Morehead City, N.C.
Mar. 2, 2021
TO THE EDITOR:
As property owners and county residents who will be impacted by the rezoning request of Bryan Starling to change the designation of a land parcel on Hwy 24 to Multi-family and Highway Commercial we are writing to voice concerns about how this action will impact us directly and the community at large.
The currently zoned R20 (Residential) property is located on Highway 24, between Woodridge Drive and Harbor Drive and directly behind the Walmart Supercenter.
Our primary concern is the safety of people who travel along this portion of Highway 24. This is already an area where a high degree of accidents occur due to traffic generated by Walmart and other businesses. Residents must exercise great caution turning onto or crossing Highway 24 because of the elevated level of traffic and the propensity of people to speed or run red lights in this area.
· Highway 24 has a 55 m.ph speed limit at this location and is one of the deadliest sections of roadway in the county, so bad that NCDOT is considering a median.
· Chi Hong Hom, a Woodridge resident was killed along this stretch on February 16, 2021.
· On February 12, 2021 a two- car accident sent one person to the hospital.
· From 2015 to 2019 the Harbor Drive and 24 intersection has had 30 accidents, 1 fatality (not Chi Hong Hom) and 9 moderate injuries (not including the accident of 2/12/21).
· From 2015 to 2019 the intersection of 24 and Bryan has had 11 accidents and 3 moderate injuries.
· From 2015 to 2019 the intersection of 24 and Hodges has had 10 accidents, 1 fatality and 6 moderate injuries.
· Starling projects at least 132 new daily trips for boat storage and commercial sales.
· Starling proposes at least 100 senior drivers from a senior retirement community to be introduced at a staggered entrance/exit with no stoplight.
· Adding two new uncontrolled entrances/exits in approximately 1,600 feet. This means from Woodridge Drive to Harbor Drive there would be an entrance/exit every 400 feet.
· Speed variance dramatically increases the chance of accidents.
· The boat storage facility will add numerous large slow-moving vehicles to the (traffic) mix. An F-150 pickup towing a medium sized trailer with boat is easily 50 feet, merging into 55 mph traffic will be slow at best.
· There will be an additional minimum 100 senior drivers at the second location. These drivers will also have to merge with 55 mph traffic.
· At least one of the new entrances/exits will be at a blind turn which is made considerably worse at different times of the year by the angle of the setting sun.
NCDOT is currently studying whether a median is required on Highway 24. If one is put in, these new entrances will be one directional.
· The turn radius for vehicles towing boats will sometimes require more than one lane.
· This development will add more pedestrian traffic along and crossing Highway 24, which further increases traffic hazards.
· There has been mention of a turn lane. None is shown on the sketches but assuming for argument the most favorable length would be about 8/100th of a mile. That gives the driver under 6 seconds at 55 mph 9 seconds at 35 mph to stop. However, there would be no merging lane unless it ran in front of the independent senior living development
·Finally, normally the developer pays for a traffic impact study before developments are authorized. Given this process is not following normal procedure, it raises the question if the project goes ahead, will the town lose its immunity for knowingly increasing the hazards?
In conclusion, on February 16, 2021, the night of the first hearing on this rezoning, our neighbor was killed crossing Highway 24. He is not the first Woodridge resident that has been hit. Several years ago a young teenage resident was struck and seriously injured while riding his bike across Highway 24. These individuals are not just statistics to us, they were our neighbors and friends.
Citizens have the right to believe elected officials will act in a manner that puts their physical safety first. A recent News Times editorial echoed this sentiment but in much broader terms. The editorial stated that caution should be required to maintain security and long-term viability of their sphere of influence given the quasi-contractual agreement between the public and government entities.
There will always be competing interests. But as mentioned in the editorial, once a plan is established, boards should be very cautious about changes and they should err on the side of existing plans and more importantly public safety.
This section of Highway 24 is currently one of the deadliest in the county. Adding two new staggered, uncontrolled entrances for large slow-moving vehicles and elderly drivers will dramatically increase speed variance and thereby increasing accidents putting Carteret residents and tourists at risk. Adding to that the preponderance of new drivers will be elderly with slower reaction time. We believe this request should be denied as there is inadequate information regarding traffic safety.
JAMIE and NANCY FISH
This letter has been edited because of space constraints.