“We don’t want to create a monster,” cautioned Council Member Barbara Field during Council’s Sept. 21 work session, after Parks and Recreation Director Irby Brinson had asked Council to consider establishing a Greenway Commission.
That would entail dividing the functions of the existing Tree and Greenway Commission between two distinct entities.
Field pointed out that the commission’s twin aspects are often at odds, as it is — and that the dissension might increase if the functions were intentionally segregated. “What if the Greenway Commission wants to cut down a tree to put in a kiosk? The Tree Commission is very passionate about supporting [its mission],” she warned. Field recommended that Brinson further delineate the “philosophy” behind splitting the commissions.
Council moved to place the issue on the regular agenda of its next formal meeting.
As part of his presentation of the Transportation Improvement Program’s priority projects, Transportation Planner Ron Fuller outlined a series of conceptual plans for widening existing roads and making them safer for walkers, runners and bicyclists. Long Shoals Road is a possible guinea pig for the “gateway corridor” proposals. Although the plans vary according to the needs of each particular thoroughfare, most involve dividing the road with a landscaped median and gaining an outside lane for what Fuller called “pedestrian refuge.”
Through such user-friendly plans, officials hope to create roads that “do more than move cars … [roads] that move people in whatever method people want to move.”
Another priority project is resurfacing Riverside Drive, which supports considerable bicycle traffic. “The pavement is broken, because of the heavy truck use in the area. … Everything is working against this being a good area for bicyclists,” reported Fuller.
Except the topography, responded Council Member Chuck Cloninger, noting that the riverfront route has significantly fewer hills than other major local roads.
Fuller also named a host of other new and accelerated projects proposed by the TIP — so many, in fact, that Mayor Leni Sitnick expressed concern that the Nov. 18 hearing scheduled by the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee to gather public input on the projects might prove insufficient to allow a full discussion of the proposals. Sitnick also observed that city residents routinely ignore the TAC’s projects in the planning stage — speaking up only after an unpopular change has already been made.
“This is such a big issue, and yet so few people attend these meetings. I’m always amazed at how few people come,” lamented Sitnick. She suggested that releasing “juicier” announcements to advertise upcoming TAC meetings might increase public participation — prompting Fuller to inform her that the committee had recently paid $60,000 for a consultant who will address public-relations issues.
“If we’re paying $60,000 for a consultant, I hope to see some pretty incredible changes,” declared the mayor heatedly.
Council moved to discuss the TIP priority projects at another work session before taking formal action.
– compiled by Melanie McGee