County to ask public for input on traffic studies plan

TACKLING TRAFFIC: The Buncombe County Planning Board stated at its Feb. 5 meeting, pictured, that it will hear public comment on a proposed change to the county zoning ordinance on Feb. 19. The revision would require developers to submit a traffic impact study if they are seeking approval for a residential development with more than 75 units. Photo by David Floyd

When a new housing development appears on its agenda, members of the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment tend to hear one complaint from nearby residents more than any other: “This is going to make traffic in my neighborhood worse.”

“It’s gotten to the point that the Board of Adjustment does not feel comfortable approving developments when there’s so many people there to say that it’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the traffic in their area,” said County Planner Debbie Truempy during a Buncombe County Planning Board meeting on Feb. 5.

The board has adopted a habit of delaying its decisions on some residential developments in order to give applicants time to complete a traffic study. Interim County Planning Director Nathan Pennington said during a Feb. 2 meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners that the board has requested traffic studies for the past three residential developments it has reviewed. (See “County could require traffic studies for some residential projects,” Feb. 2, Xpress.)

In an effort to make this information available at the beginning of the process, county staff recommended that the county change its zoning ordinance to require developers to perform a traffic study when seeking approval for a residential development that contains more than 75 units. a typical traffic study looks at the impact of a residential development on nearby intersections and makes projections of future traffic counts.

Truempy said obtaining this information on the front end might help the process run more smoothly. “A lot of neighborhood fears can be allayed because they’ve already looked at it,” she said.

Planning Board member Robert Martin said requiring traffic studies will put the county more in line with other areas. “I think the traffic studies will be helpful,” he said. “Where I came from in Connecticut, we required them on almost everything of any size.”

The N.C. Department of Transportation has its own set of requirements for traffic studies, which are automatically required if a development is a subdivision with 300 or more single-family homes, an apartment complex with at least 300 units or a hotel with 350 rooms or more.

Any changes to the county zoning ordinance must go to the Planning Board for a recommendation and then to the county Board of Commissioners for final approval.

The Planning Board will hear public comment on this topic during its meeting on Feb. 19 at 9:30 a.m. in the conference room at 30 Valley St. in Asheville.

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About David Floyd
David Floyd is the Buncombe County reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press. Email him at dfloyd@mountainx.com.

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