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CHTC: New ABC Store Could Spell Traffic Trouble

By Elizabeth Friend Posted April 15, 2013 at 11:26 pm

CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday reviewed a plan to build a new, 5,000 square foot free-standing ABC Store on Perkins Drive, on a 2.7 acre plot across from the Cruizers convenience store and the Chapel Hill North shopping complex.

But council member Gene Pease worried it’s likely to make a bad situation worse.

“Every time I’ve been in or out of this property, from either direction, it’s a hairy experience, and around rush hour it is just ridiculous,” said Pease. “I question a high traffic in-and-out use of this, quite frankly.”

In response, the applicant has offered to add a new left turn lane on Perkins Drive and to pay for a study six months after completion to evaluate the impact of the new traffic pattern.

Town Planner Kay Pearlstein said that study could lead to further restrictions on how cars enter and leave the site.

“We recommend a stipulation that would initially allow full access to both driveways, all turning movements, for six months and an evaluation at the end of that six month period of time,” said Pearlstein. “That study might put restrictions on that driveway, maybe limiting access to right-in, right-out.”

The Orange County ABC Board already operates a store at the Chapel Hill North shopping center, but ABC Board Manager Tony DuBois said the cost of leasing and repairing the current location could be better spent investing in a new, larger store.

No decisions were made at Monday’s public hearing. The project will return to the council for a vote on May 29. Council member Laurin Easthom asked staff to come back at that time with new ideas to solve the traffic tangle.

“My concern is the traffic safety and I think there could be a creative solution, potentially. I’d like to see it, if there is one,” said Easthom.

In other town business, the council voted unanimously to change the stormwater management rules for existing single-family homes.

Under a decade-old rule, projects that disturbed more than 5,000 square feet of land were required to build stormwater control systems, such as bio-retention ponds. Now, that threshold has been raised to 20,000 square feet and owners of about 150 homes can consider removing those ponds, if they can demonstrate that stormwater runoff is being effectively managed in other ways.

Town staffers say they’ll waive any permitting fees associated with reviewing the new designs.

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