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Traffic questions along U.S. 52 still dog proposed SECU site

By Mark Wineka

mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — Traffic issues continue to be at the heart of discussions about a future State Employees’ Credit Union branch off U.S. 52 (North Salisbury Avenue).

Mayor Bill Feather said he and Town Manager Phil Conrad recently met with representatives of the SECU.

“They share our interest in maintaining safety on U.S. 52,” Conrad told the Board of Aldermen on Monday night.

Feather described continued talks with the SECU as “a work in progress” and said the credit union seems “receptive to our ideas.”

“I thought it was a good conversation,” Feather said.

Feather and Conrad asked the SECU to consider limiting access from U.S. 52 into the proposed site by making it a right-in, right-out only situation for vehicles. The mayor said one of the main concerns is left turns from U.S. 52 into the proposed site and left turns from the branch onto U.S. 52.

The new SECU is proposed for an area north of the existing Granite Lane and not quite opposite to the entrance to the Timber Run subdivision. The SECU site is part of a larger business subdivision referred to as Granite Place.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Brinkley said when the issue of rezoning for the SECU branch first came up last year in the Granite Place subdivision, “the one issue I was concerned about was traffic on (U.S.) 52.”

“I was worried about it 20 years ago, and I still am,” Brinkley said. “I had been assured over the years that access to the site could be controlled by the requirements of the state Department of Transportation, with the final decision resting with the town board through our zoning ordinances.”

Brinkley said the board spent time and money to build streets and utilities off U.S. 52 in the 1990s as a way to protect the residents and traveling public.

“It was with those assurances that I felt I could support rezoning both 20 years ago and last year,” Brinkley said.

On March 20, the Granite Quarry Planning Board approved the SECU site plan by a 5-1 vote. It calls for an 8,500-square-foot financial institution on a 2.66-acre tract.

That meeting and public hearing revealed at least three different access points off U.S. 52 for the SECU branch and plans for a middle left-turn lane serving both the SECU and the entrance to Timber Run.

As drawn, the site plan calls for an entrance-only driveway off U.S. 52, an exit-only driveway onto U.S. 52, a rear entrance and exit off a new section of Granite Street, and a right-turn-only entrance onto the new Granite Street section from U.S. 52.

Brinkley said he attended the Planning Board meeting but did not speak, thinking the town board would be discussing it Monday night. He learned two days later that the driveway access questions off U.S. 52 would not be going to the town board for a vote.

The way the town’s unified development ordinance is written, Brinkley said, “there is really nothing that can be done once certain requirements are met by the petitioner.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “this fact was buried in the text of our zoning ordinance. I did not catch it, and that is my fault. It will not happen again.”

Brinkley read from a prepared statement at the beginning of Monday night’s town board meeting. He said the only reason he felt safe with any rezoning in that area — something that also was controversial at the time — was his belief the aldermen could control curb cuts onto U.S. 52.

“Had I known last year what I now know, I would not have supported rezoning in that area,” Brinkley said.

Brinkley told his fellow board members they need to review town ordinances “to be sure that any future decisions similar to this come to the Board of Aldermen for a final decision and no one else, if at all possible.”

Prior to Monday’s town board meeting, Ed Shell, a resident of the Countryside subdivision, lodged a protest about the notification process prior to the March 20 Planning Board meeting, which included the one and only public hearing on the SECU site plan.

Shell said he studied the N.C., Rowan County and Granite Quarry notification requirements and concluded “there has been a failure in this instance to adequately ‘provide reasonable notice to the interested parties.'”

Shell cited several examples of why he thought the town did not meet its notification requirements and also noted that even one Planning Board member did not know a public hearing was going to be held March 20.

Shell concluded his complaint by saying, “This situation is wrong on many levels and clearly warrants, both ethically and legally, that a new, adequate notification process be undertaken and the matter reconsidered at a well publicized Planning Board hearing.”

By formal letter, Town Attorney Chip Short wrote to Feather on March 30 that the town followed all the required notification requirements.

Notice of the public hearing was published in a newspaper having general circulation in the area — the Salisbury Post. Notice was posted on the site itself. And notice was sent to owners of the property and owners of all parcels abutting the site in question, Short said.

“All of this is set by state statutes,” Short said. “All of these procedures were followed. It is my opinion from a legal standpoint, that nothing further need be done by the town board.”

Graham Corriher, who was sitting in for Short on Monday night, reiterated those points.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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