New round of community meetings to begin for DART's Cotton Belt project

DART is holding its first, new round of community meetings about the Cotton Belt, after FOX 4 reported on a backlash from homeowners who said DART never notified them about the original meetings.

One day after our story ran earlier this month, DART mailed out letters to residents about this new round of meetings to get feedback from the community.

MORE: Far North Dallas residents feel railroaded by DART Cotton Belt project

A meeting for one group of neighbors will get underway Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

“We found five that knew anything about meetings,” said Dane Cofer.

The Cotton Belt is set to run behind Cofer's home.

“Literally, right next to my house, 56 feet away,” he added. “They said I was 2.5 feet too far to qualify for mitigation.”

Cofer set out to find out if other homeowners were also in the dark about DART’s plans.

“This is the most dense segment of residents DART has attempted to implement a train,” Cofer said.

When a DART spokesman was questioned earlier this month about the lack of communication, he had the following to say.

“All of a sudden, people are really interested in knowing exactly what is going on,” said Gordon Shattles, director of external relations for DART.

Shattles was not available for an interview ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

“It clearly indicates that DART is out of touch with the interest people in this neighborhood have. People live with looming development right behind their houses, and the fact that people had no idea it was coming up is indicative that DART hasn’t been communicating in a way that would truly engage them,” said Cofer.

“I’ve been to every meeting, filled out all kinds of paperwork to receive notification, and still have received nothing,” said Tolly Salz, who lives near the future Cotton Belt.

Salz says DART still hasn’t communicated with her about any meetings, even though the Cotton Belt tracks would also be behind her home, just beyond a small creek.

“It sends the message they don’t care,” Salz added. “When you send the message you don’t care about human beings, that is frightening to me.”

“We live close to the train tracks. 1,500 students attend school. Safety is a primary concern,” said Brian Finkelstein.

Finkelstein believes DART is misinforming residents about the speed of the trains.

“From Campbell to Hillcrest, it goes from 40-72 miles per hour,” he said.

He was told in an email that the average speed would be 35 miles an hour in Far North Dallas, but DART’s own environmental impact statement shows otherwise.

“You can see right here, it doesn’t even go 35,” he added.

Finkelstein says his multiple emails to DART asking for clarification about the speed of the trains have not yet been answered.

When a spokesman was asked about that issue Thursday, he said that the trains are expected to maintain an average speed of 35 mph in Far North Dallas, but has yet to explain why that seems to conflict with DART's own table that shows much high speeds.