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Carolina Beach Council Hears Input On Streetscape Project

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council got input from residents at their February 11th, meeting regarding a proposal to install 10' wide multi-use asphalt paths along Clarendon Avenue and Cape Fear Blvd as part of a streetscape project.
The Council voted to move forward with obtaining financing approval from the state and awarding a bid for the project to State Utility Contractors for $6,062,600.00. That includes replacing aging water and sewer lines and the streetscape project.
The Council left the door open to make changes to the project on aspects such as a multi-use paths before finalizing it later this year.
Following replacement of aging underground water and sewer lines the Town plans to repave Cape Fear Blvd. From Canal Drive to 3rd Street on Cape Fear there will 10-foot wide sidewalks along either side of the road next to public parking. From 3rd Street to Dow Road on Cape Fear Blvd there will be a 10-foot wide asphalt multi-use path on the south side separated from the road by a 5 foot grass area, trees and additional lighting.
On Clarendon Avenue there will be a 10-foot multi-use asphalt path on the south side of the road from 4th Street to 6th Street. The path will switch to the north side of Clarendon Avenue from 6th Street to Dow Road because existing poles and landscaping are too close to the road and would cost to much to relocate. Also, Mike Chappel Park would increase costs if the path were located on the same side of the road and the park is located on Federal land.
On 5th Street from Clarendon north to Cape Fear Blvd, a new 5 foot wide sidewalk will be installed separated from the road by a small grass area.
The plan is part of a Town wide bike and pedestrian route to connect areas of Town such as the School, State Park, Downtown area and others. The plan also interconnects with a route south to Kure Beach.
According to Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin, the Town has held four informal workshops to give the public opportunities to express concern about the upcoming infrastructure/streetscape upgrades planned for Cape Fear, Clarendon, and 5th Street.
Parvin explained in January, "Planning for the streetscape was a vetted process that started with the development of the town’s 2011 Bicycle Multi-use Plan.  Implementation has become possible with the need to replace infrastructure in the oldest residential part of Carolina Beach.  Several options were reviewed by staff and the public over the last year. The chosen streetscape plan maximizes safety and efficiency of the roadway (creates a separation between pedestrians and vehicles) while minimizing impervious surfaces and impacts on neighbors (reduces recommendations of the 2011 Plan) and designed to maximize pervious space near property lines."
Parvin explained the 2011 Bicycle Multi-use Plan was based on public meetings and surveys.
The estimated costs for the streetscape project are:
Cape Fear Blvd & Lake Park Intersection: $64,000
Cape Fear Blvd:
- 10' walkways from Canal to 3rd: $330,000
- Multi-use path from 3rd to 6th: $150,000
- Actual street: $570,000
Total for Cape Fear Blvd: $1,050,000
Clarendon Ave from 4th Street to Dow Road:
- Multi-use path: $250,000
- Actual street: $335,000
Total: $585,000
Parvin said the path on Clarendon Avenue is going on the North Side of Clarendon in the vicinity of Mike Chappel Park to avoid removal of the exiting fencing, landscaping, and parking that are located on the park property.
Parvin said the path on Clarendon would connect to a planned future extension of a multi-use path along Dow Road south to Kure Beach as part of the 2011 Bicycle Multi-use plan. The eastern end the path has several destinations to include the school, Carolina Beach Lake, downtown, and the ocean.
Parvin explained the path crosses Clarendon at 6th Street because properties west of 6th street on the south side of Clarendon have power poles, ditching and landscaping located in close vicinity to the street. In order to avoid excessive costs associated with moving these features the path was relocated to the north side of the street from 6th to Dow Road. To alleviate safety concerns and create traffic calming in this area a striped/elevated crosswalk will be located on Clarendon where the path crosses to the north side of the street.
Parvin also explained bike trails promote health and will improve safety on Clarendon Avenue because of increased traffic when students arrive and depart nearby Carolina Beach Elementary School on a narrow street.
Parvin explained the project will not be paid for with grant funding. He explained, "Several  grants were reviewed for both the above and underground portions of the project.  Due to timing constraints with the need for the secondary force main grant money was not obtained.  The Town is looking at 5 phases of infrastructure/streetscape projects.  Although grants were not available for this phase others will hopefully be eligible for and receive funding."
He explained, "The Town will be getting a loan. One trip has already been made to the Local Government Commission (LGC) to evaluate the project and review the town’s financial position. Once the bids are completed the Town will submit a complete request package to the LGC for final approval.  The anticipated date for the loan to be put in place is April 2014.  No increases in taxes are proposed.  As different phases of the infrastructure project are funded the Town may have to look at fee adjustments."
He explained the yearly cost of the maintenance/repair for a multi-use path on Cape Fear Blvd would include mowing, edging walkway, trimming/edging tree rings, and other items and based on 20 visits per year it would cost $1470.00 additional per year paid to the Town's landscaping contractor. Tree Pruning will cost approximately $2450.00 per year.
On Clarendon, for mowing, edging walkway, trimming, etc, for 20 visits per year it would cost $924 additional per year.
He explained, "There will also be a monthly charge for path lighting. There are 24 path lights on Cape Fear and 12 on Clarendon."
Parvin explained, "Existing driveways will be “saw cut” to install the new utilities and multi-use path. Once above and underground infrastructure is in place the driveway will be replaced from the road to the multi-use path with concrete.  The portion of the driveway from the multi-use path towards the property line will also be replaced with the same materials as the existing driveway."
He said the project will possibly remove trees in residents’ yards explaining, "We have conducted several workshops... so the neighbors can address concerns with staff.  In some instances your tree may be able to be saved by moving or rerouting the path around the tree.  In some instances the trees will have to be removed. Each tree can be reviewed on a case by case basis."
Parvin explained the paths will be asphalt and using concrete would add an additional $2 per square foot for "approximately $50,000 more, or $300,000."
He said property owners with irrigation systems in the Town's right-of-way should expect those irrigation lines to be removed from the path area and capped.
For mailboxes and associated landscaping, Parvin explained, "Mailboxes will be moved to the edge of the street.  If you have any features around your mailbox that you want to keep these should be removed prior to start of construction in front of your home."
The Council held a public hearing and discussed the project at their February 11th meeting for over an hour and a half. Numerous residents spoke on the project.
Steve Stanton encouraged the Council to build multi-use paths "where ever possible in Town."
He has served for seven years on the Citizens Advisory Committee with the Wilmington Metropolitan Transportation Organization (WMPO) and in a prior survey 65% of people were interested in using their bikes or walking for recreation, exercise or running errands.
He said, "The one thing that did become apparent though is that they also indicated the impediment for not being able to achieve that was
the lack of safe passage ways they could use to do that traveling on. Multi-use trails have become very common throughout the country. We have a great one here in Wilmington... they provide another means of safe passage for those who want to use them. They are no longer a nice amenity. They are really part of the "Complete Street Process" which is opening up or providing modes of safe transit for individuals regardless of how they are either driving, walking, biking or jogging. Multi-purpose paths are really a benefit to any town."
David Smith said, "I'm not against having places to ride bicycles but I am
against wasting money at this time to be building them. If you drive up and down Atlanta Avenue which is one of the main roads that comes to our school, we no longer have pot holes on that road, we have wash tub holes at this time and getting worse."
Smith said he showed a Council member a sinkhole in the road causing cars to bottom out when driving on the street.
He said, "We do not need to be spending money on bike lanes when our streets are this bad. If we do not have the funds available to maintain our traffic streets that we drive on to take our kids to school, go to the store, shopping, etc, then how are we going to have money to maintain this other stuff that ya'll are wanting to put in place. It does not make sense."
Smith explained, "I can not spend money at my house building something new if I don't have the money to keep up what I've already got."
Many residents addressed the Council questioning how the Town would maintain the areas including landscaping. Another resident recommended lowering the speed limit on Cape Fear Blvd from 35 to 25 to improve safety.
Another resident pointed to studies that said off-street paths create safety hazards by separating the bicyclists from the road. For example, drivers failing to see bicyclists at intersections when making turns
rather than identifying bicyclists that ride on the road in clear sight of motorists. Also, risks to pedestrians when people are backing out of their driveways that the paths will intersect.
Council member Sarah Friede said traffic around the school is unsafe and she's had vehicles driving on sidewalks while she was walking with her child.
 Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained, "I think we looked at a couple of options and because this was in phase one of the utility plan, we looked at the 90' foot right-of-way and there are very few opportunities in Carolina Beach to get a separated multi-use trail. And when you're talking about a mom jogger, a dad jogger, kids on bikes and trikes and pedestrians and skaters, the recommendation across the country is 10' foot multi-use trails. We only have two roads that can accommodate that at this time that are in the plan. Harper was a different design and hadn't been finalized."
He said, "In the last couple of years the discussion had revolved around safe routes to schools, the ideas of increasing safe transportation from Mike Chappel Park to the Lake" and the Carolina Beach Elementary School.
He said, "When you mix kids into that traffic pattern with widened asphalt, it became problematic" and transportation experts said the Town needed a multi-use path in the Clarendon Avenue area.
The Council voted unanimously to move forward with obtaining financing approval from the Local Government Commission and awarding a bid for the project to State Utility Contractors for $6,062,600.00. That includes replacing aging water and sewer lines and the streetscape project.
Council agreed to direct Town staff to look at alternatives for the Clarendon Avenue Streetscape and agreed they could make changes to that portion of the project later this year following additional workshop meetings to look at other options.
The Council could reduce the amount of the project at a later date without having to obtain additional financing approval.
Mayor Dan Wilcox wanted to make sure there would be another vote to leave the streetscape  portion of the project as approved, not do it, or modify the plan.