BY DEBBIE PAGE
The Troutman Town Council adopted the Troutman Alternatives Study, a plan two years in the making, during Thursday’s meeting. The council also recognized several school resource officers for their accomplishments, approved a number of town policies, and filled several vacancies on town boards.
TROUTMAN ALTERNATIVE STUDY
After community outcry at the 1980s-era bypass plan to address Troutman’s traffic issues, the council hired Stantec engineering and planning firm in 2019 to conduct a series of public and committee meetings and a two-day charrette, and collect virtual input to create alternatives to these dated plans.
The community deemed the bypass concept as detrimental to downtown economic health, expensive, and disruptive to the rural farmland where the bypass was originally planned.
The approved but delayed NCDOT Main Street improvements from Cedar Lane to Barium Lane, now scheduled for construction in 2029, will address only part of the traffic pattern issues. The Troutman Alternatives Study came up with six suggestions, with the Main Street improvements option favored by the committees and in community feedback.
The study offered preliminary design and engineering recommendations to improve traffic flow, support development along the corridor from Cedar Lane to the Interstate 77 interchange at Appliance Avenue, and further develop the town’s bike and pedestrian paths. The plan is broken into phases, with suggested timelines and possible funding sources for each phase.
Stantec’s proposal divides the Main Street corridor into two main sections:
The Eastway Drive to Appliance Avenue section is a four-lane, 35 mile MPH gateway into the Main Street downtown area with a 10-foot side path, canopy trees, landscaped and concrete medians, and a “gateway” roundabout at the southern end of Eastway Drive.
This gateway, which is the “front door” to the community, sets the tone for the visitor experience. The triangular strip just north of a suggested roundabout at the southern end of Eastway Drive is the recommended site for “Gateway Park,” featuring the relocated Depot/pavilion, gardens, flexible lawn space, a walking trail, outdoor seating, wood fencing, a multi-use trail, and parking.
In the second section, from the gateway roundabout to Cedar Lane, the study recommends two to three lanes of 25 MPH roads with pockets of divided median where allowable. Limited right of way and home proximity makes a four-lane road impractical in this stretch.
This area would have 5-foot sidewalks on each side of the road, canopy trees, landscaped median where appropriate, curb and gutter, and retaining walls at key locations. This well-lit streetscape area with public art and wayfinding signage would attract more investment – commercial, residential, office, and service – in the area.
High visibility crosswalks are planned at Houston Road, Arden Center, Ostwalt-Amity Road, Royal Oaks Drive, Trackside Road, Autumn Leaf Road, Pine State Road, and Cedar Lane. The Flower House Loop intersection would also be redesigned and realigned.
The study also recommends working with state and federal agencies to add a new northbound I-77 ramp and removal of the existing northbound loop in the northeast quadrant. This change would eliminate the hazardous weaving movement now necessary under the bridge area.
The total project would cost an estimated $23.2 million, not including right-of-way acquisition (only 2.5 acres total) or design/engineering costs (approximately $2 million). The narrow strip of right-of-way needs on this project will speed negotiations and lower costs.
The study chops the project into segments to spread out the cost and to create access to specific funding pots suitable for each area.
The project phases could be paid for by Troutman’s already approved NCDOT moneys as well as funding from the NCDOT Spot Safety and Hazard Elimination funding, grants, public/private partnerships, a bond referendum, the Main Street America program, the NCDOT Strategic Transportation Investment Law funding, the FAST Act, and Safe Routes to Schools money.
The Planning and Zoning Board recommended that the plan be presented to Town Council for approval as a policy to guide staff to begin actively seeking funding sources for the project phases the town wishes to pursue.
Interim Town Planner Jonathan Wells said the plan was “well-reasoned, thorough, and comprehensive” with active public input and engagement. However, he felt adopting the study results as part of the Strategic Master plan was premature, instead suggesting it be used as an “excellent context” for future refinements to the SMP.
Wells said council’s approval of the study as a policy would “cement the continued improvement of Main Street as the preferred course of action” and serve as a “platform for ongoing discussion” of transportation planning issues with various neighboring jurisdictions, agencies, and planning organizations.
Wells also urged swift approval of the plan because the region’s metropolitan planning organization will soon be asking for projects to include in the latest update of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan and for subsequent inclusion into the NCDOT’s roadway construction spending plan.
The council unanimously approved adopting the Main Street improvements alternative as “town policy for future enhancement to the town’s transportation network and directed staff to develop an implementation plan for possible consideration of the Stantec study’s recommendations.”
TOWN RECREATION USE POLICY AMENDED
The council also approved two changes to the usage rules for ESC Park, Troutman Depot Park, and the town’s greenway system.
Instead of two police officers required per 250 people at an event, the new language says that the town staff and police chief will have discretion as to the event’s required police presence. Under this new provision, security can be better tailored to both the type of event and the number of people attending.
Another change is the prohibition of any type of aviation device (airplane, ballon, parachute, drone, radio-controlled flying device, etc.) to be voluntarily launched or landed from these recreational areas except by Special Event Permit or permission of the town manager or designee.
This change was necessary to protect children and spectators from possible injury or invasion of privacy.
Career Academy and Technical School School Resource Officer Kerry Baker was recognized for his recent promotion to sergeant. Sgt. Baker has over 21 years of experience in law enforcement, 17 of which were as an SRO.
Troutman Police Chief Tina Fleming commended Baker’s leadership, his collaboration with community programs, and his coaching and mentoring of many student and athletes.
Fleming also presented School Resource Officer Justin Dagenhart with a plaque honoring his completion of the School Resource Officer certification. This certificate requires 400 classroom hours in school policing, ethics, and other law enforcement training.
SUPERMARKET EMPLOYEE DAY
Mayor Teross Young proclaimed February 22 as Supermarket Employee Day and presented Troutman Food Lion Manager Barry Smith with a plaque commemorating the honor.
The day honors the nearly 6 million American supermarket employees on the frontlines, especially the 162 employed in Troutman, who provide safe, healthy, and affordable food to local communities.
The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for grocers to keep shelves stocked while maintaining a COVID-safe environment for employees and customers.
Young commended the employees for meeting these challenges while displaying courage, compassion, dedication and leadership, as well as exemplifying customer service and community outreach.
Smith thanked the town for recognizing the extraordinary efforts of supermarket employees to meet community needs and safety in these unique circumstances.
OTHER COUNCIL ACTIONS
In other business, the council:
♦ Approved the required state audit contract with Petway, Mills, and Pearson at a cost of $13,100, with an additional $1,000 charge to write financial statements.
♦ Approved the building elevations for amenity building at Falls Cove at Lake Norman.
♦ Approved the Town of Troutman Naming Rights Policy, the ESC Park Softball/Baseball Fields Rules and Regulations, and the updated Farmers Market Rules and Guidelines
♦ Approved a budget amendment for $49,614 for the purchase of two Dodge Ram trucks for the Public Works Department.
♦ Approved Jerry Oxsher as the inside alternate and Lee Geiger as the ETJ member of the Board of Adjustment. Geiger’s name will be submitted to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval.
♦ Approved Kim Cavin to fill the unexpired term of Ron Wyatt on the Troutman ABC Board.