Far North Dallas residents feel railroaded by DART Cotton Belt project

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Far North Dallas residents feel like DART is keeping them in the dark about plans for the Cotton Belt that is set to run behind their homes.

A half dozen homeowners whose homes are by the tracks said they didn't get any notice about meetings DART held last month.

Jeff Smith is one of a half dozen homeowners who wanted to talk about what they believe has been an information black hole about the Cotton Belt.

“We're getting railroaded. Literally railroaded,” he said.

The Cotton Belt is a 26-mile-long DART rail line that will run diesel hybrid trains from Dallas to DFW Airport. It will run right next to several homeowners.

Out of several residents, Dane Cofer is the one homeowner who did receive a notice from DART about a meeting in May. But the notice was for a meeting for a different neighborhood than his.

“I don't know if this was bad communication or intentional miscommunication,” he said.

Either way, Cofer took it upon himself to start talking to others who live along the future Cotton Belt tracks.

“In approaching 200 residents, we found only five had awareness of the meetings,” he said.

A DART spokesman said on Tuesday that they are now planning additional meetings that will begin June 11.

“All of a sudden, people are really interested in knowing exactly what's going on,” said Gordon Shattles with DART.

And more people will be invited to the June meetings will determine what if any wall residents will get along certain sections of the rail.

“Now, we're to the point we are actually reaching out to every homeowner who is adjacent to our property,” Shattles said. “We are working through email, U.S. mail, HOA's and door hangers.

Shattles said not everyone adjacent will get a 15-foot wall.

“DART set aside a certain amount of money for a 12-foot wall in areas not required,” he said.

And Shattles said some people may decide they don't want a wall.

“Maybe they don’t want walls but want large trees,” he said. “Our concern is making sure the neighborhood is happy.”

And for that, DART has a long way to go.

“The additional slap in the face is we can't use it,” said resident Skip Broussard. “They're going to run it through our neighborhood, but the nearest stop is in Richardson.”

A Dallas City Council resolution passed in March 2018 states that the city would only support the Cotton Belt line if a continuous 15-foot high, sound-absorbing wall would be built along all the homes on both sides of the rail line. It’s unclear if DART is legally bound to that resolution or not.