Coming up with a plan: Granite Quarry residents give consultants some input

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 16, 2015

By Mark Wineka

GRANITE QUARRY — Things got real in Granite Quarry Tuesday night when consultants, who will be devising a comprehensive community plan, asked members of a good-sized audience what their favorite and least favorite things were about the town.

Some of the favorite things? People answered quiet neighborhoods, safety, the convenience of a medical office and pharmacy, some nice restaurants, being able to walk at Granite Lake Park, the town’s compactness and even the sound of the train going through.

Business owner Garry Mattingly also mentioned how close-knit Granite Quarry is as a community. Many people know each other because they grew up together, he said.

Some of the least favorite things? Those in audience almost blurted in unison about the lack of a grocery store in Granite Quarry. Also high on their list of least favorite things was the amount of traffic on U.S. 52, the main thoroughfare through town, and the high speeds vehicles are traveling on their way through Granite Quarry.

Too many people are running the only traffic light in town, one man said.

Other concerns were a vacant gas station on U.S. 52 (North Salisbury Avenue), a shortage of recreational programs and facilities for kids, the difficulty of getting information from the town’s website, the lack of awareness of various events and the amount of debris in the creek between Oak and Walnut streets.

When consultant Tee Coker of Greenville, S.C.-based Arnett Muldrow & Associates asked the crowd to give him their thoughts on one change that could be made to improve the look and feel of Granite Quarry, he heard several suggestions.

Melissa Utley suggested dealing with the vacant gas station. Brenda Morgan said the town could improve in many ways by just adding more color through things such as flowers and banners. “I’m a visual person,” she said.

Coker said “Amen,” when someone proposed putting all utility lines underground. “That’s expensive but doable over time,” he added.

Mattingly said the town should do more to promote its wealth of musical talent. Someone else said improve the facades on commercial properties along Salisbury Avenue.

Coker said the Granite Quarry Community Plan, launched Tuesday night at Town Hall with about 40 people providing input, will be tackled in three phases over coming months.

The first phase requires a community assessment in which the consultants try to wrap their heads around the key issues, the “big-picture things,” Coker said. “We need to hear from you, and that’s why we’re here tonight,” he told the crowd.

Next comes a design charrette, which will take place Oct. 20-22. Again, the community will be involved in helping an architect, urban designer, marketing expert and two planners work on a physical plan for the town that addresses some short-term concerns, plus things that might take 10 to 20 years to reach fruition.

The third phase involves implementation of the plan. Nothing is worse, Coker said, than having a vision that ends up on a shelf. The consultants want to leave Granite Quarry with something that’s attainable — something that its leaders, residents and business owners “can take and run with it,” Coker said.

The implementation part will outline goals and who the players are, the time frames and funding sources for each project. The public and private sectors will figure out who’s responsible for each part of the plan.

“This is where the rubber hits the road,” Coker said.

The Granite Quarry team of consultants who will be working with the town include Coker, Shawn Terpack and Aaron Arnett, all of Arnett Muldrow; architect Randy Wilson of Community Design Solutions; and urban planner Andy Kalback of Mahan Rykiel & Associates.

The public will have two  more chances to provide input in October, Coker said.

A main priority with the community plan will be to give Granite Quarry something based on market realities, Coker said.  The planners will be in Granite Quarry today, asking merchants to start writing down the zip codes for a week of where their customers are coming from.

It will provide a snapshot of consumer activity and help in the assigning of retail trade areas. In looking at 66 different retail categories, the Granite Quarry team will be comparing what stores are selling to what people are buying.

Maybe it’s a good mix, Coker said, or maybe there’s retail leakage with dollars going elsewhere. Coker predicted the consultants will be able to show what simple improvements can be made to provide marked changes in the look of businesses and public sector areas.

Alderwoman Mary Ponds said there has to be a focus on the aesthetics of Granite Quarry’s small business district. It needs a makeover, she said, that includes facades and sidewalks. Efforts have to be made to make it more pedestrian and shopper friendly, she added.

Residents kept coming back to the traffic on U.S. 52 and, to a lesser degree on Main Street, and the need for more speed-limit signs, enforcement and finding a way overall to better manage all the cars.

“Right now,” Coker agreed, “U.S. 52 feels like a place for cars.”

Another suggestion was a bicycle trail connecting Granite Quarry’s parks and maybe going out to a quarry or two. Coker was intrigued.

“Your name is ‘Granite Quarry,'” he said. “You’ve got your quarries, but they’re behind a fence.”

Orland Carra, a fairly new resident of the town, said he would like to see a community center for all ages. Others said Granite Quarry’s Legion building could be that kind of community center more often, but many people don’t know it’s available.

One man said he wished the Rowan-Salisbury School System allowed the town and its residents to use school facilities more often.

Other needs people cited were an activities director for events and sports programming, a sports complex,  a better social media presence and maybe a community center that would represent a collaboration of Granite Quarry, Faith and Rockwell.

Whatever the community plan does, it has to look at ways of keeping young people here, while also making life better for an aging population, Keith Moore said. “We have a lot of different parts here,” he said.

Several in the audience kept coming back to the town’s strength — its people. Andy Caudill, co-owner and pharmacist at Granite Quarry’s Price Pharmacy, said the community has given his business support, and many customers have been faithful about sticking with him rather than going to drugstore chains elsewhere.

“The people here are great,” Caudill said. “I don’t live here, but they’ve accepted me as one of their own.”

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.