11/10/13 — Highway impact eyed

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Highway impact eyed

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 10, 2013 1:50 AM

Wayne County's comprehensive land use plan adopted in 2005 called for the U.S. 70 Bypass and Interstate 795 highway projects to be completed as soon as possible. But local officials did not expect the projects to move along as quickly as they have, County Planning Director Connie Price told county commissioners last week.

So planners are working hard now to get prepared for the roads' impact.

Price told commissioners that the county needs a corridor plan that focuses on areas along the county' major highways. The plan would look at needed road and utility improvements by establishing a desired density around interchanges, he said. Existing county policies do not focus on development at any particular interchanges, Price noted.

"It would look at whose jurisdiction these areas are in," he said. "Whether it is the county. Whether it is the city. Whether it is the town of Mount Olive or the town of Fremont. Also, who is the provider of utilities in those areas? Who is likely to be the provider of utilities in those areas? And anticipate what it is going to cost to get improved services to those areas."

Price said the county Planning Department wants to start the process of preparing a corridor plan by hiring a consultant who can help in its development. A request for qualifications would allow the county planning staff to advertise the job and interview firms interested in the work, Price said.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery asked Price how long it would take to complete a corridor plan.

Price said he believes a plan could be ready by spring. A comprehensive plan would take a year to complete, he said.

If the corridor plan can be completed in 90 to 120 days, he said, the commissioners would have information to use when they began work on next year's budget to help them decide on how much money to set aside for further planning.

Daughtery asked Price when he expected to ask for the request for qualifications to be sent out.

Price said he would like to have something ready to present to commissioners at their first meeting in December.

County Manager Lee Smith said the process needs to be expedited.

Smith said that he and Price generally know the scope of work and could put the process together "pretty quickly."

"I would hope that we wouldn't wait until December to get this out," Smith said. "Once we get the requests out, we can always go back and add scope. We need to get this out because you heard 120 days. We are really going to be pushing the envelope. I'd like to get it out next week."

Price suggested that a commissioner and Planning Board Chairman Mike Aycock be involved. Commissioner Chairman Steve Keen said he wants to be part of the process.

The 2010 Census showed population shifts throughout the county, Price told commissioners. It showed an increase in certain segments of the population concentrated in certain parts of the county, he said. A lot of that growth has been in the county's rural areas, he noted.

"How is that affecting the surrounding agricultural area?" Price said. "All of that needs to be looked at."

The new U.S. 70 bypass will take a lot of traffic off the existing bypass and move it north, Price said. County officials need to be looking ahead at how that traffic will affect the areas near the roadway, he said, especially at interchanges.

"We need to be moving now on looking at improvement needs around those interchanges. Everything is not going to be developed at one time, but something is going to be developed. So we need to be prepared and get ahead of the curve on this by looking at what our problems are there," he said.

One issue that is emerging is how the new roadway will affect services that are being providing by municipalities and sanitary districts, Price added.

"We just need to be on the same page," he said. "I think the corridor plan would be the best short-term solution for that. It would allow us to get something in place. Hopefully by the spring, (the plan) could be used as a tool during your budget process for next year if you need to set aside funds for utility improvements."

Keen said the sanitary district will play crucial role in development of the area and that it could be damaged if the districts' charges are too high.

He reminded commissioners that a meeting with water district officials is being planned.