Blackjack Oaks Road resident Billy Thurman is a little angry, a little sad and at a loss for what to do now after the Denton County Commissioners Court vote Tuesday.
Commissioners voted against a proposal to close Blackjack Oaks Road near Aubrey. The road serves a subdivision off Blackjack Road, west of Aubrey, but it has been used as a cut-through from Blackjack Road to FM428. Some residents wanted the road closed off on one end to cut down on traffic, keep the area more private and uphold promises from the developer. The court voted 3-2 to keep the road open.
“We spent the last two years trying to get this fixed the legal way,” Thurman said. “After being told by everyone involved we would have the road closed, it’s a big slap in the face.”
Thurman said he moved to the subdivision on the word of the developer that the road would be closed off permanently and would not have moved there otherwise.
He noted a previous meeting with County Judge Mary Horn in which Thurman and his wife were assured they had her support.
“My wife and I sat down with the judge and talked with her for an hour,” he said. “She flat out told us, ‘Look, I understand where you are coming from; you have got no problem with me. I will make sure we will get that road closed.’ It’s a huge shock to all of us on the street. We believed we had her vote.”
The road had been closed off in 2006 without a public hearing.
Commissioner Hugh Coleman had the gate closing off the road taken down in 2011, and he told Blackjack Oaks Road residents they could take some steps toward getting the road closed off again, like raising money for a survey and getting right of way in the area. If they did that, Coleman said, he would have the issue brought up in court for a public hearing and vote.
The hearing lasted more than an hour as a number of residents on both sides of the issue were heard. Some residents, including Thurman, offered statistics as well as video proof of drivers speeding along the road. The video was not shown.
“I’m glad we gave the residents the opportunity to be heard,” Coleman said.
He and Commissioner Ron Marchant voted to close the road.
“If this stuff was done right the first time in 2006, we would not have had this mess,” Coleman said.
Horn confirmed that she had initially supported closing the road, but said she was not aware at the time that there had been two plats on the road and neither of them showed the road closed.
She said a letter from the Aubrey Fire Department requesting the road be kept open also gave weight to her decision.
“It’s terrible the people who purchased property out there were led astray by the developer as to promises he made that he did not have the authority to make,” Horn said. “It is a public road, and I could not in my mind justify closing a public road. As disturbed as I was by the safety concerns that are certainly legitimate concerns, I also at the same time could not see denying access for everybody.”
During the public hearing, someone suggested installing speed bumps on the road, which the county legally cannot do. Horn said she was already beginning the process to see why counties do not have the authority to put speed bumps in place on county roads and pursuing legislation to change that.
“I know it doesn’t change things immediately, but I hope it can save lives,” she said.
After the meeting, Mary Lynn Beaty, a 54-year resident of Blackjack Road, said the vote left mixed feelings.
“I don’t think we could claim victory because it was just a legal decision that was made,” Beaty said. “We have seen our country road go from a gravel road to a paved road. It’s a growing community, a growing area and we will see more [traffic], but it’s not something to say I need to close my road about it.”
Beaty said she and many of the other 300-plus residents who signed the petition against the closure have the same concerns as the residents on Blackjack Oaks Road about traffic, trash and safety.
“The [traffic] speed, the trash, we know those things and we work around it,” Beaty said. “Everyone in the country deals with it. We think we live away from the city and we won’t have to deal with those problems, but we do.”
Thurman scoffed at the number of signatures on the petition against the closure.
“Some people didn’t even live near this road, they just wanted to fight,” Thurman said. “They knew they could win with numbers. We only have 13 people on our road. I thought we had a really good chance. These are the same people that voted down fixing their road, now they want to use our road. It’s all about safety; well, let us put up a gate.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .