Pelham residents voice concerns about access road through neighborhood

PELHAM – At least 30 Parkside Village residents attended a Pelham City Council public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 17, to speak in opposition to a road in their neighborhood being used to access the new Pelham Park Middle School, which is currently under construction.

A Pelham Park Middle School and City Center traffic study identified three different options that would provide a connection from Bearden Road to access the middle school and the city center.

Option 1A includes a connection from the school to Bearden Road via Court Way, Village Place and Old Ashville Road. With this option, the basic alignment of Old Ashville Road would remain the same. The southern end of the road would be realigned by 100-150 feet to allow turn lanes to be added on Old Ashville Road, approaching Bearden Road.

According to the study, this option would not be a desirable design because of the tight turn radius that would be required.

Option 1B would also connect the school to Bearden Road via Court Way, Village Place and Old Ashville Road, but the southern portion of Old Ashville Road would be realigned by 225-275 feet to allow sufficient space for a more desirable design of the turn lanes.

To make space for this option, the city would need to purchase and then tear down a warehouse-like building that sits at the end of Old Ashville Road.

Option two would connect the school to Bearden Road through the southern portion of Pelham City Park. This option would require the construction of a two-lane road from the southern end of Court Way through the southern portion of Pelham City Park.

Providing a left turn lane would also require the existing bridge on Bearden Road to be widened or replaced, which would be an expensive task.

The council must decide which option to go with. And the decision must be made fairly quickly in order for the project to be completed by the time the middle school opens for the 2017-2018 school year.

City Council President Rick Hayes said it would be best for the council to vote on the matter at the next City Council meeting on Feb. 6 to allow enough time to complete the project. However, if the council feels as if more time is needed, the vote won’t happen.

Residents of the Parkside Village subdivision raised concerns about their property values decreasing, speeding and increased traffic through the neighborhood. One resident said motorists already speed through the area, ignoring stop signs, and making the road an access route for the school will only worsen the problem.

Others voiced safety concerns regarding options 1A and 1B. Resident David Corum said families often walk from their homes to Pelham City Park, and his concern is that the safety of neighborhood children might be compromised if the road in their neighborhood is used to connect Bearden Road and the school.

Corum and the other residents at the meeting were strongly against the measure, and urged the council to go with option two.

Hayes reassured the residents that whichever option is chosen, there will be measures put in place to help control speeding.

The traffic study suggested installing a four-way stop, constructing a roundabout on Village Place and including additional traffic calming measures along Old Ashville Road to help reduce speeding.

Hayes said that he is not in favor of option 1A, and for him the decision would likely be between options 1B and two.

Council members Ron Scott, Beth McMillan, Maurice Mercer and Mildred Lanier each said they hadn’t decided which option they think is best. The general consensus among the council was that they should wait until after the public hearing to make a decision as to how they would vote on the matter.

“You should be comforted by the fact that none of the council members have made a decision prior to this meeting,” said Mayor Gary Waters.

Waters said he doesn’t know how the council will vote, but he said he does know the council very well and historically they have never made a decision that helped one group at the expense of another.

“I’m sure they will make the best decision,” Waters said.

The residents thanked the council for having a public hearing and for listening to what they had to say.

“It’s very sensitive and personal to us,” said resident Charla McClain.