Council hears three options for road improvement plan

Published 12:10 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

It’s getting closer to decision time for possible improvements to Lewisville-Clemmons Road, including a median from I-40 to Stadium Drive, but Monday night’s Village Council meeting showed there are still plenty of questions and uncertainty over the proposed NCDOT project.

Pat Ivey, Division 9 engineer, and Teresa Gresham, a consultant from Kimley-Horn, came for a work session prior to the meeting and made the same presentation during the regular meeting to unveil the latest plan to address safety concerns along the busy corridor.

Ivey and Gresham first came before the council in May to provide NCDOT’s recommendation for improvements to Lewisville-Clemmons Road, followed by a public meeting in July where more than 100 people attended.

“Tonight, we are here to let you know what we heard and to further answer any questions you may have concerning the proposal or anything else about the project,” Ivey said.

Certainly, they heard plenty from the council after Gresham outlined three options for the stretch with the median, including NCDOT’s recommended choice — Option C — where a traffic signal would be added at Sessions Court.

“It allows lefts into Sessions and allows lefts out of Market Center,” she said. “So that works as a left pair. And then you’ll have regular full movement at Stadium.”

Among the other two options presented, Option A included full movement through all the intersections (Sessions, Market Center and Stadium) with left turns being allowed in and out at all three locations with full access, but Gresham said the queues, being so close together, were overflowing during peak hours — creating a safety problem.

Option B included full movement at Sessions, but not full movement at all at Market Center, which was considered a problem because queues onto Sessions would back up across the interstate.

Some council members expressed concerns about NCDOT’s preferred Option C.

“From a DOT standpoint, out of the three, this one makes that section of road the most effective, but I feel like this one has a ton of negative effects on the areas around it,” said councilman Chris Wrights, who said that problems on the west side included not being able to turn left out of Sessions, no left-hand turns into Westwood Village and anyone going there being forced down to Sessions and backtracking through the parking lots.

Then on the east side, he pointed out there would no longer an entrance into the front of Kmart and Meadowbrook Mall with traffic being directed in between Verizon and Mi Pueblo along with not being allowed to turn left onto Ramada. He added that a parallel road wouldn’t be possible with Option C since Kmart won’t allow right-of-way permission for that choice.

“With the first option (A), we could have the ability to do that,” said Wrights, who added he thought this option would have overwhelming support from the community and best solve some of the problems with the road. “With this option, the only real negative we’ve seen is if there’s a stacking problem between Stadium and Market Center Drive for an hour or two in afternoon at peak hours. I would take that and get rid of all these other problems than have all these problems just to get rid of backing up for an hour or two, which Lewisville-Clemmons is going to have during peak hours no matter what you do.”

Councilwoman P.J. Lofland said she had a problem with not being able to drive straight across to Kmart and not being able to turn left out of the shopping center.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” she said of Option C, also adding driving through Mi Pueblo’s parking lot to get to the other stores would be difficult.

On the other side, councilman Mike Combest suggested “if we don’t do something out there, that stretch of Lewisville-Clemmons Road is going to pay a big economic price. The No. 1 reason people abandon shopping districts is safety, followed closely by unacceptable congestion. I hate harming our businesses because of increasingly unsafe conditions.”

NCDOT officials have stated the need to make this stretch of road safer while improving traffic flow and reducing delays. Results from the public meeting, which had 109 attendees, showed that just over 60 percent were generally in favor of the median, and that online comments showed a similar percentage.

During the public comments prior to Monday night’s meeting, Charles Sherrill said that he would like to support the project but can’t because it’s “basically half a plan,” — not taking into account what would happen with the Westwood Shopping Center property, the access road next to the Verizon store and no new information yet on the I-40 interchange design.

“There are too many questions,” he said.

Art Fraunhofer said he supported the median because of safety and trusted NCDOT “to do what’s right.”

Ivey said that if Clemmons chose not to do the project, the I-40 interchange, which is currently tied to the Lewisville-Clemmons Road improvements, would go forward as a new statewide project.

Mayor John Wait asked if “this was it?” or if there is anything else that NCDOT was working on for this project.

“This will be it,” Gresham said. “The other things I’ve shown you is all the different variations of how we’ve tried to solve it without restricting those movements, and the reason why DOT doesn’t support those other options.”

Wait said he had spoken with many business owners that would be impacted and that they were overwhelming opposed.

“To me, this is a chicken and egg problem,” he said. “There’s not enough details here. What is the process if this council did decide to give the green light to this project and how do those specifics get worked out?”

Gresham responded: “The next step would be to work through the design details — figuring out which driveways will be affected in what ways, which parking areas will be affected in both ways, how to mitigate, how to avoid, how to minimize those impacts. By the time we came back, hopefully we have all those answers worked through. Not giving all the information up front gives you a chance to provide input and kind of concur with the high-level ideas.”

The next step for Clemmons will be to decide on the project by Sept. 1, which would mean taking action at the Aug. 27 meeting unless NCDOT grants an extension.

That’s certainly not a lot of time for a decision that will have long-term consequences.

“To be clear, this might be the beginning of your process,” Wait said of the NCDOT, “but this is the end of the Village’s. This is it. We don’t unring this bell.”

Concluding that portion of the meeting, Wrights said he would like for NCDOT to reconsider Option A, which would be a median with full movement, “if at all possible,” and councilwoman Michelle Barson seconded that.

In other business, the council:

• Heard from Wait about considering someone to do an economic impact analysis on having a median and possibly paying up to $5,000 for the work. Wait said he found a professor of economics at Winston-Salem State, Madid-Sadiadi Zagros, who had done similar work and may be worth considering although it would be a tight timeline for the proposed project on Lewisville-Clemmons Road.

• Approved awarding the bid of $797,002 with Hennings Construction, contingent upon Hubbard Realty entering into the contract, and approving a budget amendment for the James Street Extension after Village Manager Scott Buffkin reported that Hubbard had agreed to pay $12,500 to help in the cost of a temporary skimmer basin that will serve as the permanent stormwater control for the library and the rest of the Hubbard Realty property to be developed.

• Received an update on Tanglewood Business Park that the council was considering to craft an interlocal agreement but decided to wait until another meeting with the county commissioners to see about any new developments. “Our goal is to do what’s best for the community and for the county, for that matter,” Wait said.

• Approved Resolution 2018 R-10 directing the clerk to investigate a petition received under NCGS 160A-31 — voluntary annexation request of Dennis Tharrington — Mission Development LLC and David Liner for a parcel close to Harper Road and Peace Haven Road.

• Approved a zoning map amendment for JBJH Properties LLC from RS-15 to NB-S (Neighborhood Business-Special Use) for a property of .34 acres located at the intersection of Hampton Road and Cook Place Drive with proposed uses of residential building, single family, arts and crafts studio, medical and surgical offices, professional office, services and personal.

• Approved an agreement for $8,500 with CivicPlus for website development, design, implementation, support and hosting services.

• Received a resignation letter from David Hauser, the Clemmons representative on the Forsyth County. Historic Resources Commission, effective at the end of his four-year term in November, stating “it is time to relinquish this duty to someone younger with an interest in maintaining the historic character of Forsyth County’s communities.” The council said it will be begin a community outreach to receive applications to fill the position.

• Heard from Barson on reviewing the terms of service for all Clemmons contracts and gaining consensus on reviewing all of them automatically review.

• Approved the purchase of Message Board for $13,200 from Stay Alert.