City curb cuts under review


  City officials will soon review curb cuts that dash areas of West Elk Avenue and Broad Street in Elizabethton and that occasionally force motorists to quickly stop. The review comes just three weeks after a horrific accident claimed the lives of two people on West Elk Avenue.
  Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development David Ornduff said Tuesday that the logistical issues of existing curb cuts are being reviewed by members of the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission.
  "That is an area of concern to the city," said Ornduff. "Those are being studied by the planning commission."
  The city recently closed an entry point to the shopping center on West Elk Avenue where two people were killed earlier this month when they tried to turn across two lanes of traffic.
  "We thought it best to close it recognizing that patrons of that shopping center could enter through a protected left turn at Roan Street," Elizabethton City Manager Charles Stahl said earlier this week. "It is very clear from the recent tragic accident that speed, and sight distance all contribute in traffic accidents along the highway where traffic is at an extreme at peak times."
  Peak traffic times on West Elk Avenue and Broad Street continue to expand. A study by the Tennessee Department of Transportation charting daily traffic flow during 2003 found more than 31,000 vehicles travel along Broad Street each day.
  Stahl also said the stretch of West Elk Avenue from Roan Street to Holly Avenue also has no center stacking lane for vehicles turning across the street, which creates another problem for traffic management.
  "It is a very narrow and dangerous stretch of highway with multiple curb cuts and no shoulder to speak of," he said.
  Stahl said when TDOT paved West Elk Avenue four years ago, they directed the city to close vehicle access from West Elk Avenue to Holly Avenue near Pal's restaurant due to safety concerns. The city posted "Do Not Enter" signs at Walnut Street to discourage vehicle traffic cutting across West Elk Avenue.
  City ordinances pertaining to property use prohibits more than one driveway approach when a lot is 75 feet or less in width and fronting any street. The ordinance prohibits a curb cut on the same property within 75 feet of the edge of a cross street or within 10 feet of a curb return. The maximum width allowed for commercial driveways is 40 feet.
  The Walgreens drug store under construction on Broad Street was initially proposed for West Elk Avenue at the former North American Rayon Corporation property near the West Elk/Hudson Avenue intersection. The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission shot down a site plan request by a property development firm representing Walgreens that called for a new curb cut onto West Elk Avenue roughly 75 feet from the existing entrance point. The vote came after the city's planning department recommended denial of the plan because of the proposed curb cut.
  Planning commissioner and the city's Mayor Pro Tem, Sam Shipley, opposed a full-access driveway for the Walgreens development on Broad Street. The full-access entrance allows motorists traveling south on Broad Street to cut across two through traffic lanes and one right turn lane to enter the Walgreens property.
  Shipley, who is also chairman of the Carter County Rescue Squad Board of Directors, said in at least two commission meetings that the full-access entrance is an accident waiting to happen.
  Ornduff said accommodating commercial development while keeping with city property use ordinances is always an issue.
  "It is one of those things where it is difficult to find a happy medium that fits city ordinances and meets the needs of the business community," he said.