Unique issues raised during North McAllen town hall

McALLEN — The fastest growing part of McAllen — including the 2,500-acre Tres Lagos community at the northern edge of the city — over the last two years has seen the construction of new streets, schools and hundreds of homes.

During that time, North McAllen voters have also ushered in a new city commissioner, and for the first time since his March 2018 election, District 1 Commissioner Javier Villalobos on Thursday night held a town hall with residents in the vertical sliver of the city that makes up Villalobos’ district. His district winds and stretches from Nolana Avenue all the way north to the area around Monte Cristo Road, and beyond.

City department directors — police, engineering, traffic and parks and recreation — spoke to residents about the states of their department and fielded unique questions specific to only this section of the city.

Because Tres Lagos is new — construction began in 2016 — and since construction is expected to continue on the community for decades, governments and other frequently depended on instruments such as Google, which have not quite figured out the new addresses, especially as this part of the city borders another city, Edinburg.

For his part, Villalobos stood alongside the department directors as they received a flurry of questions, but he did not say much. It’s a position commissioners are still figuring out, as a new era of city commissioners that have swept the city commission over the last two years have sought to hold town halls in their respective districts.

McAllen City Commissioner Joaquin “J.J.” Zamora, who has held two town halls during his two years in office, was the only commissioner in attendance at the Tres Lagos community center on Thursday, as he and other commissioners have sought to support their colleagues. Commissioner Tania Ramirez, who in May was elected to represent southwest McAllen, held her first town hall a month later in June, sent a representative to the Villalobos town hall.

Commissioners Omar Quintanilla and Victor “Seby” Haddad have also pledged to hold town halls in their districts, but Thursday’s offered a glimpse of the unique challenges to the rapidly booming part of the city.

“Everything’s coming north, guys,” Villalobos said.

More roads are heading north, with several state and city street projects under construction, with many more on the way. Bicentennial Boulevard is set to expand from Trenton Road to State Highway 107 in the coming years, Ware Road will be widened and other east-west corridors in the northern part of McAllen will also undergo various improvements.

City officials also explained the multitude of drainage projects across the city, though many of those fall south of Tres Lagos. While Tres Lagos is within city limits, the developer, in part, is responsible for various drainage improvements in the complex, and the city often works in tandem with the developer.

And because Tres Lagos and the surrounding area is at the northern tip of McAllen, some residents have longer commutes, of which residents had questions for Patrizia Longoria, the director of traffic.

“McAllen is the ‘City of Palms,’” one man said, referencing the city’s slogan. “But it is also the city of lights.”

Longoria is no fan of traffic signals, she said, but of alternative methods for traffic flow, such as roundabouts. The pace of some traffic-related projects have irked residents, but several projects fall under the Texas Department of Transportation, not the city.

“We’ll propose it to TxDOT,” Longoria said of one issue raised by a resident.

“We got your back,” one woman said.

After nearly two hours of presentations, questions and answers, the residents left the community center at Tres Lagos while chatting with Villalobos and collecting phone numbers and email addresses of city staff. Their hope, they said, is for better service.

“You all have some issues —” Villalobos said, and the dozens in the room broke out in laughter. Villalobos corrected himself: “Benefits. That other areas do not.”