“We have been in this house 22 years next month, and for the eight years before that we lived four houses down the street,” said Cindy Earles, resident on Rountree Drive.
Earles is one of the residents on Rountree Drive who could be effected by the university’s plans to build the new stadium. If the university needs to, it will expand and build a parking lot on the empty 10.5-acre property across Ambler Avenue, which backs up to the houses on Rountree Drive and the alley behind the houses on Cloverleaf Lane. However, plans to build a parking lot on the property are uncertain.
“We don’t know if we are going to build a parking lot there for sure or not,” said Kevin Roberts, vice president of planning and operations. “That is if, in fact, we determine that we need more parking, that’s the likely place that we will put it.”
Earles said plans to develop the empty lot have been discussed in the past.
“Through the years we had heard various things about building, and there was a discussion a long time ago about putting an apartment complex over there,” she said. “None of us were really excited about that, but we never heard anything official. But we had not heard anything in quite a while about what might be built over here.”
Earles and her neighbors received letters about a town hall meeting that took place the day ACU announced the building of the new stadium and the science facilities. Neighbors gathered on Feb. 14 at Abilene Christian Schools to discuss the details of the project.
Roberts said they showed the drawings of the plans to the neighbors to help further explain what would happen, and to address the fears and confusion the neighbors expressed. Roberts said at one point the neighbors thought the stadium would be built in the empty lot across Ambler Avenue.
“People had questions, as you would expect. They wanted to know if the parking lot was going to go all the way back up to their houses and what is that going to look like and how are we going to control traffic getting in and out of games,” he said. “We had a very vested interest. I want this to look nice as well, I don’t want to build something that looks ugly and unbecoming because it is our front door. I think that kind of helped quell some of their concerns, which again, they were all very valid, and I completely understood what they were concerned about.”
Marie Cotton, resident on Cloverleaf Lane, said she was concerned about an increase of traffic on the alley behind her house, which backs up to the empty lot. The residents who live on Cloverleaf Lane use the alleyway to access their garages, so traffic along the alley would be undesirable. Cotton said she is pleased apartments will not be built in the empty lot, but if a parking lot is developed she would like to see a separating barrier between the alley and the lot.
Jon James, director of planning and development services for the city of Abilene, was also at the town hall meeting.
“There were a few concerned neighbors who just had some concerns about traffic and what might go on that property long-term,” he said. “And in an approval by the city council, they placed some conditions on that property that would help address some of those concerns. For example, there is an alley on the north end of that property and the university will have to put up a fence to prevent cars from leaving the parking lot to go out that alley through the neighborhood. So people coming in and out of the parking lot could only come from Ambler.”
Aaron Miller, resident on Rountree Drive, said he doesn’t mind if a parking lot is built in the empty lot behind his house. He said he would only mind if they decided to use the alleyway next to his house, separate from the alleyway on Cloverleaf Lane, as an entrance and exit for the parking lot. However, Miller said if they do plan to build a parking lot, the alleyway next to his house will be closed off to traffic.
“The thing we tried to reiterate to the folks that live over there is that we want to be good neighbors. We don’t want to do anything that is going to harm their neighborhood or anything like that,” Roberts said.
Earles said she and her family do not mind if a parking lot is built behind their house either.
“It really does not bother us,” she said. “That lot back there has been used as a parking lot for years anyway, it was just not a paved parking lot.”
Earles said the property is often used as a parking lot on the Fourth of July, and in the spring for playoff softball and baseball games, track meets and practice track meets.
“In the spring, we just kind of expect for people to be parked over there because of all the activities at this end of the campus,” she said.
Earles said it might be beneficial to pave what is already being used as a parking lot.
“There have been instances where cars and pickup trucks have gotten out there and found a soft spot and gotten stuck,” she said.
Earles said she hopes if a parking lot is built, something will also be done about the water that tends to come from the parking lot and run through their driveway. She also said having a paved parking lot behind her house could help her allergies.
“I have really bad allergies, and when that big area is mowed, of course there is a lot of debris in the air,” Earles said. “As far as dust and dirt and varmints that live out there in the field, I would be more than happy for them to clear that out.”