The developer of Flowers Plantation wants to stop N.C. 42 from becoming a freeway though the heart of the community.
On Monday, a spokesman for developer Becky Flowers presented her vision for the road’s future and asked Johnston County Commissioners to throw their weight behind her appeal to the state Department of Transportation.
N.C. 42 cuts through the 3,000-acre Flowers Plantation, and Flowers sees the highway as the as the future “main street of (the) urban village,” said Ramey Kemp, owner of traffic-engineering firm Ramey Kemp & Associates of Raleigh.
In June, the N.C. Transportation Board approved a long-range spending plan that includes money to widen to four lanes a 4.3-mile stretch of N.C. 42 from Glen Laurel Road to Buffalo Road. Right-of-way acquisition is scheduled for 2016 and will cost about $3.1 million. Construction costing $17.2 million is set to start in 2018.
Flowers Plantation has marketed itself as being friendly for young families and retirees, Kemp said. As housing development expands south of N.C. 42, he said, residents will need to cross the road frequently – in golf carts and on foot – to access amenities including the club house, walking trails, fitness center and swimming pools.
About 14,000 people live within three miles of Percy Flowers Store, Kemp said, and the population is projected to more than double to 30,000 in the next 20 years. All of that growth makes extra lanes on N.C. 42 a welcome development, he said, but it’s critical that the road connects Flowers Plantation instead of dividing it.
Based on his years of experience working with the DOT, Kemp said the road is destined to become a freeway instead of a main street unless County Commissioners and Flowers Plantation work together to lobby for an alternate plan.
“If it’s left to DOT, it’s going to be 55-mile-per-hour speed through there,” he said. “I’m telling you, that is not conducive to the main street of a village that’s got 30,000 people living around it.”
Kemp gave commissioners suggested plans that, among other things, call for six stoplights along N.C. 42 to slow traffic and facilitate crossings. The DOT will be planning the project over the next four months, he said.
Chairman Tony Braswell said commissioners would need some time to look at the plans. He also instructed the county’s planning staff to review the Flowers Plantation proposals and present them to the planning board.
While flattered by Kemp’s confidence that commissioners have much pull with the DOT, Commissioner DeVan Barbour said history suggests otherwise.
“In my knowledge, everything they’ve ever asked us that we disagreed with them (on), they’ve ignored us within 24 hours,” he said.
Commissioner Ted Godwin agreed to call on the DOT after the county has reviewed Flowers Plantation’s plans. However, he joined Barbour in playing down how much sway commissioners have in DOT planning.
“The DOT representatives I’ve dealt with have always been courteous and willing to listen,” Godwin said. “But I have an unblemished record; I have lost every argument I’ve ever had.”