BY QUINT QUALLS
Spring Hill officials are currently considering the concerns of various local business owners and property developers on Main Street (U.S. Highway 31) who oppose planned right-in, right-out concrete islands at two key intersections on the corridor.
At Monday’s Board of Mayor and Alderman work session, the developers of a new commercial and retail space at the corner of Hwy. 31 and Wilkes Lane expressed their worry that the planned right-in, right-out island would impede their ability to attract retailers to the development.
The island at Wilkes Lane is a part of the “Diablo Package” of nine roadway improvements planned along Hwy. 31 at three intersections. The City of Spring Hill has budgeted $2.6 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year to build turn lanes, right-turn-only concrete islands and improvements for pedestrian traffic at several key intersections.
At their work session, members of the Board of Mayor and Alderman discussed possibly revisiting the city’s plan to install the concrete island.
Business owners, developers believe island will impede commerce
The road improvement has drawn criticism of the developers of a site at Wilkes Lane and Hwy. 31 comprised of 20,400 square feet of retail space and 5,700 square feet of restaurant area with two drive-thru spaces. The property in question also features the abandoned silo just off of Main Street.
Brian Pierce, of Deep River Partners, who spoke on behalf of the developer of the property Monday, said while most drivers wouldn’t have trouble figuring out how to access the property even with a right-in, right-out island, retailers assessing the site with an aerial overview image only see restricted access.
“For those making decisions for retailers,” Pierce said, “they’re going to look at the aerial image while making those decisions and they’re going to see restricted access and a right-in, right-out on Wilkes and they’re going to move on.
“That puts our property and our proposal out, and effectively kills our deal because it doesn’t become functional for retailers we’re trying to attract.”
Aldermen caution Board to not reconsider policy without data
Most aldermen expressed a willingness to revisit the Wilkes Lane concrete island, as well as one planned for the intersection of Nasdaq Street and Hwy. 31, to which many local business owners voiced opposition at the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee meeting in September.
Alderman Jonathan Duda cautioned the rest of the Board to revisit the specific issue of the developer of the Wilkes Lane property rather than reopening the conversation for full access and a traffic signal at the Wilkes Lane intersection.
“What I need to see when we revisit this is traffic engineering rebuttal to our policy,” Duda said.
Alderman Matt Fitterer said he would revisit the issue if a traffic study came back and said the city made a mistake in planning to put a right-in, right-out island in at Wilkes. Duda added if the developer’s main issue is a lack of left-turn access to the site from Hwy. 31, they could probably work out an alternative in order to allow left turns while still keeping the island.
However, Pierce confirmed that the development group for the property wants the city reconsider the entire right-in, right-out island.
The Wilkes Lane intersection improvement was only up for discussion Monday and no vote was taken.
Prior to the Board taking a resolution on the item up for a vote, the Transportation Advisory Committee will continue the discussion at its next meeting on Oct. 17 before making a recommendation.
Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at email@example.com.