Balls Creek Small Area Planning Committee Meeting – April 2, 2001
Members present: Robert Crouch, Eddie Barringer, Nancy Jo Teague, Robbie Bennett, Jerry McCombs and Vance Dalton (Chairman).

Members absent: Paul Beatty (Planning Board liaison), Nancy Smyre, Michael Isenhour, Stanley Stewart, Mike Rutledge, and Janice Morrow.

Staff present: Mike Dove, Mary George and Richard Smith from the Catawba County Planning and Community Development Department, and John Tippett from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Mr. Dalton called the meeting to order at 7:12 p.m.

Minutes from the last meeting were approved.

Mr. Dalton introduced Mr. John Tippett, Transportation Planner for the WPCOG.  Mr. Tippett explained to the group that he would be covering transportation topics and more specifically the projects for this particular planning area.  He told the group that he would first go over the process of how these plans come to be and then how they affect the Balls Creek area.

Mr. Tippett reviewed the Hickory-Newton-Conover Urban Area Thoroughfare Plan and explained the requirement for having a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in urban areas.  He explained that the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) oversees the MPO and is made up of elected officials.  He told the group that Marie Huffman, Board of Commissioners Chairperson for Catawba County is a member of the TAC.

Mr. Tippett explained to the group that there are three thoroughfare plans for the County; the aforementioned one, the Maiden one, and the Catawba County Thoroughfare Plan.  He mentioned that the County’s plan has been targeted for updating this summer. 

Mr. Tippett reviewed a brochure that was distributed to the group that explained Thoroughfare Planning.  He explained that the transportation issues identified by this group would need to be developed into policies for the overall plan for this area.

Mr. Tippett went over the draft Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for 2002-2008, which was handed out to the group.  He described to the group the process for getting a project on the TIP and why it was somewhat of a lengthy process before the roads were actually constructed.  He reviewed projects on the TIP as they apply to this planning area, such as the widening of NC Highway 16.  He went over the time period for this particular project.

Mrs. George explained to the group that the Highway 16 project is a three-phase project.  She explained the exact construction layout that NCDOT has in mind for this project.  She said that this what was initially proposed and she was not sure what, if anything, may change with this plan before it is actually constructed. 

Mr. Tippett explained that NCDOT has to complete projects as permitted by the funding that is available at that point in time, even if it does not seem as logical when the road is being constructed.  He again reviewed with the group the process for getting a road improvement on the priority list.  Mr. Tippett explained that NC Highway 150 is not on the TIP, but that Catawba, Iredell and Lincoln Counties have submitted a request for NCDOT to update the Corridor Study Plan for this road. 

Mr. Tippett told the group that left turn lane additions help to reduce traffic congestion.  He said that the group should think about where in this area these types of improvements are needed.  He said that they are not as involved and that they can be completed much quicker than many of the other transportation projects.  He also mentioned that it would be good for the group to identify areas where the road should be widened a few feet for safety reasons.

Mrs. George reviewed roads in this area that have been identified to be improved in some way.  She also mentioned that NC Highway 10 has been identified as needing to be widened.  Mr. Dalton asked why Maiden was not included in the Thoroughfare Plan.  Mr. Tippett explained that Maiden has a separate plan, but that they could possibly be included in this plan.

Mr. Tippett told the group to keep intersections in mind that they feel like should have a traffic signal or a caution light.  He said that a lot of these are identified by common sense and that they can be identified by the safety hazards that they present.  He briefly discussed bike lanes and transit issues as related to this area.  He explained the need for bike lanes for safety reasons for bikers and for expediency for automobile movement.  He gave the group an overview of the current transit opportunities that are available in Catawba County, such as Piedmont Wagon.  He also mentioned the latest developments with passenger rail service and that this is becoming a higher priority with NCDOT.  He then briefly mentioned transportation enhancements and that funding is available for these types of projects.

Mr. Bennett asked about the boundaries for this Small Area Planning district.  Mrs. George displayed maps of this district and described the boundaries of the planning area.  She asked them where they would put a sign that welcomed people into the Balls Creek area if one were placed on Highway 16.  The intersection of Balls Creek and Hwy 16 was identified as a gateway entrance to the community. 

Mr. Dove asked the group to identify areas that they felt might need some type of improvement due to safety or other reasons.  Mr. Bennett mentioned the need for a safety device or turn lane near Balls Creek Elementary School.  The intersection of Highway 10 and Balls Creek Road was identified as possibly needing a caution light.  Mr. Tippett said that the group could request a minor engineering traffic study from NCDOT for the areas that are being identified.  Mrs. Teague identified the intersection of Buffalo Shoals Road and E. Bandys/W. Bandys Crossroad should be straightened.  Mr. McCombs said that he agreed with this and that this is a safety issue. 

Mr. Dove asked for other safety issues that the group thought should be addressedMr. Crouch mentioned a curve on Jack Whitener Road which needs to be straightened because of its danger.  Other safety issues identified are at the intersection of Mt. Olive Church Road and Claremont Road and the intersection of Little Mountain Road and Buffalo Shoals Road.  It was also recommended that Water Plant Road from Maiden to S. Olivers Cross Road be widened due to school traffic on this segment. 

Mr. Dove then asked for the group to identify bicycle areas.  Mrs. Teague said that Mt. Olive Church Road has a lot of bikers.  Murrays Mill Road was also identified as a route used by bikers.  Mrs. George identified these sites on the map with a marker as the members mentioned them. 

Mr. Dove told the group that the map with the areas discussed would be brought back to the next meeting for the group to review and discuss.  Mrs. George reminded the group about getting the cameras back to staff so that the pictures could be processed in order to be used in the picture projects.

Mr. Dove told the group about Mr. Legg leaving the consulting firm and explained that County staff would be taking over the remainder of the policy writing for this committee.  Mrs. George told the group to be thinking about possible locations for the Community Meeting that would probably be taking place near the end of the summer.

The photo exercise will be covered at the next meeting and the next meeting date is scheduled for Monday, May 7, 2001.