Victoria City Council to decide fate of a block of South De Leon Street
By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Feb. 3, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 2, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.
De Leon Street's future is in the hands of Victoria City Council.
The seven-member council is expected to vote Tuesday evening whether to close a block of the street across from St. Joseph High School.
The closure would give the school room to expand east with a gymnasium that will also double as an emergency shelter, ample parking and a safe crossing for students. In exchange, the school would pay the city $11,700, offer a quarter of an acre of right of way along Red River Street and up to $25,000 for utility relocation.
However, critics say the closure would negatively impact traffic flow.
Councilman Emett Alvarez said his vote against the closure has not changed.
"It's pretty obvious that there's five votes to close the street," he said. "If we're going to close the street, I want to make sure that we look at all the issues and the concerns of the College Park neighbors and residents."
When the issue first came up to council, the vote was 5-2 in favor of the closure with Alvarez and Councilwoman Josephine Soliz voting against it.
Alvarez said the city can address many of those concerns brought up in the January meeting at the school.
Speeding, teenage driving and traffic flow can all be solved by increased patrol, stop signs and reminders from school administrators to drive safely, he said.
Alvarez said he supports the idea of a protected intersection on Navarro Street.
Councilman Tom Halepaska said he will continue supporting the closure.
"Safety is an issue, but it's not the primary issue," he said. "That school needs to grow. It's an asset of the community."
He said it will be a win-win situation for the neighborhood and school.
"It's a good deal for the citizens and for the school, and everybody wins," he said.
Councilman Joe Truman, who represents that area in Super District 5, attended a public meeting the school hosted last week. He said he supports the closure, but added he will not leave those residents stranded.
"If a (traffic) light on Warren or Park would benefit the situation - of course we'll be looking at additional stop signage," Truman said. "I'll be actively working to alleviate their situation."
Overall, he said the street closure is the best long-term solution for the school.
"For St. Joe to survive and grow, they have to have space," he said. "I'm trying to walk a fine line of supporting the neighborhood. ... I have to support what's best for all Victorians and St. Joe grads."
He said the expansion will benefit the neighborhood in the long run by a clear entrance and exit path for the school and removing cars from on-street parking.
"It's not over. It's an ongoing process," he said. "The neighborhood is not going to be abandoned by me."