St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee meeting, March 21, 2001

The meeting began at 7:10 PM in Conover City Hall Building.

Members present: Anne Barrier (Chairperson), Ira Cline, Todd Miller, Larry Brittain, John Robinson, Mike Williams, Mack Stafford (new member) and Jeff Kerley.

Members absent: Cliff Isaac and John Cline.

Staff Present: Mary George and Richard Smith from the Catawba County Planning Department; John Tippett and Susan Baumann, consultants from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Others present: Anthony Starr from the City of Conover.

Ms. Barrier opened the meeting and welcomed all present. (Some members completed their picture projects by attaching their pictures to poster board while the meeting was beginning.) Ms. Barrier introduced Mr. Mack Stafford as a new member of the committee and had everyone to introduce themselves to Mr. Stafford.The minutes from the last meeting were approved with one minor change. The minutes reflected that the Community Meeting date was to be May 5, 2001, when it should have stated that the meeting was to be on May 7, 2001.

Several members discovered that they had a scheduling conflict with the Community Meeting date that was set for May 7, 2001. The members decided to change the meeting date to Thursday, May 3, 2001 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at River Bend Middle School. The group chose Thursday, May 10, 2001 as an alternate date at the same location.

Mrs. George explained to the group how the Community Meeting would be advertised. She also asked the group members to think about any other ideas for getting this information out to the public.

Mr. Tippett reviewed the area transportation plans that have been adopted by the County and others.He explained to the group that these plans cover a wide range of transportation issues, but that the focus of his discussion for this meeting would be on highways.  He explained to the group what a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is and informed them that all urbanized areas established by the Census Bureau (Hickory area) are required by the USDOT to have a coordinated transportation planning process. He explained that a great deal of the funds that are used for transportation come from the Federal Gas Tax.

Mr. Tippett reviewed the Hickory-Newton-Conover Urban Area Thoroughfare Plan.  He explained that the St. Stephens/Oxford area is included within this urban area.  He also gave the group a brief explanation of the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) and the Technical Coordinating Committee and told them who made up these committees.

Mr. Tippett reviewed the “Transportation Needs” sheet that was included in the information packet that was mailed to the group members. He pointed out these specific projects on the Thoroughfare Plan and told the group the order of priority for these improvements.

The discussion shifted to toll roads and Mr. Tippett explained to the group that there is a portion of the “Eastside Thoroughfare” that is being proposed that could possibly be approved by the State as a toll road.  He said that this road could take place in three years or in twenty years, depending on which projects the State chooses to approve as toll road projects.  If this particular site is selected as a toll road, then it could be completed within three years.  If not, then it would probably be twenty years before it was completed.  He noted to the group that this project had been chosen by NCDOT as one of four finalists for approval as a Toll Road.

Mr. Tippett reviewed the unfunded projects on the “Transportation Needs” list.  The group then got into a discussion about the concerns over building a toll road.  Mr. Tippett explained that toll roads have not been a commonly accepted idea in North Carolina until recently and that there are still concerns being raised over them.

Mrs. George explained that what has typically been done in the past is to take the priorities for the Thoroughfare Plan and overlaid them on the small area plan.  This will allow the group to make better land use and transportation decisions by seeing what will fit into specific areas.

Mr. Stafford asked which members of the group are builders and real estate agents.  He said that judging by all of the conversation so far, it seems that roads are going to run all over Catawba County.  Mrs. George explained that this is just one of the things that this group will have to determine in their plan proposal for this area.  She said that the group will need to come up with what goals they want to achieve for this area, like setting aside land for open space and farmland usage.

Mr. Stafford said that he has lived on Springs Road for twenty years and has seen the traffic increase.  He said that he does not mind growth, but hearing all of these roadway plans, he thinks that the County could do fine without some of the roads that are being planned.

Mr. Kerley said that a lot of this traffic is just people passing through.  He said that Springs Road is an example of that.  He said that development does not have anything to do with most of the traffic that is going through this area and many others like it.  Mr. Williams said that this increase in traffic is due to growth.  He said that this growth is going to take place no matter what you do with the roads.

Next, Mr. Tippett reviewed the average daily traffic counts for roads in this planning district.  The group had been given a map showing these counts as they were recorded in 1988, 1994, and 1999.   Mr. Tippett explained to the group that the increase in traffic counts for this area is a significant increase.  Ms. Barrier stated that from everything that she has seen and from what this group has discussed so far, the indications are that this will not slow down very much even in the next ten years.  Mr. Tippett explained to the group that on average one single family detached dwelling unit generates ten trips per day.

Mr. Tippett reminded the members that no policies would be decided on at this meeting, but that they should keep these traffic counts and other transportation matters in mind when the policies for this area are developed.  He said that these counts would help with the process of writing and implementing these policies.

Mr. Brittain asked if there were any plans to widen Highway 16 to Oxford Dam.  Mr. Tippett said that he knew of no immediate plans to widen this area of Highway 16.  Mr. Brittain pointed out that the City of Hickory is providing water in Alexander County, which will have an effect on increased development and in turn, increased traffic coming into Catawba County. Mr. Tippett said that this was a typical outcome when public water is provided.

Mr. Tippett said that he had run out of time, so he would plan to wrap up the transportation discussion at the next meeting.  He recommended to the group that before the next meeting each member should review the zone spreadsheet and maps that were distributed.  He said that it would be a good idea if each member would also review the current conditions handout.

Mrs. George said that before the group closed on the topic of transportation, she had a request from the City of Conover to NCDOT asking for a reduction in the speed limit on C & B Farm Road.  The request was for a reduction from 55 to 35 miles per hour.  The group made a recommendation for the speed limit to be decreased from 55 to 45 miles per hour with a 35-mile per hour limit within the school zone when the school opens.  The group also recommended that this request include a call for NCDOT to re-analyze the intersection of C & B Farm Road and NC Highway 16.

The St. John’s Church Road and NC Highway 16 intersection was also discussed as an intersection that NCDOT needed to take a closer look at for safety reasons.

At the next meeting, the group will complete the discussion about transportation issues and the picture projects will be reviewed.  The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 11, 2001 at 7:00 PM in Conover City Hall.

Ms. Barrier adjourned the meeting at 9:00 PM.