain some portion of the tree line while still staying close to the alignment you're trying to follow," he said.

Ms. Harris and Steve Houser, a certified arborist who has taken an interest in the issue, certainly want that.

"It's about quality of life," Mr. Houser said. "People want to make it just about the trees, but it's about livability, sustainability."

Baylor said only that its 45 acres may be used in the future. Attorney Bob Roeder told the council that, for now, Baylor doesn't want the proposed route to shift 65 feet to the south because the system wants to make full use of the land it bought.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the connector, Mr. Loughmiller is not sure what, if anything, can be done to save the Clays' home.

"It'll come down to can we adjust the alignment to preserve the property, or can we offer just compensation for the house?" he said.

Mr. Clay said he can't imagine how his wife would handle losing their home.

"She's going to get sick, like hospital sick," he said. "She won't watch them tearing down the house because it'll be like saying goodbye to an old friend."

About the author

Mr. Jim Getz

Mr. Getz writes for The Dallas Morning News.

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