Traffic signal could be built at bypass/Franklin “by this time next year.”
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Some of the biggest news doesn’t come during commissioners’ meetings and planning board sessions, but after, when they ask staff for any news.
Such was the case Tuesday night when Planning Director Chip Russell dropped two big ones:
•There’s a high probability of getting a traffic signal built at Dr. Calvin Jones Highway and Franklin Street, and
•The developers of the proposed 35-lot residential subdivision adjacent to Paschal Golf Club have withdrawn their plan.
The first announcement came on the heels of town commissioners’ discussion and approval of their Capital Improvements Plan (CIP).
In the plan, $50,000 is set aside to add a traffic signal to the intersection, which some people, including commissioners, have described as both frightful and dangerous.
But the total cost is roughly estimated to be $200,000, and the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) would not only have to cover the remaining cost, but would have to agree to building the light — one of undoubtedly a very long list of such projects.
“DOT Assistant Division Engineer Joey Hopkins says if we can commit the $50,000, it’ll increase the benefit cost-ratio to bump it to the top of their projects,” said Russell. “By this time next year, they can have that signal in.”
Mayor Vivian Jones agreed to send the DOT a letter to help accelerate the process. Residents in Deacon’s Ridge and Heath Ridge Village, who expressed concerns during a recent approval of a plan to put apartments on the intersection’s northeast corner, pointedly asked for something to be done about that intersection.
They were told at the time there was no way to guarantee the DOT would support it. But Russell said his staff took it to heart. And when commissioners asked for funding in the CIP, which is a long-range priorities plan for capital expenditures, he began to make some calls.
“We’ve been after this a while,” he told planning board members later on Tuesday, at the close of their meeting at town hall. “We think this can get done relatively quickly. We’re hoping that happens.”
The CIP also lists $450,000 to install traffic lights at Chalk and Jones Dairy roads; Heritage Lake and Heritage Club roads and Marshall Farm Street and Rogers Road over the next two years. The town has requested grant funding for the first two projects. How much the town would pay and when the signals would be installed is unclear.
Just last week, The Wake Weekly reported about a preliminary Paschal subdivision plan, which would have put 35 new houses on Durham Road in a small neighborhood squeezed between two houses, the golf club and the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Locals grumbled about losing their view of the course, but the plan had yet to be finalized in the draft stages before it was pulled, Russell told the planning board.
“It is no longer in the process,” he said, adding that any new plan for the property would have to begin the submittal process anew.
But Russell doubts that will ever happen.
“Richard Paschal said they’re selling it to the seminary,” Russell said about the property owner.
Seminary Vice President Ryan Hutchinson confirmed the purchase for an undisclosed amount Wednesday, stating that the property is both a gateway to the town and campus, so preserving it as is is warranted.
The fix is in?
Another work session item dealt with whether empty or abandoned downtown buildings can be forced to fix up to meet health and safety codes — even without a new business for the building. Mayor Vivian Jones is the driving force behind the push, though other commissioners have agreed they’d like to see those buildings open again for business.
Specifically they were referring to the former Birkenstocks restaurant at Jones and White streets, long closed and the windows papered up.
State law allows the town to get a look inside the buildings to see if they’re up to code, Jones found out. But they’re not permitted to regulate the way the windows are boarded or covered up, Russell added.
Commissioners previously agreed to try to get derelict structures downtown fixed up, but the process is complicated and what building owners can be made to do is limited. If there are safety issues, work can be mandated, however.
“That’s not the only building with issues,” said Jones.
“There’s another building further down the street,” Russell continued, adding later he was referring to a building at or near Roosevelt Avenue that has a leaky roof.