Sandbranch residents want services, not buyout from county

Dallas County staff is, once again, studying a plan to relocate dozens of residents from a community without basic water, sewer and trash services.

The county doesn’t provide the services for the tiny community of Sandbranch because the land is in a flood plain.

Home to 88 people, Sandbranch is in the unincorporated portion of Dallas County that was founded 138 years ago by newly emancipated slaves.

People gathered at the Sandbranch Church Tuesday morning to say they don't want the county's buyout.

Residents say they live in Sandbranch for a reason. Many, who already rejected a 2005 buyout, say they don't want the new buyout plan the county is working on.

“We built our own home,” said Juanita Bean who has lived in the community since 1966. “And this is part of me.”

Commissioner John Wiley Price's proposal comes as environmental attorney Mark McPherson is on the verge of getting clean water, sewer, and trash pickup services to Sandbranch.

“The plan is not asking Dallas County for a dime,” explained McPherson.

The environmental attorney took on the case pro bono after a day volunteering with his church. He's since found funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I don't understand why the county would be willing to spend in the six figures and maybe now seven figures when there is a plan that would cost the county nothing,” McPherson said.

Price says any investment in the community isn't worth it.

“There is no way the community will rise above the 88 residents that are there,” the commissioner said. “There is no way. You can't build in the flood plain."

McPherson says the community can grow. It's allowed to add agriculture business and grow fresh fruits and vegetables for local restaurants. He says new houses can be built, as long as they are raised above the flood level and argues the land is valuable with nowhere else comparable to relocate residents.

“Where else are you going to find 378 acres in a rural setting 15 miles from downtown Dallas?” said McPherson.

Pastor Eugene Keahey of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Sandbranch is working with McPherson. 

“We're just a group of people asking for a water bill,” the pastor said. “Allow us to have a water bill!"

Price says the relocation program will be voluntary and allow homeowner to keep ownership of their property. No dollar amount has been proposed yet.

McPherson says the last time around, homeowners were only given $350 to relocate.