Kingsport tweaking rules for traffic calming measures

Rick Wagner • Jun 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — City residents and property owners along and around Shadyside Drive may have a second chance to get traffic calming devices on that road.

During a work session Monday, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen asked city staff to prepare an amendment to regulations for the traffic calming device program that would prohibit non-city residents from voting on the measures.

Under current regulations, the votes of county residents living on or near Shadyside have killed the proposal.

“Why are county residents voting on our city capital issues?” Alderman Ken Marsh asked.

City traffic engineer Michael Thompson replied the city tried to include all nearby residents who would reasonably be affected by the devices.

The slightly raised sections of road designed to slow vehicles have been installed on Watauga Street and are pending on Pendragon Road in Ridgefields.

Shadyside, off Moreland Drive in the Colonial Heights area, meets the other requirements for the traffic calming measures, which include minimum average traffic of 1,000 vehicles per day and at least 85 percent of the drivers going 10 mph over the speed limit.

Also, eligible roads cannot be minor arterial roads like Orebank Road.

West Sullivan Street, with 2,910 vehicles a day and 13 crashes in the past three years, would be eligible except that the 85th percentile speed was 37 mph in a 30 mph zone — 3 mph short of the required 10 mph. Watauga had 85th percentile speeds of 41 mph in a 30 mph zone, 10 crashes and average traffic of 5,258 a day.

Of 18 roads under consideration, Essex Drive, Suffolk Street and Bellingham Drive are awaiting public hearings, Watauga is complete, Pendragon is awaiting construction, and Shadyside — as of Monday — is unresolved. The rest do not meet requirements under current or proposed regulations.

Shadyside’s vehicle count averaged 1,229 a day, with 85 percent going 46 mph in the 25 mph zone, city statistics show. It had two wrecks in three years.

Harold Rock, of 943 Shadyside Drive and one of three people to speak for the devices, said the vote was “set up for failure” since about 40 percent of the 177 who voted live outside the city and, Rock said, use the road as a shortcut.

“If I lived in that area, I’d vote against this, too,” Rock said. “Some of them are traveling at 70 miles per hour.”

Alderman Pat Shull said the speeding was a “compelling case for safety” to be improved by installing the devices.

Under the regulations, a study process is initiated by a petition of at least five residents. Those eventually voting through the mail must approve the installation by a 70 percent margin, with failure to return a ballot counted as a yes vote.

At tonight’s regular BMA meeting, starting at 7 p.m. in the large courtroom of City Hall, the board will to vote on proposals to pay Michael Peters seven annual payments of $17,075 for the old Pete’s Generator Shop at 217 Revere St., which City Manager John Campbell said would soon be torn down so new underground utilities for the area could be laid.

A city appraisal valued the property at $86,000, not including old equipment in the building.

The board also is to vote to pay $140,000 for the Kingsport Firefighters Association building at 214 Clay St., which a city-commissioned appraisal valued at $129,000.

“We’re either going to condemn it or we’re going to pay a premium,” Vice Mayor Ben Mallicote said.

Marsh said he believed the price was too high and “out of whack” for both buildings but especially the Peters property since it does not house a going business or organization.

However, Mayor Dennis Phillips and Alderman Valerie Joh said they saw no problem with the negotiated amounts.

City Attorney Mike Billingsley recommended approval of the negotiated deals rather than take the chance juries could award higher amounts if the city sought to get the property through eminent domain. He said the city also would have court expenses and other costs for such condemnation proceedings.

“I don’t think you’ll do any better on condemnation than what you have now,” Billingsley said. “They are not out of line with what you’ve already paid.”

The board also reviewed tonight’s second and final reading of the 2007-08 budget, which is to include no property tax rate increase.

The in-city water service rate also will not increase, but outside-city water rates will go up 3.5 percent. In-city sewer rates will go up 2.8 percent, compared to an 8 percent rate increase for outside-city sewer service.

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