Roundabout causes unrest among some San Marcos residents

News Reporter

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Above: Gabriel Gise and his daughter Cassia Gise make signs protesting the roundabout at Wonder World Drive and Hunter Road.

Residents held brightly colored signs and spoke during the citizen’s comment portion of the San Marcos City Council meeting Tuesday to protest a roundabout near San Antonio Street and Hunter Road.

Construction on the roundabout is expected to begin March 2014, according to the project proposal on the city’s website. The roundabout will expand FM 2439, also known as Hunter Road, and add a left turn lane in the center of the two-way road between Wonder World Drive and Bishop Street, according to the proposal. Dixon Street will be realigned with San Antonio Street, and the roundabout will be built where the streets will intersect with Hunter Road. The roundabout is projected to be completed by September 2014, according to the project’s webpage.

According to residents who spoke during the meeting, the roundabout will require the removal of historic trees, create congestion, be dangerous for bicyclists and cost more than a traditional intersection.

Bill Taylor, owner of Bill’s Trading Place Inc., said the council did not take residents’ opinions into consideration when adopting the plan in place of a traditional intersection. Taylor said his business will suffer from congestion caused by the roundabout.

“I think the tail wagged the dog in this case,” Taylor said.

The roundabout will require about $6 million in state funds and $4.2 million in Wonder World Drive improvement funds, according to the original presentation given to city councilmembers May 15, 2012.

Gary Schatz, chair of the roundabout committee for the Institute of Transportation Engineers, gave a presentation on May 15 and said roundabouts are safer than traditional intersections. According to the presentation, roundabouts are more efficient, allowing for 1,200 vehicles per hour per lane as opposed to an all way stop, which allows 400, and a traffic signal, which allows 600.

Resident Catalina Lara said about 10,380 square feet of her family’s land will be used for the roundabout. She said her family had initially agreed to have some of their land used for an intersection instead of a roundabout. When the roundabout plans were approved, the family was surprised when they found more of their land would be used and several of their historic trees dating back at least 150 years would be removed.

Lara said the family has decided not to sell their land to the city, but it still could be taken from them under eminent domain.

“We love those trees and have never wanted to tear them down,” Lara said. “We are hoping to come to some kind of resolution. If we don’t have to sell, we don’t want to.”

Residents supporting the Laras, such as Rodney van Oudekerke and Lisa Marie Coppoletta, said the roundabout is dangerous for cyclists and will be the end of historic trees. Coppoletta and van Oudekerke agreed it is important officials are taking away land from a family who has owned it for more than 50 years.

“I’m not so much opposed to the roundabout in theory, what I’m opposed to is eminent domain,” van Oudekerke said. “That’s legalized, but just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. I don’t know them, but they have been a part of the town for so long. If the city can steal their property then they can steal my property eminently.”

According to Coppoletta, people who are opposed to the roundabout outnumber people who are defending it.

“The city manager keeps reporting there is a 50-50 pro and con, but in fact there was a strong poll that 72 were against the roundabout and only four were for it,” Copoletta said. “The city manager promised that we would have an opportunity to speak at the public hearing and then he shut the meeting down, and that’s why we’re here tonight.”