WILMINGTON — For over three weeks, a 28-acre construction site for the new Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW) near Maides Park has required hundreds of sand-hauling trucks to pass through residential areas along Princess Place Drive and Manly Avenue.
“The constant noise (from the trucks) has gotten so bad I’ve started wearing earplugs in my home,” said Princess Place resident Bill Portnoy.
“The problem I have is that this is a residential neighborhood, even more so down on Manly Avenue,” said Kevin McLane, Portnoy’s neighbor. “They’re beating up the roads … and spewing all that pollution into the air. This could’ve been better thought out by (the contractor).”
McLane claimed that a section of Princess Place Drive, near 29th Street, was closed recently because sinkholes had developed on the road.
“It was already a problem area, but it was certainly exasperated by seeing hundreds of trucks a day for over a month, each with a full load of sand,” McLane said.
City Traffic Engineer Don Bennett said that although city code prohibits through truck movement on all city streets, it does not “preclude them from using (a city street) for the purpose of loading or unloading.”
“As there are two accesses to the site, Manley and Sunglow, and GLOW has frontage on both, it would be permissible for construction traffic to access from either,” Bennett said.
Margee Herring, a member of the board of directors for GLOW N.C., said that although the construction of the school comes at a cost to nearby residents, those same residents will reap benefits in the future – particularly in the further development of Maides Park, where the City of Wilmington is planning to build a gymnasium.
“The area is going to see some real growth and improvement in the long run,” Herring said, “but it is going to require some of these construction compromises along the way.”
She pointed to the future synergy between the school and Maides Park, and to contributing towards developing a park she believes is an “underutilized asset” through mutually beneficial programming with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
While Manly Avenue is a city road, with maintenance costs covered by city taxpayers in the form of the city’s general fund, Princess Place Drive is maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Ben Hughes, a district engineer for the NCDOT, said that trucks do put more stress on the roadways than your standard vehicle, and that any repairs to state roads will be covered by the NCDOT, which is funded by the state Motor Fuel Tax.
“But we don’t restrict, for the most part, trucks driving through the city,” Hughes said. “You have all the businesses that rely on trucks getting there to deliver their goods, and if you start restricting truck traffic, you may pigeonhole people being able to access the places where they live and where their businesses are.”
Hughes, looking at a map of the area, also noted that the contractor, Monteith Construction, could not avoid residential areas while delivering necessary materials to the construction site.
Bryan Thomas, Chief Operating Officer of Monteith Construction, said the company understands the residents’ complaints, and that it is working with the city on temporarily fixing potholes along the truck route.
“The school should really bring some great improvements (to the Maides Park area),” Thomas said, “but there are some growing pains that come with it.”
The city’s Director of Planning, Development and Transportation, Glenn Harbeck, said that the city was has been looking into enhancing the condition of Manly Avenue, and into making the street more suitable for access to the GLOW Academy – North Carolina’s first single-gender public charter school.
“The school will be an asset to the neighborhood,” said GLOW’s Herring. “In the meantime, there are these construction consequences that we all recognize, and we want to get to the other end of the process as much as the neighbors do.”