Ball Airport Road extension drives controversy

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Oct. 2, 2012 at 5:02 a.m.
Updated Oct. 3, 2012 at 5:03 a.m.

Development on the west side of Ball Airport Road is forcing city officials to reconcile the extension's name.

Although critics say the expansion should remain under the same name, designated East and West by way of Mallette Drive, city staff say that could create future problems for block numbering and identifying specific portions of the road.

Arthur Kenne, and his wife, Dolores Ball Kenne, were the last Ball family to own and operate the airport.

Kenne said the proposed name change disregards history and would create confusion to motorists.

"When you consider its 70 years as a private airport and community icon ... it seems to me that Ball Airport Road should have that name from end to end, where ever that may be," Kenne said Tuesday at the council meeting.

In 2007, the airport closed when a portion of the property was sold to the Victoria school district to be used for an elementary school.

In 2009 and 2010, the family sold more airport property to Landmark Development for a residential community with more than 40 new homes, Kenne said.

"There's room for hundreds more, and as fast as they're going, that probably will happen," Kenne said.

Victoria City Manager Charmelle Garrett said Tuesday there is "no perfect solution" to the extension's name that will not be confusing.

"We need to make a decision on what we'll call West on Mallette, there's a lot of interest in that property ... for development," Garrett said.

The City Council was divided on staff's recommendation to name the westward expansion Empresario Drive.

"We've talked about trying to keep ... and encourage our history, and I believe that this is an opportunity to do exactly that by leaving the road name as it is, " Councilman Tom Halepaska said.

The airport played a role in World War II and the airport hangar remains as a reminder of its 70 active years.

Halepaska said a generic name like "Empresario" would not meet their goal to honor the city's past.

Mayor Will Armstrong, along with councilmen Paul Polasek and Joe Truman, supported Halepaska's recommendation.

However, others said they had safety concerns for existing residents having to suddenly add "East" to their address.

"When you talk about public safety, EMS and fire ... I think it'd be simpler if there's a break in the road," Councilman David Hagan said.

He said he wanted to keep the break at Mallette Drive.

"I think we're still honoring that history and at the same time, addressing this public safety concern," Hagan said.

That concern came from Larkspur Street and its expansion, East Larkspur Street.

Fire Chief Tanner Drake said the somewhat confusing street names has not been a safety issue for his department.

"If it has, I'm not aware of it," he said. "It's more of a challenge for dispatch on the perimeter of the community than inside city limits" where highways lack mile markers.

Councilman Emett Alvarez called the extension a "significant piece of roadway."

"I would prefer a different name than Empresario, myself," Alvarez said. "I'll go with staff's recommendation."

Councilwoman Josephine Soliz agreed, citing the change at Sam Houston Drive and Magruder Drive.

"I would go with the change of name so there wouldn't be a problem," she said. "Empresario will be fine."



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