City to consider changes to Hwy 31 access policy ahead of new retail development


City to consider changes to Hwy 31 access policy ahead of new retail development

BY QUINT QUALLS

The developers of a new retail development off Highway 31 at Wilkes Lane aim to convince city officials to alter an access management policy in hopes of installing a new traffic signal and stopping a right-in, right-out concrete island from going in at the Wilkes Lane intersection.

The development at question is planned for a property off Highway 31 and would comprise 20,400 square feet of retail space and 5,700 square feet for restaurants with two drive-thru spaces. The property in question also features the recognizable abandoned silo just off of Main Street.

The right-in, right-out island at Wilkes Lane is a part of the “Diablo Package” of nine roadway improvements planned along Highway 31 at three intersections.

The item came up for discussion at Monday night’s Transportation Advisory Committee meeting, with members of the committee ultimately holding off on a recommendation until the developer can provide a traffic study which contradicts the city’s access management policy. Hank Cannon, of RealtyLink, represented the developers of the new commercial property at the meeting.

The policy concerns the section of Highway 31 between Campbell Station Parkway and Traders Way and was adopted earlier this year. Among other things, it regulates access to Highway 31 by requiring all future developments with direct access to the road construct right-in, right-out concrete islands. In addition, it includes a provision that only one traffic signal may be constructed at the entrance to the Tanyard Springs subdivision if warranted.

At Monday’s meeting, City Administrator Victor Lay said that the city’s goal in placing a right-in, right-out island at the Wilkes Lane intersection was not necessarily safety, but rather an issue of interference on the highway caused by left turns.

“My general opinion on the right-in, right-out, I don’t know if it interrupts traffic on 31 by leaving a full access point there,” Lay said. “Until the city does the widening to become a five-lane cross section, at that point I think we will need to look at un-signalized intersections for safety reasons. Trying to cross five lanes of traffic instead of two is a whole lot different.”

“If the board wanted to hold on the right-in, right-out until that point in time then I think that is what we would need to do. As far as my evaluation of the signal, the only thing is to go back to the plan we have in place and show how much more degradation there would be on 31 with two signals.”

Alderman Matt Fitterer, a member of the Transportation Advisory Committee, told Cannon that they would need to perform a traffic study to show the city’s policy is wrong about the Wilkes Lane intersection before he would support the request.

“I said this when you were at the planning commission, but show us something that we’re wrong other than just, ‘I don’t like idea,’” Fitterer said. “I get it. When we originally talked here (about the policy), I was in favor of a light on Wilkes, but I don’t think we can just change Resolution 16-15 because we’re having buyer’s remorse now.”

Alderman Chad Whittenburg, chairman of the Transportation Advisory Committee, asked Cannon if the plans for the development were contingent on the light, and whether or not they would be alright with the right-in, right-out island if a light is put in.

“It may,” Cannon responded. “The biggest problem we have is two of our anchor tenants, I can tell you for a fact that if the right-in, right-out occurs, they’re gone. Ultimately for us the light resolves that issue but again until we provide information, like you said, it’s buyer’s remorse right now.”

Fitterer said he would be happy to be the one to introduce the resolution to change the policy, but added that he would like to have more concrete reasoning behind to back it up.

Cannon said they would have the traffic study in to the city for consideration in about two weeks. Lay said that the city officials could then look over it and compare it to the one done by the city’s contractor Jerome Dempsey to see if there is room for recommended changes to the city’s plan.

The potential changes to the policy would then be brought back before the Transportation Advisory Committee for a recommendation before moving on to the Board of Mayor and Alderman for consideration and a vote.

Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at quint@springhillhomepage.com.

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