04/02/13 — Council OKs changes at two parks

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Council OKs changes at two parks

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 2, 2013 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro City Council gave the go-ahead to recreation officials Monday to make changes at two parks, while also giving its approval to a long consent agenda involving a number of zoning requests.

The first park facing changes is H.C. Mitchell Park. Located behind the much larger H.V. Brown Park, it is a small grassy area with a few pieces of playground equipment tucked between two houses. In fact, said Felicia Brown, city parks and recreation supervisor, it's so small she actually mistook it for private property the first time she saw it.

But, she explained, the real reason for the removal of the equipment is that much of it is outdated and the neighborhood, which has become older, doesn't use it. Nor, she said, has the neighborhood watch group indicated any interest in taking over the park. So the decision was made to close it and move any equipment that can still be used over to H.V. Brown, leaving behind an open grassy area with benches for people to enjoy.

The other park where the Council gave the department the go-ahead to make changes was North End Park.

Already, Ms. Brown said, the park is undergoing a bit of a transformation with equipment being shifted, a sand volleyball court being installed and more. On Monday, though, the change approved is one that many people had probably never noticed was needed, she said -- the closure of a tunnel under U.S. 70.

There since U.S. 70 was built, the tunnel's original purpose, Ms. Brown said, appears to have been providing communities on the south side of U.S. 70 a way to access their neighborhood park on the north side.

Now, however, she said, that tunnel has become a cause for concern, in large part because of the lack of lighting inside it, allowing not only for the potential for illicit activities, but also for people to hide inside.

"There are probably people using the tunnel, but not the people we want using the tunnel," she said.

But the plan is not to seal up the entire tunnel. Instead they will simply block off the two entrances so that if someday the tunnel becomes a part of greenway or other established trail system, it can be easily re-opened.

Other actions taken by the board were all part of the consent agenda.

The first among those was the rejection for Jesse Artis Jr.'s request for a conditional use permit in order to open his video game tournament facility in the Berkeley Place Shopping Center. The permit was required because of the limited available parking dedicated to that storefront -- much less than required for his use and ultimately why the project was voted down.

The second item was a request from Little River Associates, the owners of Little River Shopping Center on U.S. 70, to allow Tractor Supply Co. the ability to have an outdoor storage and display space in front of its eventual new home in the former Big Lots corner store. That was approved.

The third item was the approval of several ordinance changes to allow indoor firing ranges as conditional uses in certain zoning areas within city limits -- provided that the sound from the facility is contained, the design of the facility meets NRA standards, the entire facility is enclosed, and a competent, licensed male supervisor is there all the time.

A fourth item was the approval of site plans for a new Holiday Inn Express on the west side of Sunburst Drive, between U.S. 70 and Royall Avenue, directly behind Logan's and Chili's restaurants.

The fifth issue, though, was the most controversial -- the destruction and rebuilding of the Wendy's restaurant on Wayne Memorial Drive. At issue was whether or not the city was going to allow the fast-food chain to maintain its entrance and exit lanes off of Wayne Memorial Drive. Currently drivers are allowed to turn into the entrance from the right and left, and turn out of the exit to the right and left.

The city Planning Board, however, recommended that in order to improve traffic patterns on Wayne Memorial, both the entrance and exit be made right-turn only.

Speaking during the public comment period, though, Don Nichols with Carlisle Corp., which owns Wendy's, asked the Council to ignore that recommendation because of the extra costs it will cause as the company finalizes its designs, and because if a much-discussed concrete median is ever built along Wayne Memorial, that entrance and exit will become restricted anyway.

And while the Council did vote to accept the Planning Board's recommendation and approve the restaurant's site plans as part of its consent agenda, the item that caused the most discussion during the work session was actually that potential concrete median.

According to City Manager Scott Stevens, the state Department of Transportation is recommending that the median be built, but, he and Councilman Chuck Allen said, the agency wants the city to be the one to request it.

"DOT wants the city to take the heat for it," Allen said.

The concern, Stevens clarified, is reaction of the businesses along Wayne Memorial Drive, likely from U.S. 70 to Country Day Road.

"When you talk about a median, you will have the business community very unhappy," Stevens said. "It's a lot safer, but the business community won't like it. It will be a very emotional issue. But in terms of the traffic problem, it's going only going to get worse. This is probably the right thing to do."

Nichols said demolition and construction of the new Wendy's will likely begin within the next month -- as soon as the permits are granted -- and is expected to take 10 to 12 weeks. The goal, he said, is to be able to open back up at the same time the new Harris Teeter is expected to open late this summer.