Board adopts Second Avenue study, approves proposal for strategic plan

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SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners unanimously adopted an official study on downtown’s Second Avenue corridor during Monday evening’s regular meeting and approved a proposal to develop a strategic plan for the town’s future goals.

Commissioners listened to a presentation from Triangle J Council of Governments’ Director of Transportation Matt Day following the adoption of a memorandum of understanding to research ways to make Second Avenue in Siler City safer for drivers and pedestrians.

“[Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization] TARPO and the town have been working together over the last several months to come up with this recommendation of what could happen in this corridor on Second Avenue,” Day said. “I’m going to go over the planning process and what we did in terms of public engagement, a little bit about what the current conditions are in that corridor, talk about what plan is actually recommended, and then a little bit about potential next steps.”

The study showed residents’ main concern was pedestrian safety along Second Avenue. According to the final report put together by TARPO, there isn’t a single marked crosswalk on the 0.75-mile-long corridor. The report also noted the road’s capacity of 22,000 vehicles well exceeds the number of cars that drive on Second Avenue, which ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 cars a day.

“There was sort of an acknowledgment that Second Avenue is really overdesigned for what it needs to be right now,” Day said. “It’s a lot wider than it needs to be, and people drive a lot faster on it than they need to.”

The final report offered a priority list:

• Adjusting the infrastructure to accommodate the actual amount of traffic on Second Avenue

• Prioritizing pedestrians and bicyclists

• Acknowledging the safety of all in planning processes

• Integrating Second Avenue into downtown and its surroundings

• Ensuring design attractiveness for residents

With the prioritized list in mind, Day presented a phased approach to addressing the issues along Second Avenue, which would start with reducing the number of lanes from five lanes to three with cross-sections, additional on-street parking and adding roundabouts to slow car traffic.

“There’s plenty of opportunities there to design it in a way that is less capacity, and you’ll still have plenty of capacity to meet your volumes,” Day said.

Commissioners overwhelmingly supported the findings of the Second Avenue study. Mayor Pro Tem Bill Haiges said he was happy with what the study found, as well as how the solutions would benefit the town.

“My two cents is that looks good,” Haiges said. “This fits with our vision and fits with the character (in town) well.”

Commissioner Lewis Fadely, while pleased with the study, wanted to know additional information regarding if the study’s proposed plan took population growth into consideration.

“Whatever we do, we make sure that it fits us not just now, but it fits us 15 years from now,” Fadely said

Day said while the study didn’t use formal population growth forecasting technology, it’s something that can be done in the future in collaboration with N.C. Dept. of Transportation.

“We would have to work with DOT — they maintained the model that was used to do the forecast, so we’d have to check with them,” Day said.

The board also authorized town staff in a unanimous vote to negotiate a contract with Gary Jackson of McGill Associates to help develop a strategic plan for Siler City.

“With us never having a strategic plan before, I thought it really would set us on the path of working together ... combined as a group and be able to chart the future course of the organization,” Town Manager Hank Raper said.

Raper proposed a strategic plan during the board’s last regular meeting, saying both current and future administrations need a guide for what to look for when it comes to development in Siler City.

The strategic plan would address “the subjects of economic development, planning, capital improvements, transportation, infrastructure, recreation, public safety and others,” and would plan for the future growth and developments in town.

“If this is done well, it will be my recommendation going forward that each year, when we go through our annual budget process, we drop the current year and add one more year onto our plans so that will we always have a five-year forecast that we’re working towards,” Raper said. “We’re setting our priorities as an organization, I think that will work well for the board.”

Commissioners agreed this step is needed to ensure Siler City is prepared for the future, whether it’s new businesses or residents coming to town.

“We do need to work towards getting a strategic plan and revamping our mission and vision statement because it needs some work,” Commissioner Norma Boone said. “It’s something that is definitely needed for the town, especially since we don’t have a strategic plan now.”

In other business:

• James “Jay” Underwood was sworn in as commissioner at-large by Judge C. Todd Roper.

• The board came to a consensus to have town staff develop a resolution to extend the mayor’s term from two years to four years. The resolution will come before the board during a future meeting.

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.

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