By Betsy Dolan
The flashing yellow lights that drivers see as they approach the intersection of FM 762 and Berdett Road at the entrance to Bridlewood Estates in unincorporated Rosenberg, is a warning that they should proceed with caution. The subdivision has adopted that mantra as their own as it finds itself on the cusp of some significant changes, not all of them welcome.
“I like the feeling of being in the country,” said James Steenbergen, Bridlewood Estates HOA President, who has lived in the subdivision for 17 years. “No street lights, no curbs, very little government interference.”
For residents who live in Bridlewood’s 300 homes, there is talk of annexation, of changes in fire service, increased traffic due to the opening of Reading Junior High and George Ranch High School and worries about just how close the Grand Parkway project will eventually get to their homes.
“We’re worried about our quality of life,” said Anne Hoelscher, Bridlewood Estates Vice President. “We understand that things change but we really want to protect what we have out here.”
Most troubling for residents is talk of annexation by the City of Rosenberg. While discussions with city officials have been amiable and Bridlewood is not on the city’s fast track for annexation at this point, residents would prefer not to be annexed at all. They are worried about increased fees for services and what it would mean to their autonomy. Rosenberg’s City Manager, Jack Hamlett, said he understands Bridlewood’s concerns but having subdivisions in unincorporated areas makes it difficult for the city’s long range planning.
“Because of extraterritorial jurisdiction, people who move into unincorporated areas have to assume that they’ll be annexed into the city at some point,” Hamlett said. “It allows us to plan for the long haul, for roads, for water needs and for the tax revenue to pay for all of those things.”
One way Bridlewood Estates has delayed annexation is to enter into a fire services agreement with the City of Rosenberg. The city had provided fire protection to unincorporated areas with funding partially reimbursed by Fort Bend County. But as costs increased, Hamlett said, it became necessary for Rosenberg to cancel that service. Bridlewood residents were also losing their fire insurance because of the distance to the nearest Rosenberg fire station. As part of the new fire service agreement, Rosenberg will build a new fire station closer to Bridlewood, which is slated to open in August of 2013.
While Bridlewood is trying to avoid annexation and what they perceive as unwanted government interference, the community has turned to a government agency, the Texas Department of Transportation, to try and get a stoplight installed at FM 762 and Berdett Road. Residents say the simple act of turning left from Berdett onto FM 762 has become a daily battle as traffic has increased due to the opening of Reading Junior High and George Ranch High School.
“From about 7:15 to 8:15 the traffic is terrible,” said Steenbergen. “People get so frustrated that they just turn in front of oncoming traffic. It’s like they’re trying to commit suicide.”
The subdivision was successful in getting a flashing light installed at the intersection and even paid for a sheriff’s deputy to direct traffic for a short time. But residents say what they really need is a legitimate traffic light that will stop traffic on FM 762 and allow residents to safely turn left during peak morning times.
The Grand Parkway project looms as a major worry for residents as well. Segment C is a 26 mile stretch that would connect US 59 to SH 288 and would essentially wrap around Bridlewood.
“There are no new developments with Segment C right now”, said Fort Bend County Precinct 1 Commissioner, James Patterson, “This project has been challenging because nobody wants it in their backyard. We have to try and be respectful of environmental concerns like the hardwood forest and eagle’s nests and the George Observatory and neighborhoods like Bridlewood.”
For now Bridlewood residents say they are hoping to walk the line between maintaining the best of what they have and trying to compromise on the rest.
“But really,” Steenbergen said. “We’d be happiest if they just left us alone”.