Penny Tax to finance McNulty Rd. upgrade

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood residents got their first look at two choices for the planned improvements on McNulty Drive Thursday night at a public informational meeting held at Doko Manor.

From 5 to 7 p.m. residents poured into the manor to view two concept plans for the area being considered by the Richland County Transportation Penny Program.

The purpose of the meeting was to gather public input on the two plans currently being offered for improvements to McNulty Drive that include roadway resurfacing, on-street parking, bike and pedestrian accommodations, lighting and landscaping.

The first option presented from the program included a 75 foot roadway that would then have sidewalks and bike lanes to be lined with detailed landscaping. The plans also allowed space for on-street parking along the roadway and a roundabout to be installed at the street’s intersection with Boney Road.

In the second and more recent option conceived for consideration, the roadways would take up less space with no on-street parking and a far less detailed landscaping plan. The second concept also did away with the on-street parking, but kept the potential plan for a roundabout t Boney Road.

Residents George and Dorothy Wilson said they favored the second option, and while they were not certain that a roundabout was the appropriate measure to take, believed that intervention at the Boney Road intersection was long overdue.

“The traffic in the morning and afternoon is horrible with the school traffic through there,” George Wilson stated.

“It gets all backed up and then cross traffic from McNulty pull out past the stop sign and then make it even more congested. It’s a real problem and I’m glad they are addressing it.”

The vast majority of those attending the meeting shared the Wilson’s opinion that the more recent “Alternative B” was the best fit for the town of Blythewood.

Longtime resident and chair of the Architectural Review Board Jim McLean said he felt that the first alternative, with its elaborate landscaping and on-street parking, was both unnecessary and overreaching.

“It’s taking away too much property; there is no need for on-street parking when there is already parking in place for these businesses along the street. It’s just not needed,” McLean stated.

Resident Bob Haynes agreed that the on-street parking was “unnecessary” and said that he had no problem with a roundabout if that is what the program saw best fit the Boney Road intersection, but he questioned how much property would be taken up by it. He also said he felt that the upcoming construction of a new Bethel-Hanberry school might remove its need.

Current plans for the new school call for the demolition of the present building, and construction of a new facility just behind its present location. The Blythewood ballfield would remain in its location and the curve (around the school) on Boney Road past the McNulty intersection will be straightened out.

“You might not even need (the traffic circle) after that,” Haynes stated.

Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross said that he was pleased with both the turn out and the constructive comments he was hearing from residents during the meeting.

“I am very pleased to see the public coming out to view these plans and to let us know what they think. We always have a big turnout for these type of meetings and I’m glad to see it,” Ross stated.

In regards to the overwhelming approval of the “Alternate B” drawings, Ross said that he agreed with the things he was hearing and that he could see further potential with that preference. Referencing a parcel of land located between the library and the Richland County Magistrate’s Office, Ross offered that the city could explore purchasing the land from its private owner and offer additional parking for the ball field.

“It’s just one idea that I thought might have potential, but with the money that we are saving from not going with the first concept, we could use that to purchase these land and develop it as a parking lot with direct access to the ballfield behind it.

The public comment period for residents to submit their recommendations or concerns will end on Feb. 8. After that date, the project team will review and consider all comments received in their further development of the project.

A second public meeting is expected to be held later this year to display the final conceptual plan to the public for final discussion.