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Crescent faces roadblock

Huntersville concerned about Gilead Road traffic

A bridge and culvert that limit Gilead Road to two lanes appear to be the biggest obstacles to Crescent Communities’ plan to build a 382-home master-planned subdivision in Huntersville.

The town held a public hearing Tuesday on Crescent’s request for the rezoning of 224 acres in the northeast corner of Gilead and Ervin Cook Road. The tract currently holds a few homes and a large expanse of farmland.

The Huntersville Planning Board is expected to consider the rezoning and a subdivision sketch plan at its Sept. 27 meeting. If it votes on a recommendation at that meeting, the town Board of Commissioners could vote on the request Oct. 3.

But town staff members said Tuesday that they believe traffic and road issues have not yet been adequately resolved.

Although the company is proposing $1.5 million in intersection improvements along Gilead west of Interstate 77, the town believes those improvements may not be enough to alleviate congestion.

“We’re generally in agreement on where things are headed,” said Huntersville Principal Planner David Peete regarding plans for the subdivision.

However, he said, “Our recommendation is pending the transportation issues; we’re not ready to make that recommendation this evening.”

In the last two years, more than half a dozen subdivisions have been approved or proposed that would add about 1,000 homes within about a mile and a half of Gilead, the town’s primary I-77 interchange.

Crescent representative Jason Gorrie, a traffic engineer at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff Engineering Services in Charlotte, said the company plans to spend $1.5 million on through lanes and turn lanes at several intersections along Gilead. He also said the company would offer the town the option of using $1 million as they see fit, while Crescent spends $500,000 on improvements at the subdivision’s Ervin Cook Road entrance.

Gorrie also said that it wasn’t fair for Crescent to solve all of the road’s traffic problems, following the recent approvals of other subdivisions that feed onto Gilead Road.

“This development is now burdened because those eight approved developments didn’t have to do mitigation,” he said. “When you combine them, they create almost double the amount of traffic created by our development.”

Crescent is asking for a rezoning from transitional residential to conditional neighborhood residential on Ervin Cook Road, which now dead-ends. It would be the only entrance to the subdivision, unless connections are made at its northern end to a possible extension of Hugh Torance Parkway, an option that has been discussed.

Crescent also is proposing dedicating 14 acres along McDowell Creek to Mecklenburg County for greenway construction, which James Martin, vice president of Crescent’s residential group, told the board would save the county more than $1 million. The company also plans to buy 9 acres on the west side of Ervin Cook Road, and said it would also consider providing access to a proposed greenway there.

In its traffic impact analysis, Crescent studied 10 nearby intersections and determined that six would need improvements: at a driveway on Ervin Cook Road, as well as along Gilead at Ervin Cook Road, Bradford Hill Lane, Wynfield Creek Parkway, Ranson Road, and McCoy Road. In its comments on Crescent’s traffic impact analysis, the North Carolina Department of Transportation found improvements at three of the intersections acceptable, but provided comments on three intersections for the consultant to address, said Stephen Trott, the town’s transportation engineer, in an email Wednesday.

“The improvements proposed by the developer’s consultant in the traffic study would create a bottleneck on Gilead Road near the culvert over Torance Creek in the westbound direction,” said Trott in the email. “A large expense in widening Gilead Road in that area would be adding length (making it wider) to that culvert.”

In addition to the culvert, a bridge over McDowell Creek just east of the subdivision provides only two lanes.

“Is there a better solution for the traffic along Gilead Road?” asked Commissioner Danny Phillips.

“Ultimately, Gilead Road in this area will be a four-lane divided road,” Trott said. However, the state does not have plans to widen the road in the near future.

Commissioner Melinda Bales asked what the cost would be to rebuild a culvert and bridge to enable the widening of Gilead.

Max Buchanan, the town’s director of engineering and public works, said it would cost about $1 million to replace the greenway culvert to allow for widening and between $800,000 and $1 million to replace the bridge.

Commissioner Charles Guignard said that he didn’t want “Band-Aid” solutions to the traffic problems.

“I am so frustrated that we were told 18 years ago, ‘That’s all you’re going to need,’” he said regarding the culvert.

Only three residents signed up to speak at the hearing, and all were concerned about the traffic. Peete said he had received three emails expressing similar concerns.

“I stood before you four years ago on a similar request by M/I Homes,” said Mark Swatek of the nearby Wynfield Creek subdivision. “The problem we have on this property, just as we did with M/I Homes, is we don’t have the infrastructure on Gilead Road.”

Peete also said that, under the town’s adequate public facilities ordinance, the town does not currently have adequate public gyms and park acreage for the number of people in town if the development is added.

But Peete said meeting the ordinance may be possible if the development phasing is adjusted, as the town adds proposed park and gym facilities.

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