State transportation officials will conduct a traffic study to determine whether the speed limit should be lowered to 45 mph on N.C. 211 in Pinehurst.
The Village Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday afternoon asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit from Rattlesnake Trail to the corporate limit sign just west of the intersection with Main Street in Taylortown. The speed limit is currently 45 mph from Rattlesnake to the Traffic Circle.
“Our traffic engineers will look at the data to see if it meets our requirements,” said Brandon Jones, division engineer with the Eighth Division office in Aberdeen.
Jones said one of the main factors the DOT uses in setting speed limits is something called “85th percentile speed.” That is the speed at or below which 85 percent of people drive at any given location under normal conditions and may be considered as the maximum safe rate for that location, according to federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
The federal code recommends using the 85th percentile as “guidance” in establishing speed limits. Other factors could include road characteristics, development along the road, pedestrian activity and vehicle accidents. DOT will also look at traffic counts.
Jones said it typically takes about four to six weeks to complete the study and make a decision.
Council members citied safety concerns with the current 55 mph speed limit on the 1.5-mile stretch of highway.
“When you have a sidewalk, you should not have a 55 mph speed limit,” Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said during the meeting.
Fiorillo said Pat Molamphy, a Pinehurst resident who serves on the state transportation board, suggested the council pass a resolution requesting the reduction in the speed limit.
“Any time a municipality has a concern, we take it to heart,” Molamphy said late Thursday afternoon in a brief telephone interview. “They (DOT engineers) don’t usually do this unless a municipality requests it.”
The speed limit was increased to 55 mph starting at Rattlesnake Trail once the highway widening from the Traffic Circle to West End was completed in June 2014. It had been 45 mph previously.
Molamphy said traffic has increased with the opening of the Harris Teeter shopping center just west of the N.C. 5 intersection.
“It has created a lot more congestion in that area,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem John Cashion, who serves as the village’s transportation liaison, said Pinehurst has received numerous complaints from residents about safety on that stretch of highway, with vehicles coming down the hill from Rattlesnake at a high rate of speed heading west and then up a hill approaching the traffic signal at N.C. 5 at Olmsted Village. He said with the recent opening of the new Harris Teeter shopping center, more vehicles are turning onto N.C . 211 at Main Street.
The village corporate limit sign is near the intersection of Westgate Drive across from Premier Lighting.
“We need to slow down traffic coming around that curve to stop light at Main Street,” Cashion said. “You’ve got more traffic coming out at that intersection.”
He said many Pinewild Country Club residents wanted the speed reduced to 45 mph all the way out to the main entrance across from Pinehurst Baptist Church. He said it can be difficult at times for people turning onto the highway, especially making left turns across two lanes of on-coming traffic.
Cashion agreed with Fiorillo about the safety of people walking on the sidewalks on both sides of the four-lane highway, with cars going by at 55 mph to 60 mph, “which isn’t a good thing.”
Also during the meeting, council members supported the idea of forming a task force with Southern Pines and Aberdeen to investigate the possibility of establishing a Southern Moore County YMCA.
“Maybe it is pie in the sky,” Fiorillo said “To me it is worth looking into. Maybe nothing will come of it.”
Fiorillo initially raised the idea of a YMCA last month after a study team presented a report on building a $3.3 million to $3.8 million community center behind Village Hall to meet the space needs of its growing parks and recreation programs. She said “it would be foolish” not to at least explore the idea before spending “millions of dollars” on the village building its own community center.
Fiorillo said Southern Pines and Aberdeen have expressed a willingness to appoint members to a task force and that several people have already volunteered to serve. She added that she also spoke with Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, who told her that while the county would not be in a position to provide any funding, it would look into possible land it owns in this part of the county for a YMCA.
She said in a brief interview after the meeting that she has spoken with the national organization and was told a nearby YMCA must sponsor a local club. She said the closest one to Moore County is in Sanford.
Fiorillo said the main attraction for a YMCA would be a swimming pool, “which is the most expensive part.” She said it would not be feasible for one town to do it alone.
She said a small task force of possibly six members could be formed to look into what it would take to build a YMCA in southern Moore County and for it to be successful financially.
“You want it to be self-sustaining,” she said. “Let’s investigate. Would we be in over our heads, or is this something we could do?”
In March 2012, a group from Moore County met with Fayetteville-based YMCA of the Sandhills officials to discuss the feasibility of building a Y in Moore County. A possible site in the Morganton Park North development in Southern Pines received approval from the YMCA, and the Van Camp family, which owns the land.
The local group initially hoped to build a 45,000 to 60,000 square-foot facility on a 10-acre site in the development off Morganton Road. A committee was formed to raise the $1 million needed for a charter, and the group had hoped to start raising money to build the facility once the land around it began developing and the infrastructure was in place. It was looking at the need to raise about $11 million.
But nothing has happened with that effort since early 2013.
In other village business last Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to rezone 9.6 acres of land on Dundee Road in front of Scared Heart Catholic to a conditional district to allow a parking lot with 29 spaces. Church members already park in that area on Sundays.
Church leaders said the new lot will be designated for elderly members who have difficulty walking who may not have handicapped permits. They told the council that making it a handicapped lot would have required installing 8-foot signs and striping for every spot.
The church will have to come back with a detailed site plan, which requires only staff approval, before the parking lot can be built. Representatives said the landscaping will exceed the village requirements.
Two people spoke against, saying it would be unsightly and harm the surrounding area.
The Planning and Zoning Board recommended that the council approve the rezoning.