HELOTES, Texas — Drivers cruising by, or through, Beverly Hills Drive in Helotes Texas will notice a few changes. There is a sign that says "NO THRU TRAFFIC" posted at each end, and a police officer constantly patrolling the short street.
If that officer catches you driving all the way through, you could face a $250 fine. Or maybe a one time warning for the first day or two.
For drivers unfamiliar with the area, that might sound extreme, but for Helotes it's an imperfect solution to a difficult problem.
The problem started after a new subdivision, Davis Ranch, was built on County Land east of Helotes. The hundreds of new homeowners in that subdivision have less-than-ideal exit options. The main parkway exit to the south goes between a middle school and an elementary school, which often is flooded by traffic. The second exit is also to the south, is a smaller road, and takes drivers further away from 1604, which is where many are traveling.
There was, however, a third option. A back exit for the new county subdivision allowed drivers to save 10-20 minutes by cutting east though Helotes on Beverly Hills Drive.
Suddenly, that community had hundreds of extra drivers on their 0.7 mile community road.
"Traffic had gotten four or five times worse," Jeff Leone "The only people that drove though the neighborhood were our neighbors for forty years... half of those (newly built) homes are now coming though our neighborhood. Traffic gets backed up a quarter of a mile."
"There have been a couple people (pedestrians) that have almost been hit by folks," Ken Ryan said. "We had a man almost hit on his bicycle. There has been speeding. The sheer amount of traffic is quite dangerous for these small road,"
With their neighborhood street periodically turning into a parking lot, citizens of Helotes went to the City Council for help.
Mayor Rich Whitehead told KENS 5 he told the Bexar County about the issue, and they suggested a solution: A 'No pass-through ordinance."
"We've already seen a 50 percent increase in traffic on that road and construction is nowhere near finished in Davis Ranch," Whitehead said. "We have a neighborhood road that had a traffic county of 1000 cars a day. We've seen 1500 cars a day and we expected that trajectory to continue."
Whitehead said, in addition to the safety concerns, the additional traffic would quickly wear out the community road. With no better option, the Helotes City Council passed the ordinance in February and went into effect on March 9.
The No-Pass-through ordinance allows the city to fine drivers a minimum of $250 and maximum of $500. Drivers from Davis Ranch in the county are not happy with the decision.
"It's a public road," Andy Aninsman said. "When you have the schools open up down there (the road) it makes it a lot easier for us in the back of the neighborhood...we can get access to 1604 a lot quicker."
The ordinance also leavings existing county homeowners in a tough spot. There were already homes in the county between the Beverly Hills Subdivision and the brand new Davis Ranch subdivision. As of Thursday, the county homeowners that have lived just west of Beverly Hills for years will be technically required to backtrack though the new Davis Ranch subdivision every time they leave their homes because they wouldn't be allowed to drive through Beverly Hills either.
Ken Ryan is the first county homeowner on the outside of the "No-Pass-Through" ordinance. Ryan was hoping to be "grandfathered in" with the Beverly Hills community but that's not an option. Still, he said he is willing to follow the rules, and take the 10 plus minute backtrack route though Davis Ranch, for the sake of the community.
"I had no idea about that until yesterday afternoon, " Ryan said. "It is what it is. It's not ideal. Everybody's got to sacrifice a little bit I guess."
Ryan said he has plenty of neighbors who will also be cut off from their typical route down Beverly Hills Drive and he hopes a better solution is on the way.
Mayor Whitehead said he is continuing to meet with Bexar County commissioners and other officials to look at more options. An option for a better road though the area would likely need to be tied to future city developments, but there are no plans on paper as of yet. Whitehead said he knows the ordinance puts some people in a difficult position but the City had to prioritize safety for the local community.
"I am very keenly aware of safety issues. This is a particular safety issue for the people of Beverly Hills and I was elected to protect my people," Whitehead said.