A steady stream of opponents to a proposed new road plan forced town commissioners Monday night to send the plan back to the planning board for more review.
Residents – many of them who live in the town’s planning jurisdiction, but outside the town limits – complained that the new roads came too close or even through their homes. Developers said the plan took too much of their buildable land. And a lawyer for one property owner said the plan, if enacted, would amount to an illegal taking of private property.
Planning director David Bergmark told commissioners adoption of the transportation plan wouldn’t mean new roads would be constructed immediately. In some cases, he said, they may never be built.
But the plan would set out corridors along which new roads could be built and it earmarks some existing roads for widening. Bergmark pointed to studies done by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO, that line out where some of Wendell’s most significant future needs might be.
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“CAMPO’s traffic model predicts heavy vehicle capacity being required on Wendell Falls Parkway, and subsequently onto Third Street and Wendell Boulevard,” Bergmark told commissioners in a presentation prior to the public hearing Monday night. “In order to accommodate future traffic volumes, the town will need to widen existing roads, or create additional new connections to provide alternative routes to reduce congestion on these roads.”
The plan calls for the eventual construction of a loop around Wendell, following Wendell Falls Parkway and Lake Myra Road to N.C. 231. The northern portion of that loop would include the creation of the so-called Northern Connector, which would require the extension of Hanor Lane from Marshburn Road across to Wendell Boulevard near Deer Lake Trail.
The plan also calls fo realigning Rolesville Road at Wendell Boulevard and the widening of Eagle Rock Road to carry more traffic that is expected to and from Wendell Falls. Other improvements called for the widening of Wendell Valley Boulevard, a new road planned for Wendell Falls. That road is currently planned as a three-lane road, but the new plan would require the road to be a four-lane, divided roadway.
The bevy of changes brought out a chorus of opponents at Monday’s public hearing.
Steven Dunn, a Raleigh lawyer representing the Lila B. Anderson heirs who own land on Battle Bridge Road, protested the plan as tantamount to an illegal taking of land. “We contend this plan is constitutionally flawed in numerous respects, and in particular, as an unlawful taking of private property without compensation,” Dunn wrote in a letter delivered to commissioners.
Dunn’s concern centered around language in the plan that indicated that much of the road development called for in the plan would be completed by developers as they build on property.
The Anderson heirs have already won approval from the town to construct a subdivision on their property, but that project was put on hold when the economy took a nose dive. As written the plan would require the heirs to construct two of the new roads on their property – a new four-lane road and another three-lane road. Dunn argued that building those roads would serve no present needs and that there was no information available to evaluate their future needs.
Brad Rhinehalt, with Newland Communities, which is developing Wendell Falls, also raised a concern with the plan. He said the widening of Wendell Valley Boulevard would cost his company between $800,000 and $1 million. “That’s a significant amount of money for us,” Rhinehalt said.
Harvey Murphrey voiced the strongest opposition to the plan. He told commissioners the plan would construct two new roads on either side of his property and widen the road in front of his Eagle Rock Road home. “You’re not coming through my house with two roads and widen the road in front of my house. You’re just not. My daddy said if you take something that doesn’t belong to you, it’s stealing. I know he’s right,” Murphrey said.
More scrutiny to come
The level of opposition kept commissioners from acting on the plan.
All four commissioners present at Monday’s meeting said they were not interested in adopting the plan in it’s current form.
Commissioner John Boyette acknowledged that many of those who opposed the plan lived outside the town limits.
“When I grew up, I lived just outside Wendell and I saw things happen. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I realize now that we couldn’t do anything about it because we didn’t live in town. So when I moved into town and decided to run for this office, I did it with a mind toward representing those people who lived outside the limits but were affected by what we do,” Boyette said.
Other commissioners said they thought the plan, which the planning board sent to commissioners without a recommendation, needed more work.
Commissioners agreed to send the plan back to the planning board for further review. It could return to commissioners as early as late November, though several commissioners urged the planning board not to rush through their work.