St. Stephens/Oxford Small Area Planning Committee Meeting 
August 8, 2001

Members present: Anne Barrier (Chairperson and Planning Board liaison), John Cline, Mike Williams, Todd Miller, Cliff Isaac, Ira Cline and Jeff Kerley.

Members absent:  Mack Stafford, Larry Brittain and John Robinson 

Staff present: Mary George and Richard Smith from the Catawba County Planning and Community Development Department, Randy Williams, Anthony Starr and Jamie Price (intern) from the City of Conover, and Susan Baumann from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG).

Two citizens from the area were also present at the meeting.

Mrs. Barrier called the meeting to order at 7:10 p.m.

Minutes from the last meeting were approved with no changes.

Mrs. George started the meeting with the transportation discussion.  She pointed the group to the Current Conditions and Guiding Principles handouts that they were provided a copy of for their notebooks.  She asked the group to review the Guiding Principles to make sure that all of the concerns that they had for this area were included in them.  She told the group that the goal was to complete the transportation discussion at tonight’s meeting, but that was not to say that the group could not revisit this topic.

Mrs. George turned the meeting over to Ms. Baumann for the transportation discussion.  She guided the group to page 4 of the Guiding Principles to review the specific areas that have been pointed out by the group or at the community meeting.  

The Committee discussed the pedestrian system for the area and the items under this category that have been discussed by the group.  Mr. Kerley asked for clarity on the statement about the sidewalk requirement.  He and Mr. Isaac said that they thought that this should be stated more clearly.  Mr. Kerley asked to delete “at least” from this requirement so that it reads simply “on one side of the street”.

Next, Ms. Baumann moved to the bicycle system principle where the group has recommended making the roads safer for bicycles.  Mrs. Barrier said that she what she thought should be done is a bicycle/pedestrian lane.  Mrs. George told the group that they could get more specific further into the meeting when they would be able to mark their recommendations on a map.

Ms. Baumann reviewed the areas of transit and passenger rail.  She mentioned a possible link for this area via Piedmont Wagon for the proposed passenger rail system that it supposed to connect in the city of Hickory.  Mr. John Cline said that he thought that passenger rail through this area would be high speed.  Mr. Randy Williams said that this was probably going to be the case until the area was more urban.  He said that he thought that the service in Hickory would be useful for this region.  The group briefly discussed the proposed upcoming passenger rail system and the effect that it would have on this area.  The Committee noted that the transit system should be advertised through local businesses, attractions, etc.  Also the Committee wanted to add that the transit system should be linked to the passenger rail system.      

Ms. Baumann reviewed the Plan Recommendations with the group. Mrs. Barrier said that the intersection of Highway 16 and Springs Road should be added as an area to evaluate in the areas of safety and design.  Mr. Ira Cline asked about the progress of improvements for NC Highway 16.  Mrs. George told him that all that is presently funded in this area is the Newton-Conover loop system which intersects with Hwy. 16.  The existing interchanges and proposed closing interchange on Interstate 40 were discussed.  Mr. Randy Williams told the members that if they wanted to see specifics on these interchanges they were welcome to come by his office to look at maps of them.  

Mr. Ira Cline asked about the intersection of County Home Road and Springs Road.  The group suggested that this intersection be looked at for design improvements of some kind.  (Mrs. George marked this intersection and others already mentioned on the working copy of the planning map for this area.)  Mrs. George asked if there were any other intersections that the group members could think of that would need to be addressed.  She asked the members about any dangerous curves or narrow bridges that they could think of that should be improved.  Rock Barn Road was mentioned as a road that should possibly be looked at to straighten the curve on.  The bridge at Snow Creek Road was identified as unsafe as was the bridge at Lee Cline Road near Rifle Range Road and Lee Cline Road north of Houston Mill Road.  Springs Road, which was identified as needing to be widened, was also identified to have it smoothed out (remove the hills).  The Committee also clarified that traffic signals should be at the intersection of Oxford School Road and Bunker Hill near the middle and high schools.  

Mrs. Barrier asked about limiting the number of driveways on NC Highway 16 in the future.  She said that she thought that new subdivisions especially should be required to have internal access or double frontage lots.  The group agreed that this was a problem that should be remedied.  Mr. Ira Cline asked about four-lane divided highways.  He said that he just did not like that you have to go so far in the wrong direction in order to turn around and go in the direction that you are intending to go.  

Mrs. Barrier mentioned a road in Gastonia that was four-lane, but seemed very unsafe because of the lanes being so narrow.  She said that she thought that if any separation of lanes were proposed, then the lanes should be wide enough.  Mrs. Barrier pointed out that the speed limit on C & B Farm Road has been approved to be reduced to 45 from 55, with a 35 mile per hour limit within the school zone.  Mr. Randy Williams said that the only thing that is left on this is the changing of the speed limit signs, but all other parts have been approved and completed.

Mr. Isaac asked if the area near the school on Oxford School Road was a 35-mile per hour zone and Mr. Mike Williams said that it is.  Mr. Starr reminded the group that speed limit does not control speed, the design of the road does.  The group suggested a traffic-calming device near St. John’s Church, like rumble strips.  

Ms. Baumann reviewed the remaining recommendations for the roads and highways in the area.  She asked the group about any roads that they thought should be identified as scenic highways.  She explained to the group that there are three categories of scenic highways: local, state, and federal.  She said that for the purposes of this plan it would probably be best to stay with the local designation.  The northern extreme portion of River Bend Road was identified as a potential scenic road.

Mr. Kerley asked about farmland preservation using conservation easements for this area.  He was wondering how this was actually handled and whether or not this was a permanent thing.  Mrs. George said by nature easements do last forever because of the nature of the agreements.  Mrs. George said that she could get the group information on this topic for them to look over.  The group briefly discussed the guidelines and issues for farmland preservation.  Mrs. Barrier asked for some materials on this topic to be provided for the members at the next meeting.

Ms. Baumann moved the discussion on to the pedestrian system.  Mrs. George said that Mr. Kerley’s concerns about curb and gutter and ditch profiles relating to the sidewalks would be researched for clarity and the group could look at this at their next meeting.

Ms. Baumann asked the group about pedestrian crossings, using the concrete stamping method, in new and existing subdivisions.  Mr. Kerley asked who would pay for this in existing subdivisions.  He said that he thought that this recommendation was too broad.  The group decided to simplify this recommendation to say that it would like developers to consider this during the subdivision design in new developments, but not to be applied to existing subdivisions.   The Committee also added that subdivision lots would be required to have internal access rather than access along major roads so as not to strip out the road.  Access management also should be addressed for non-residential development.   

Ms. Baumann said that the group had previously mentioned requesting sidewalks on State roads when they are widened.  The Committee recommended that the sidewalk system be coordinated with Hickory, Conover and Claremont’s plans.  Mrs. Barrier said that she thought that this should be jointly incorporated with the establishment of a bicycle system.  Ms. Baumann pointed out the areas that were already identified for a bicycle system and she asked the group if there were any other areas.  

Mr. Isaac said that he thought that River Bend road should have a loop that comes around and connects back in with River Bend Park, but he said that Highway 16 should be avoided.  The difference between bike lanes and bike routes was discussed and the group determined that they wanted to just wanted to make sure that there were alternatives for bike riders with safety lanes established.

Other areas were identified for bike routes and Mrs. George identified these on the map with a marker.  This  included a designated bike lane for Hwy. 16 and Springs Road when they are widened. 

Ms. Baumann then reviewed the recommendations regarding transit.  The group said that the Piedmont Wagon service should be publicized more and that more stops should be added for use of this service.  Mr. Mike Williams said that this service could also be used by children to get to the parks.  Mr. Miller said personally he would not put his own children on one of these buses to go to the park.  Mrs. Barrier said that what Mr. Williams is saying is still viable, because this could eventually be a use of this service.  The Committee noted that the bus stops should be located at large developments, retirement centers, the airport and other business links.  

Having finished the transportation section, Mrs. George told the group that land use would be discussed at their next meeting.  The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 12, 2001 at 7:00 in the Conover City Hall.

Mrs. Barrier adjourned the meeting at 9:16 pm.