Planners give Walgreens another shot

  By Thomas Wilson
star staff
  twilson@starhq.com
  The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission will again debate granting final site plan for a drug store development that has been on the commission's agenda for nine months.
  A called meeting of the commission is set Monday night to discuss final site plan approval for the Walgreens drug store development on Broad Street.
  Real estate closings and debate over the vehicle access to the property has kept site plan in limbo for several months.
  The commission remains at odds over an amended site plan request opening up a "full-access" entrance to the property from Broad Street. Property developer Ed Street requested the full-access entrance allowing vehicle traffic to enter the property to turn right onto the northbound lanes of Broad Street or turn left across three lanes of traffic to travel south on Broad Street.
  Some planning commissioners feel the entrance creates a safety hazard to the 30,000 motorists that travel along Broad Street each day.
  Commissioners deadlocked 3 to 3 on a vote approving the amended site plan at the commission's Aug. 3 meeting. Commissioners Victor Deloach and Manual Bandarra along with chairman Haynes Elliott voted in favor of the amended site plan granting the full-access entrance while Jack Cole, Ken Markland and Sam Shipley voted no. Commissioner Nancy Alsup did not attend the meeting.
  Street initially presented the Walgreens development to the commission in January. After approving the rezoning of residential property on East C Street and closure of an alley off Lynn Avenue, planning commissioners gave the project subdivision plat approval and preliminary site plan approval in February. Street advised the commission several property deals were in the works to finalize the development. The commission denied an earlier request by Street for a full-access entrance on Lynn Avenue.
  He then approached the commission at its March meeting requesting the final site plan be amended to provide a full-access egress from the property onto Broad Street. The egress allows motorists leaving the property to turn right onto the northbound lanes of Broad Street or turn left across three traffic lanes to travel south on Broad Street. The preliminary site plan allowed for a right-turn-only egress on Broad Street and Lynn Avenue and full access on East C Street. A right-turn entrance provides one entrance lane and one exit lane to a property site while prohibiting motorists from making left turns across multiple lanes of traffic.
  Commissioners voted 6-1 in March with Shipley voting no to approve the request for a full-access egress on Broad Street. Several commissioners thought that vote granted final site plan approval. However, the minutes of the meeting reflect approval was granted on the understanding that Napa Auto Parts had a full access entrance on Broad Street, which commissioners found to be incorrect.
  Street advised the commission early on that he needed time to close the purchase of adjoining properties as well as find a new location for the Napa store.
  Cole and Markland said at the Aug. 3 meeting that their "yes" votes in March came on the assertion by Street that Napa Auto Parts had a full-access entrance on Broad Street, Street has been issued a building permit by the city government to construct the store building and property not including the Broad Street entrance. He was not available for comment on Friday about the development.
  City Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, and city staff members as well as the county's EMS director oppose a full access entrance on Broad Street. Ornduff cited a traffic impact study completed by the Mattern & Craig engineering firm describing traffic movement and safety problems created with permitting motorists to turn across multiple lanes of traffic.
  According to the study, only 11 percent of motorists were expected to turn left from the site across two lanes of traffic onto Broad Street while 36 percent were expected to turn right onto Lynn Avenue to exit the store parking lot.
  The Tennessee Department of Transportation report on average daily traffic found more than 30,000 vehicles traveling on Broad Street. Shipley, who serves as chairman of the Carter County EMS board of directors, has doggedly warned the commission that a full-access entrance posed major safety problems allowing motorists to cut across five lanes of traffic on Broad Street.
  Walgreens' entry into Elizabethton has been a difficult one.
  A separate group of developers dropped plans to build a Walgreens near the present day Wal-Mart superstore on West Elk Avenue last year after the commission refused to approve a site plan granting them a new curb cut entrance.
  The new Napa store is under construction on Broad Street. The store's final site plan approved by the Planning Commission granted two-way access to the property. While entrances vary in clear markings, the majority of businesses located along Broad Street and West Elk Avenue presently only right turn in and right turn out access to vehicle traffic.