PC looks into Multi-Use Trail

Blythewood – Several months ago Council asked the Planning Commission to look into the practicality and planning of a system of multi-use trails in the Blythewood area and Town Administrator Gary Parker brought that suggestion back to the Commission Monday evening.

“We had someone from LandPlan South come to a meeting and review the pros and cons of such a system,” Parker told the Commissioners. “The thought that occurs to me is that the you might want to recommend to Council that perhaps a multi-use trail committee should be appointed,” Parker said. “And they could kind of start that process so maybe you guys aren’t actually doing all that.”

Parker said he worked as the City Manager for Archdale North Carolina when they began work on their multi-use trail system in 2001 and referred to the undertaking as an “overwhelming task” that includes securing road right of ways, acquiring easements and potentially rail-road right of ways.

Archdale has not completed their trail-system in the 15 years since construction began, Parker said.

“Even though I believe in this and I think this is a great thing to do, it is a very difficult thing to do and one of the reasons is that it’s very difficult to acquire easements and rights of ways,” Parker said.

Multi-use trail systems were one of the major goals of the 2005 Master Plan to make a pedestrian and biker friendly Town Center. The total estimated cost to construct all 17 trails proposed under the Master Plan would run $23,409,000 and, according to Town Planner Michael Criss, if money were not an object, the project could be completed in the range of 3-5 years.

“I think the first question that needs to be asked is, ‘Is that the best use of $23 million of town funds?’ That’s expensive,” Commissioner Donald Brock said. “You look at some of these numbers, it’s a big number, especially for the ta town that doesn’t generate any tax revenue.”

Due to the exorbitant cost, Council recommended the Commission focus their short terms goals on trails T-11: from Boney Road to the Park Area, T-12: Creech Road Extension, T-13: Langford/Fulmer, T-14: Round Top Trail and T-15: Beasley Creak Greenway.  T-11 gained the most favor from the Commission.

“If it were me, it would here to the baseball park, I think that was one of the trails listed there. A lot of children come to the park to use the playground,” Commission Chair Bryan Franklin said. “They use the library and that would be nice for them to commute on a bicycle.”

The Commission did not vote on the matter, but will be seeking volunteers for the committee.

Storage Express Expansion

Storage Express will be adding 30,925 square foot of mini-warehouse space to complete development of their five-acre lot after the Commission voted unanimously to approve the site plan. Exceeding a 25,000 square foot threshold classified the project as group development, and opened the development up for Commission review even though it was an allowed land-use.

“Planning Commission has subdivision plat review and approval authority, but you also have group development review and approval authority for the largest projects,” Criss said.

In addition to the new space, Bohannon will be enhancing the visual of the property along the I-77 corridor by adding shrubs and a six-foot high PVC screening to the northern most portion, a slightly different screening with a four-foot high berm with a simulated wrought iron fence for the middle portion and a tree preservation with a detention pond at the bottom third of the property.

“When we went out to secure the loans and financing we made sure that we had enough money to straighten up that I-77 corridor,” Storage Express owner Dewayne Bohannon. “It’s important for us to get that right, I don’t like the way it looks, so it was important for us to spend money to get it right.”

Abney Hills Estate

Essex Homes, the developer of Abney Hills Estate, also received some goods new from the Commission. The Commission gave unanimous approval for a $261,312.50 bonded plat request from Abney Hills Phase two, with the condition they submit confirmation from Richland County on road satisfaction and associated drainage.

“It’s about as good a final plat as you can get but some of the infrastructure is incomplete, and it is an obligation of the town to see to it that the project is completed,” Criss said. “If the developer should fail to perform, that’s why it’s such a thorough review.”

Phase one of Abney Hills is nearing completion, and phase two has around 85 percent of the infrastructure completed, and will be home to 52 sites once completed.

“At this point all the roads are in, the water, the sewer, everything infrastructure-wise is completed with the exception of the street trees, the sidewalks, the things that would be accomplished when the homes are being constructed,” Essex Homes representative Shane Alford said.