By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider a request at their April 11th, meeting to modify a Conditional Use Permit for a future Harris Teeter store and fuel station on North Lake Park Blvd.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has expressed concerns regarding a new traffic pattern for the new project.
The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission approved a proposal at their March 9th, meeting to modify a Conditional Use Permit to construct a new Harris Teeter Store on North Lake Park Blvd The modification concerns changing the previously proposed traffic pattern requiring relocation of a nearby traffic light-intersection and instead leaving the existing light at the entrance of adjacent Federal Point Shopping Center. The new plan calls for a turning lane in front of Harris Teeter's property and restricting traffic to turn right into the parking lot and only turn right when exiting the parking lot main entrance.
The Harris Teeter parking lot would be interconnected to the neighboring Federal Point Shopping Center and permit access to the adjacent stop light via those connections.
The Town Council first approved of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build a new 53,000 square foot Harris Teeter Store and a 14 fueling position gas station at 1000 N. Lake Park Blvd during their August 11th, 2015 meeting.
In April of 2016 the Council approved of a request to modify the permit to accommodate traffic pattern changes.
At that time updated plans were submitted to the Planning Department showing a new traffic pattern on North Lake Park Blvd. Town officials had been communicating with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on a traffic pattern. The issue was whether or not raised concrete medians would be required on Lake Park Blvd and concerns from area business owners and residents about negative impacts of restricting traffic flow in that area. NCDOT officials changed their position and said that hard-medians would not be required for a new intersection at the entrance to the project. Updated plans showed a traffic pattern that did not require raised medians restricting traffic flow to area businesses. Instead, painted medians would be used. The plan also called for relocating the existing traffic light at the entrance of the neighboring Federal Point Shopping Center south to the new entrance of the Harris Teeter project.
Part of the plan required a portion of the front of the adjacent Wings Store property to accommodate a turn lane and widening Lake Park Blvd in that area.
The Council approved of modifying that plan in April 2016.
Following that approval Ted Barnes of Barnes Development Company - representing Harris Teeter - sent a letter to Nancy Gibrano of The Wings Group of New York, NY, requesting to purchase a 0.036 acre portion of their property to accommodate additional right-of-way for the Harris Teeter project.
The representatives of the Wing's store responded explaining their ownership's final decision was not to entertain a sale of a portion of the property and Harris Teeter should pursue other avenues.
Without the 0.036 acre of land, the traffic plan would have to be modified again.
In a letter sent to the Town dated March 9th, 2017, Benjamin Hughes, PE - District Engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation - explained, "On January 30, 2017, Jonathan Guy, PE of Kimley-Horn and Associates, provided a Traffic Assessment as requested by the Department. The document provided analysis of the most recent development plan, which is based on maintaining the existing traffic signal at its current location at the Federal Point Shopping Center driveway and proposes the main site access as a right-in/right-out to the south on N. Lake Park Boulevard. Previous development plans were studied with the signal relocated approximately 200 feet south of the existing signalized intersection to the location of the proposed main site access on N. Lake Park Boulevard; later studies relocated the signal and main site access to intersect N. Lake Park Boulevard opposite Bennet Lane."
Hughes explained that all proposed developments are required by Department policy to identify mitigation improvements to the roadway network if at least one of the following conditions exists when comparing base network conditions to project conditions:
• The total average delay at an intersection or individual approach increases by 25% or greater, while maintaining the same level of service,
• The Level of Service (LOS) degrades by at least one level, or,
• The Level of Service is graded as “F.”
Hughes explained, "The Traffic Assessment showed that the existing signalized intersection of N. Lake Park Boulevard and the Federal Point Shopping Center driveway currently operates at an overall LOS "A" with 7.5 seconds of delay. Analysis with the development traffic utilizing this signal degrades the overall LOS to "D" with 48.7 seconds of delay. Due to the significant intersection degradation, mitigation measures are required and were identified to be a dedicated southbound left-turn lane on N. Lake Park Boulevard into the Federal Point Shopping Center driveway. The existing right-of-way on N. Lake Park Boulevard is 60 feet in width. Designs using asymmetrical widening to provide the southbound left-turn lane have shown that the addition of the left-turn lane exceeds the available right-of-way width and as such, require right-of-way acquisition from multiple private property owners. At this time, at least one owner has expressed an unwillingness to sell property frontage to help make this widening possible."
He explained, "Without the warranted left-turn lane at the existing signalized intersection and with the location of the main site access as currently proposed, the projected development traffic is not able to be mitigated according to Department policy."
Hughes cautioned the Town about traffic delays and explained, "Consequently, significant traffic delays are to be expected as a result of this commercial development. The traffic generated by a development of this size and scale in this location is unable to be adequately mitigated. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the overall traffic volume intensity of this development be curtailed through the enforcement of existing zoning regulations."
He explained, "The Department is willing to move forward with approving a permit for this development without the necessary left turn lane if that is the desire of the Town of Carolina Beach. In order to move forward, we request a resolution from the Town expressing the Town’s support for approving a permit for this development without the necessary southbound left-turn lane at the intersection of US 421 (N. Lake Park Boulevard) and the Federal Point Shopping Center driveway."
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend Town Council approve of the new traffic plan and modifying the Conditional Use Permit but several members said they were not provided with a copy of Hughes letter
prior to the meeting. Commission Keith Bloemendaal explained Monday night March 13th, "They mentioned this in the meeting, we didn't see the letter, but it was brought to our attention that DOT preferred a left turn lane. I envision the intersection being much like at Carl Winner Avenue in summer, no turn lane there either."
Commission Chairman Greg Reynolds said the Commission was advised during the meeting that NCDOT preferred a left turn lane. He had not seen the letter from Hughes.
The Council will consider a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve of the request to modify the Harris Teeter traffic plan during their April 11th, meeting. A public hearing will be held prior to making a final decision.
During a March 28th, workshop meeting, Council member Leann Pierce expressed concern with traffic congestion in that area of North Lake Park Blvd and the safety of pedestrians crossing the four lane road. She asked, "Have we ever looked at or considering between that first stoplight where the old Food Lion shopping center is and the next stoplight.
That area has grown and grown and groan" and, "We have the two restaurants and now we have the arcade and we have the subway and the bank and the hardware store. It is impossible to pull out of there. It's impossible to walk across the street. And I see people standing in the middle of the street waiting for the other side to clear."
Pierce asked if there are options to install crosswalks in the area because, "It is awful and we haven't even started into the summer time."
She said her concern wasn't necessarily the traffic congestion because people can pull out and turn around elsewhere adding that, "I do care about the pedestrians and I see more development in that congested area" from the existing stoplight at Federal Point Shopping Center and the intersection of North Lake Park Blvd and Saint Joseph Street. She said, "All of that is just congestion from one to the other."
Town Manager Michael Cramer said the Town could ask the North Carolina Department of Transportation for a review of that area. He added, "I do think you'll find that maybe some of the things that change in the next few months with that intersection might benefit us."
(Click image for larger view) Updated plan for a new Harris Teeter Store to be built on North Lake Park Blvd in Carolina Beach. The Planning Commission voted to recommend the Town Council approve a request to modify an existing permit for the project at their upcoming April 11th meeting. The change focuses on the design of the entrance to the store and fuel station. A previous plan called relocating an existing traffic light to the new entrance but now the light will remain at the entrance to the adjacent Federal Point Shopping Center. (Lake Park Blvd appears at bottom of image).