W.P. Council Reverses Vote on Road Closing
Some residents living on Pine Ridge Drive in Whispering Pines say they feel betrayed by a recent council decision to reopen access to a new subdivision.
Earlier this month, the Village Council voted 3-2 to reopen Hammerstone Drive to all vehicles. In May, the council voted unanimously to close the access point to all traffic except emergency vehicles. The village approved putting in a safety gate, which had yet to be installed.
"I don't understand why they are reversing it," Roberta Salisbury said. "The reasons to close it in the first place were valid."
Before voting to allow traffic from Hammerstone to have full access to Pine Ridge Drive, council member Molly Boggis -- who lives on Pine Ridge Drive -- said placing a gate to limit access was a safety issue. Mayor Bob Zschoche said the decision was in the best interest of the entire village.
Boggis, Zschoche and Skip Gebhardt voted in favor of opening the road. Council members Frank Zamaroni and Randy Saunders voted against.
One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she felt the council "didn't care" about the residents of Pine Ridge Drive.
"I don't know how they can say the best interest of the village is an entrance onto our street for homes that are not yet built," she said.
The Arrowstone and Newbury Ridge subdivisions received approval last year. The original plans for the subdivisions called for 167 homes. At the time the subdivisions were proposed, Pine Ridge Drive residents opposed allowing access from each subdivision to their street, saying it would increase traffic on a road that was already unsafe and overburdened.
The main entrance to the Newbury Ridge development is through Blue Farm, a Southern Pines subdivision off N.C. 22. Arrowstone's main entrance is off Hardee Lane.
In 2006, while both subdivisions were in the development and planning stages, the N.C. Department of Transportation recommended that the interconnection between Arrowstone and Pine Ridge be restricted to emergency traffic only.
After residents on Pine Ridge Drive opposed the subdivision because of increased traffic, the council hired Wilbur Smith Associates to perform a traffic study on the street to determine the impact of two new subdivisions.
The study estimated that traffic would increase by 61 percent, a percentage engineers deemed as minimal. The study recommended improving pedestrian refuge areas within public rights of way, preserving sight lines in tight curves, widening the road by a foot on each side in tight curves, adding more warning and speed signs, installing street lights, and increasing enforcement of the 25-mph speed limit.
Will Letchforth, who presented the study findings to council last April, said, "You have some problems right now, and they are partially because of road design and partially because of road maintenance. I think they (problems) need to be fixed now, regardless of any discussion of new developments.
"I don't think you could bring enough homes around (Pine Ridge Drive) to make it a collector road. Hardee (Road) is a collector road, Pine Ridge is not."
Despite the findings, residents living along Pine Ridge, behind the leadership of Don Lindsay, pushed to have access limited. Residents submitted petitions to the council, and many of them spoke during meetings.
In May, a month after the study findings were made public, the council voted to maintain Newbury's access to Pine Ridge via Banning Road.
It also voted to limit Arrowstone's access from Hammerstone to Pine Ridge Drive to emergency vehicles only. Both votes were unanimous.
Since that vote, an election brought two new members to the council -- Boggis and Gebhardt.
Boggis said she has visited the site and her biggest concern is safety. She said that closing the road partially would probably not prevent some traffic from using that road, attempting to go around the proposed gate.
Closing the road, Boggis said, didn't seem to be a viable option, either.
"There's just not one issue to consider," she said.
Currently, there are a few finished homes in the Arrowstone subdivision and several more under construction. Only one home in the subdivision is occupied.
Lindsay, who has attended numerous council meetings, has pushed for the village either to limit access from Hammerstone Drive to Pine Ridge Drive to emergency vehicles only, or close the access altogether.
Since the vote to reopen the road, Lindsay has resigned his position on the Community Appearance Commission and said he will not attend any more council meetings.
"My brain is on strike," Lindsay said.
One of Lindsay's neighbors, Ralph Bohn, said he understands Lindsay's position.
"I sympathize with Don's concern," Bohn said.
Bohn added that he has softened his position after listening to an explanation from Boggis on her reasons for voting to reopen the road.
"She is optimistic how little impact keeping that road (Hammerstone) open will have on Pine Ridge Drive," Bohn said, "as optimistic as Don is pessimistic.
"The fact of the matter is we don't have all the facts. We only have predictions. The jury is still out. It appears to me if it (increases traffic and accidents) happens, we can revisit the issue and close the damn gate."
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2473 or by e-mail at tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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