'It's unfortunate;' Residents near Westpark Tollway share frustrations due to project's construction

Chaz Miller Image
Monday, May 1, 2023
Residents say Fort Bend toll road project is too close for comfort
Those who purchased a home said they were unaware that the expansion was happening, but county officials are saying that the project was, in fact, public record.

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Kendrick Manuel and his family moved to The Lakes of Bella Terra in Fort Bend County in 2016.

"We always talk about home ownership, and that being one of the stepping stones for building wealth," Manuel said.

Those plans were on track, but changes started coming just beyond the fence in his backyard.

"They commenced the project to extend the Westpark Tollway," Manuel explained. "Then they started with this last fall."

The latter part of that statement was Manuel referring to the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority building direct connectors from the Westpark Tollway to the Grand Parkway.

RELATED: Westpark Tollway expansion design nearing completion almost 8 years after announcement

Manuel and his neighbors say they're paying the price, as their homes now sit in the shadows of a major thoroughfare expected to be finished next year.

"It has my neighbors and myself very concerned for various reasons," Manuel said.

Those concerns? Loud noises, safety, and investment.

Manuel said he had been told his home's value had diminished by at least 30% since the project started, and Action 13 took all of those concerns to the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority.

"The roads are designed to, the best they can, follow all the state laws and best practices to try and protect against those things," Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority Deputy Operations Director Lisa Castaneda said in response to Manuel's safety concerns. "Anything can happen, though, and I do understand."

SEE HERE: Many demand improvements as wrong-way crashes become major concern on Westpark Tollway

Castaneda also addressed fears that the project would cost homeowners money in the long term.

"It's unfortunate. What you see when you buy a house doesn't always stay that way," she said. "They obviously had no idea, and this was not their expectations."

She said she was unaware of how to change that on behalf of her employer, as the toll road authority bought the land behind Manuel's street in 2003.

That huge connector being built is on land they own; therefore, they say they're not doing anything illegal or nefarious.

Real estate attorney Christie Lewis isn't involved in this case but said Manuel and his neighbors are in an understandably tricky position.

"There's just not a lot they can do," Lewis said.

She added that there was also no legal requirement for the toll road authority to have notified homeowners of what was coming, though Castaneda said everything was done in the open.

"It is public," Castaneda said of their plans. "A lot of times when the planning is going on, the people aren't here yet. Certainly, I've got to think the people developing that area has access to that information."

The Lakes of Bella Terrace was developed by Ryko Development, who told us they started mapping out these particular lots in 2015.

They said they sold them all to builders by 2018 but that people from the county or toll road authority have yet to hear about the project's scope.

"We were surprised to see the ramps under construction, particularly in such close proximity to the lots," said Ryko Development in a statement. "We understand the concern and frustration by these residents."

Manuel tells ABC13 that he and his neighbors ultimately want the Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority to buy out the homes on his block due to the construction.

"That wasn't in the budget," Castaneda said of the request.

The attorney Eyewitness News spoke with, Lewis, said residents could go to court in an effort to get money, but she doesn't think they'd win.

She did, however, say that history has shown neighborhoods with toll roads built nearby ultimately recover from any initial losses in value.

"Those toll roads that are convenient and provide access don't end up detrimentally harming neighborhoods," Lewis explained. "If they do, it's only short term and not long term."

ABC spoke with experts who said it's always a good idea to investigate who owns the property adjacent to yours, especially if it's an ample green space like the site of these connectors once was.

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