18 Apr Ladys Island traffic
Starting with the new Ladys Island Walmart and now the Harris Teeter, a number of Ladys Island residents are concerned about the loss of trees and automobile congestion. I share their concerned.
The following, which was my off-the-cuff response to an e-mail, outlines the facts as I see them. Note they are not a council or city position but rather some thoughts I shared. I am convinced that Beaufort County and the City can come up with some solutions though it will take time.
“The 30+ year old long term proposal to build a third crossing from Lady’s Island should never have been abandoned. It’s now projected to be so expensive I am not sure it can ever happen at least in my lifetime though every new house on the islands makes it more necessary.
We must remember that retail (including food) follows roof tops, traffic patterns and disposable income. The closer retail is located to those roof tops, the less travel. So where would these businesses that residential development is calling to the islands locate? North on Sams Point Road (802)? Ladys Island residents have opposed that which I understand. While we do not want highway 21 on the islands to become like Boundary Street with safety, environmental and aesthetic concerns, it appears the most likely place. Our early plan to avoid that was to make the intersection of Highways 21 and 802 a Village Center. But growth on the islands and resultant traffic makes that impossible. We are slowly abandoning the idea knowing that additional turn lanes will be required and traffic will not be quieted. I see two possible approaches. The first is a moratorium on residential development on the islands. But that is not likely given so much as been planned and approved. The second might be to revise the plan to create an overlay similar to Boundary Street from the Woods Bridge to Airport Junction. That way the future will be more predictable with safety, environmental and aesthetic issues addressed earlier. As you know, the Northern Regional Plan Implementation Committee requested the City and County address traffic from Chowan Creek which I supported. Perhaps planning what drives traffic (no pun intended) should be part of the equation. I believe Jim Hicks, who has for years led discussions on Ladys Island, would agree with me though I have not talked with him yet.
Recognizing that the core city is for many but a place through which they can drive through fast to get somewhere else. Goods and services closer to where the population chooses to live mitigates unnecessary traffic. Residents from St Helena and Ladys Island traveling through downtown Beaufort (which must maintain its character and sense of place) presents challenges to existing neighborhoods and roads. Diverting traffic that is not seeing the greater downtown as a destination is why we fought so hard and so long to change Parris Island Gateway into Highway 21. That was the original reason why PI Gateway was originally built years ago when the proposal for the Northern crossing was to complete the loop.
We continue to receive annexation requests from businesses along Highway 21 on Ladys Island because they want a higher level of service. Furthermore, the long fought for Northern Regional Plan provides for the city to grow (over many, many years) to Chowan Creek to the East and to Lucy Creek to the north. I do not see this happening any time soon for a number of reasons not the least of which Ladys Island residents have historically not wanted to be part of the City and residential services cost more to provide than the revenue they generate. (That said, since shortly after I became Mayor, we have offered to the county a partnership for some services like curbside garbage pick up on a contractual basis or fee for service should the County decide to require such as has been suggested from time to time.)
There is no doubt that the immediate concern is with Walmart, Harris Teeter and smaller developments likely to take place along highway 21. I am looking for solutions.
Note much of what I am saying has not been a discussion with council so I am at the moment speaking from the cuff and for me personally. We have a great many projects in the queue and at our planning retreat we set completing ongoing and planned projects before we take on more larger ones. Remember we are a city of only 13,000 residents who the census characterizes as moderate to low income with more than 40 percent of our residents renters. That means we have a small staff that must be very focused to complete complicated and expensive projects for which we fortunately have the money to fund.”