Leader Blues

Thursday, January 17, 2008

TOP STORY >> Cabot takes stand to ease traffic jams

Leader senior staff writer

The Cabot Planning Commission took a stand against traffic congestion in 2007 when it turned down a second driveway into a new commercial development on highway 321.

Now the commission has approved a draft of a proposal to manage the traffic on highway 321 by limiting breaks in the medians with traffic signals to quarter-mile intervals and not allowing new driveways to be built closer than 245 to 440 feet apart.

At the same time, the commission approved a draft of the access management plan that was proposed for highway 5 when improvements to that road were started about three years ago. That draft also shows no new median breaks closer than one-quarter mile apart. All existing driveways on that road would be grandfathered in.

Richard Magee, deputy director of Metroplan, which prepared the drafts, said the plans only set the broad parameters under which to manage traffic. Currently, there is design plan, for Hwy. 321 with elements such as raised medians. That will come as the highway develops commercially. But in the meantime, if the city council adopts the draft, the planning commission will be able to prevent developers from creating traffic problems in the future with the poorly placed driveways they build now.

The commission, which met last week, voted unanimously to send both drafts to the city council for approval. The commissioners agreed that the last thing they want is for traffic congestion on Hwy. 321 to mimic that on Hwy. 89 West.
In other business, the commission heard a proposal by Verizon to put a cellular phone tower in a mini-storage building at Hwy. 89 and Campground. The tower would protrude through the top of one of the storage buildings and stand 120 tall.

Sonny Yemm, an attorney for Vorizon, told the commission that the tower, which would not have support wires, would look much like a flagpole without a flag.

Yemm said the tower was the type generally placed in residential areas because it is the least intrusive. He said the towers were stable and unlikely to fall. Even Hurricane Katrina didn’t knock them down in Louisiana.

“It would take something pretty drastic to make one of these things come down,” he said.

Several residents from the area of the proposed tower objected, saying it would lower property values.

Yemm asked the planning commission to table the proposal for 30 days after commissioners pointed out that he only needed a special-use permit for two of the storage buildings and the legal description they had before them was for the whole property where the storage buildings are located.

The commission also turned down a variance request from a developer who wanted to build a mini storage on Campground Road between Linda Lane and Krooked Kreek Circle, which is outside city limits but inside the city’s planning area.

The 10-acre lot where the proposed structure would be built is surrounded by houses of Cabot residents who don’t want a mini storage in their neighborhood. The planning commission does not have the authority to keep the structure out, only to deny the request for smaller back and side yards, which they did, saying variances were for hardship cases and developer Preston Robinson had not convinced them that not getting the variance would create a hardship.

Robinson told the commission that unless the back and side yards could be 25 feet deep instead of the 40 feet required for commercial buildings, he would have to cut back on the number of units he could build. And if he cut back, it might not be financially advantageous to build on the property.

Asked after the meeting if he would still build even though the commission turned down the variance request, Robinson said he had not decided.