Catawba Small Area Plan
Committee Meeting for May 13, 2003

Members present: J.V. Huffman Jr. (Chair), Ricky Young, Lanny Hartsoe, Jeff Murray, Dean McGinnis, Trent Cloninger, Margaret Garrison, Christopher Niver, Jerry Setzer, Linda Moose and Charles Connor III.

Members absent: Glenn Pattishall and Todd Clark.

Staff present: Jacky Eubanks, Mary George, Connie Killian and Rich Hoffman from the Catawba County Planning Department; Anthony Starr, John Marshall and John Kenny, consultants from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Chair J.V. Huffman: Called the meeting to order at 7:05 PM in the Claremont City Hall. The minutes from the April 8, 2003 meeting were approved.

Mr. Marshall: Discussed transportation issues. The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is established for areas where the population is over 50,000. The MPO addresses transportation issues for urban areas. The Hickory-Conover-Newton MPO formed in 1982. The WPCOG acts as the Lead Planning Organization (LPO). There is also a Rural Planning Organization (RPO), which was formed in 2001. WPCOG is also the LPO for the RPO. After the 2000 census the MPO area expanded to include Lenoir and Morganton thereby, increasing the representation to 27 local governments.

The State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is adopted every two years. It is a list of transportation improvement projects to be funded by NCDOT. There is also a Rural TIP and Metropolitan TIP which prioritize local projects for the rural and urban planning areas. These two TIPS are developed by the Unifour MPO and RPO.

Mr. Marshall handed out the current TIP priority list and discussed some projects that could impact the Catawba SAP: R-2206 and R-3100 - NC Hwy 16 improvements; U-2404 and U-3450 - Newton-Conover loop; and E-4806: the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge enhancement project.

Transportation projects take a long time to complete. The quickest a project can be completed is eight years once it is on the TIP and typically it is longer. Projects can be fast-tracked if cities have options to contribute to State funding. An example would be right-of-way acquisition by the municipality.

There are no funded projects in the Catawba SAP area except for the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge enhancement project. The NC 16 loop from Earnhart Chevrolet to I-40 abuts the study area and is currently under construction.

Air quality is a regional issue and can impact transportation funding. The Environmental Protection Agency designates a threshold of ozone levels to be considered "non-attainment." The Hickory region has reached this threshold and is likely to be named a non-attainment area. Once an area is considered non-attainment, the federal dollars allocated towards transportation projects become limited. A proactive approach has been taken in the area to reduce ozone levels. The Early Action Compact, a plan that identifies ways for the area to reach attainment, was approved by 10 local governments, the MPO/RPO, the NCDOT and the US EPA. The EAC postpones the penalties associated with non-attainment while the region implements strategies to reduce ozone. The plan is to be implemented through 2007.

Mr. Marshall then discussed transit issues. The Piedmont Wagon is a service that provides limited transportation for those who do not have private vehicles. Ideas of consolidating this service to a regional system may help the efficiency. There are plans to provide high-speed rail service from Salisbury to Asheville with a stop in Hickory by 2007. A countywide bicycle mapping plan is underway through NCDOT and the area's planners. Roads will be marked once the map is complete. Some of the initial roads designated as bike routes are heavily traveled and may need to be amended. The Small Area Plans are making recommendations for NCDOT to add additional pavement width for resurfacing projects. These routes are being incorporated into the bicycle map.

The 2000 Census shows Catawba County receives more in-migration of workers into the county than other Unifour counties.

Mr. Starr: Discussed base maps that have been provided. A transportation map showing bike routes and proposed road projects was emphasized. Draft transportation guiding principles were handed out and the committee was asked to review them. They can be amended based upon the community input meeting and/or as the committee members discuss.

Mr. Starr asked for committee input on the transportation guiding principles:

Mr. Setzer: Keep a variety of transportation options available and in good service order.

Mr. Murray: Improve drainage on roads, keep culverts clear and keep shoulders from eroding.

Mr. Hartsoe: Keep stormwater runoff from driveways and subdivision roads from washing onto State roads. Also, keep unpaved driveways from washing out onto State roads.

Mr. Young: Had a question about the Hickory and Little Mountain airports. Mr. Starr responded that Hickory is planning an expansion and neither are commercial airports. Mr. Young also brought attention to the potholes on Hudson Chapel Road and low shoulders. He wanted to know DOT's policy for street repairs.

Mr. Huffman: Preserve good roads. Likes the idea of a designated bike route i.e., Lake Norman area. Wanted unsafe areas for bicyclists to be identified and corrective action taken. Agreed that potholes need to be repaired (especially I-40).

Ms. Garrison: Make sure that there is a linkage between transportation and land use being designated. Provide transportation options for people in high density areas, such as mobile home parks where residents might lack private automobiles.

Mr. McGinnis: Suggested the committee steer the State and County population growth towards the municipalities where public infrastructure exists and therefore a bus system could be possible. Connect Hewitt Road with B&B Road creating a north/south connection through the SAP.

Ms. Moose: Maintain what we have and plan for future realizing that we can't pave all roads for bikes. Incorporate walkways into highways, encourage sidewalk development to be a focus in subdivision design and along existing State roads. This helps to build a sense of community.

Mr. Cloninger: Agreed with bike route where appropriate (don't put bicycles on high traffic count roads). Alleviate traffic congestion, i.e., at Rockbarn and I-40, and Centennial at North Oxford.

Mr. Connor: Felt that bike routes on many roads may be cost prohibitive especially since communities are doing everything they can to make roads wide enough for cars. There are many biking opportunities off road.

Ms. George and Mr. Kenny prepared the committee for next week's community input meeting. Ms. George passed out an agenda and Mr. Kenny discussed the format. They both emphasized that the more citizens attend the meeting, the better the committee will be able to address concerns and develop its plan recommendations.

The meeting adjourned at 8:50 PM.