Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Town Council Considers Land & Transportation Plan – Its NOT What Citizens Wanted

Updated 3/11/09

Morrisville’s new Land Use & Transportation Plan (LUTP) will impact how you live, work, shop, and commute for the next 25 years. Does it reflect what citizens want? The purpose of the Town’s public workshops, focus groups and plan advisory committee was to assure that the interests, needs and vision of Morrisville citizens were the basis of the Plan. The LUTP being proposed does not fulfill this objective. The Town cites divergent and opposing views of Morrisville residents. However, there are many examples of clear citizen preferences being supplanted by Town staff proposals.

At all the public and advisory committee meetings, not one citizen asked for ADDITIONAL “mixed use” Regional Activity Centers (RAC) adjacent to the yet to be constructed Park West Village (NC 54 and Cary Pkwy). A “RAC” is large, high density retail, commercial and residential development (like Park West). To the contrary, low density residential homes were sought to compliment the surrounding prime single family neighborhoods (Preston, Weston Estates, Crabtree Crossing, and Huntington). Early in the process, the public and plan advisory committee were asked to choose between a "Scenario A" and "Scenario B" of possible land use. Overwhelmingly, "B" with its low density residential homes around Park West was preferred by citizens. Some citizens suggested a small medical facility to serve the residential communities. However, to provide it, there was no call to designate the area for substantial additional higher density mixed use. This proposal to add ADDITIONAL RAC’s around Park West comes solely from the Town staff.

Since the Land Use Plan is designed for the long term, current market conditions should not overrule what citizens asked for. Market conditions will change. It was only a few years ago that Cary rezoned a number of large parcels in Weston from commercial concentration to low density residential. The Land & Transportation Plan should reflect what citizen’s want for the future, not what developers prefer today.

The public and committee’s citizen members preferred the enhancement of Morrisville as low-density residential community, NOT as proposed in LUTP (higher density residential, commercial and over 900 acres of “mixed use” development). The message that was repeated over and over again was "no more large development" and "slow down" growth" (the same message that was heard at the recent Town Hall public meeting on the proposed tax increase). However, the LUTP reclassifies a significant amount of land parcels for commercial and dense residential development. Although there were a few residents who asked for "more shopping," the number of large shopping complexes already in the works (Wal-Mart, Park West, and Cary's proposed NC54/Weston Pkwy RAC) were not taken into account. The Town management emphasizes some answers given in an unscientific online survey, and discount the considerable public participation in the workshop and focus groups.

More than any land, transportation or other Town issue, Morrisville citizens’ highest priority was the improvement of NC 54. Many believed that the problems of NC 54 and its potential solutions should be the cornerstone of the Transportation Plan. However, NC 54 wasn't treated as a major item in earlier LUTP drafts. Following strong insistence by the plan’s advisory committee, NC 54 is provided greater status in the current draft. But the practicality and desirability of possible expansion examples that are summarized in the Transportation Plan were never presented at public meetings to citizens or discussed by the plan’s advisory committee. Important consideration of NC 54 solutions were not emphasized during the LUTP process.

Citizens’ emails and opinions at the public workshops were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposal for the Crabtree Crossing Parkway extension. The consensus of the advisory committee was NOT to include the extension in the LUTP. It will cost approximately $15-20 million dollars to construct (equal to almost the Town's entire operating budget). Excluding the Crabtree Crossing extension from the LUTP should be a "no brainer." However, the Town management provides undue emphasis to some support years ago when the extension would have been needed as a major detour. The railroad had considered closing its track crossing on Morrisville Pkwy for a year to construct an overpass for a proposed commuter rail system. In addition, this was before the prime residential homes were completed on Crabtree Crossing Parkway. These original conditions no longer exist! Although approximately 90% now express opposition, the Transportation Plan wrongly states that opinion is equally divided.

These are only a few of the major examples of where the proposed LUTP doesn't reflect the "voice of the people." Actually, it is contrary to it. There may be a belief that the "experts" know better. But the Town "experts" also recommended a 19% tax increase. There is still time for the Town Council to make certain that the LUTP is what citizens asked for!

Remaining Meeting Scheduled at Town Hall.
Tues, Mar 24 – 6:30 pm: Possible Approval

For information on reviewing the proposals, please click on the following link: 2009 Land Use & Transportation Plans.