What good is it for Moore County have a comprehensive transportation plan if it does not intend to uphold the traffic priorities in that plan?
One of the top stories last year was the extensive process through which Moore’s municipalities and the Board of Commissioners vetted, debated and ultimately approved a first-ever Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
That plan, developed over a 10-year collaboration with the state Department of Transportation, outlines 40 projects Moore County considers a priority. It includes big things like a future Western Connector thoroughfare and little projects like adding turn lanes on N.C. 5 and N.C. 24/27.
One of the projects involves aligning N.C. 73 with McCaskill Road where the two meet at U.S. 15-501 between Carthage and Pinehurst. That’s the spot where there are two traffic lights within 100 yards of each other.
The transportation plan’s final approval came Nov. 6. Six weeks later, on Dec. 18, the county’s Subdivision Review Board approved a 60-lot subdivision at that same location, straddling McCaskill Road. You don’t have to be an engineer to know it’s going to become harder to execute that realignment.
A Hearing Without Being Heard
The transportation plan instructs local governments to “coordinate on relevant land development reviews and all transportation projects to ensure proper implementation of the (Comprehensive Transportation Plan).”
Where, in this case, was that coordination on “relevant land development reviews”? That’s certainly the question asked by Carthage, Pinehurst and Whispering Pines, all three of which were perplexed by this decision and ultimately will be affected by it.
Carthage appealed the subdivision approval last week before the county Board of Adjustment but couldn’t even present its case. The board, conducting a hearing similar to a court proceeding, ruled Carthage had no “standing” and could show no “special damages.”
Even the Department of Transportation, who had representatives attend the hearing, wasn’t asked to speak.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a developer wanting to build a subdivision straddling McCaskill Road. Indeed, U.S. 15-501 is scheduled for widening — according to the same transportation plan — to four lanes between the Traffic Circle and N.C. 73. That area is slated for more growth.
But who will hold developers accountable? Who will say, “No, this is not compliant,” if not the very officials who approved the plans in the first place?
Learn From This
Moore County is growing, so it’s that more important to have sound planning — and follow it.
The transportation plan is an important document. It gives us a map — literally — of improvements the county and its municipalities can expect. Developers have surely already studied it and are figuring out how to leverage the proposals.
At this point, there’s likely little that can be done on this situation. If Carthage wants to appeal, it would pay out thousands in legal fees, something the small town isn’t likely to do.
So let’s learn from this episode, because development pressures are not likely to cease anytime soon. It is important that our towns — and Moore County — know how proposals that come before them will impact future road projects.
Consider the Western Connector, which could be a major north-south corridor from N.C. 211 to U.S. 1 below Aberdeen. It’s among the most speculative and long-range projects included in the transportation plan. But if our planners and government boards pay no heed to what they approved, we’ll end up with a bunch of new subdivisions right in the thoroughfare’s corridor.
“Either we have a transportation plan or we don’t,” Pinehurst council member Kevin Drum said a few weeks ago. “Nothing against the development. It is against not honoring the transportation plan.”
Exactly. Because what good is developing a plan and then not honoring it?