City board to discuss ‘roundabout’

By Tom Joyce -

This warning sign alerts motorists to a roundabout, or type of intersection with a circular traffic pattern, which is under consideration in Mount Airy.

A proposal for a “roundabout’” traffic reconfiguration — which became a controversial issue during the recent municipal election season — is scheduled to be discussed Thursday night by city officials.

Commissioner Shirley Brinkley has asked for that item to be placed on the agenda for a 7 p.m. meeting of the city council.

A roundabout is a type of intersection or junction in which traffic flows continuously in one direction in a circular pattern. Unlike traditional perpendicular intersections using stop signs or traffic lights, drivers entering roundabouts simply yield to traffic already in the circle, which theoretically reduces accidents and promotes fuel savings.

One recent example of a roundabout configuration locally exists at the intersection of U.S. 52 and N.C. 268 at Pilot Mountain where a bridge was constructed.

Roundabouts are eyed in Mount Airy for the intersections of N.C. 89/East Independence Boulevard and West Pine Street/North South Street.

Developing a roundabout pattern is part of the Westside Redevelopment Plan involving the revitalization of the former Spencer’s Inc. industrial property now owned by the city government.

The plan, now at the draft stage, has become hotly debated in the community over its scope — whether to include only the Spencer’s site or also cover private property, including thriving businesses in the Pine and South street area. The establishment of a roundabout there seemingly would require the acquisition of private property, and some have expressed fear it could be taken by a city redevelopment commission through the power of eminent domain.

That became a key issue in the election, with Brinkley and other incumbents who favor only the Spencer’s redevelopment prevailing against candidates backing the broader plan. That also was a distinction in the mayoral race in which David Rowe defeated Commissioner Steve Yokeley.

An executive summary of the redevelopment plan calls for acquiring “by voluntary action” land required to construct a roundabout at South, Pine and Franklin streets. But there is no specific mention of one for N.C. 89/East Independence Boulevard as listed on the agenda for Thursday night’s meeting.

A roundabout configuration would conform to one of the stated goals of the plan, “to provide a gateway for the central business district.”

Brinkley declined Tuesday to provide specifics about why she asked to have the roundabout discussion on the agenda for Thursday, and her thoughts on that issue.

‘“I really need to wait until Thursday night to discuss it,” Brinkley said. She explained that she had assembled paperwork and other information regarding the discussion which she prefers to reveal at that time.

4 Hearings, Other Business

Among other items on Thursday’s meeting agenda are:

• A public hearing on, and possible authorization of, a proposal by the city to apply for a building reuse grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce to aid a project that could bring 10 new jobs to Mount Airy. The $100,000 grant would be for “Project Signup,” a code name for the effort, and aid in renovating an existing building. The company involved plans to invest $200,000 in new equipment. The grant would require a 5-percent match from local government, or about $5,000.

• Another public hearing on, and potential execution of, a new agreement with CK Technologies, an industry located in Piedmont Triad West Corporate Park. An incentive agreement adopted by Mount Airy and Surry County officials in 2005 called for certain employment and investment benchmarks to be met in exchange, which haven’t occurred. Under the new agreement, CK Technologies pledges to maintain a 90-employee work force for 10 years in exchange for not meeting earlier benchmarks.

• A public hearing on, and possible acceptance and approval of, a new comprehensive plan for Mount Airy, which covers areas such as land-use and transportation. It has been in the works by city planning personnel for months, and essentially combines previous plans prepared to guide city officials in areas of growth. In April, it was reported that Mount Airy had 11 different plans, which officials say needed to be consolidated.

Examples include the Vision Mount Airy Plan, the Surry County Comprehensive Transportation Plan, a sidewalk master plan, a pedestrian plan and a greenway master plan. The comprehensive one to be addressed at Thursday’s meeting will help the city government prioritize and budget for the identified strategies over time.

• A fourth public hearing on, and possible approval of, a rezoning request for property along the 100 block of North Franklin Road owned by Bryan Martin of Fancy Gap Road. It totals less than an acre and Martin is asking for the zoning of the site to be changed from R-20 (residential) to B-4 (Highway Business) to accommodate the building of a garage.

• The presentation of an annual city audit report by an independent accounting firm, Martin Starnes & Associates of Hickory, which has handled the city’s audit for the last five fiscal years.

• Officials’ consideration of a grant to upgrade security at J.J. Jones Intermediate School.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

This warning sign alerts motorists to a roundabout, or type of intersection with a circular traffic pattern, which is under consideration in Mount Airy. warning sign alerts motorists to a roundabout, or type of intersection with a circular traffic pattern, which is under consideration in Mount Airy.

By Tom Joyce

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