WILMINGTON — The intersection at Gordon Road and Market Street in Wilmington is one of the more congested locations in the city. In fact, according to traffic engineering studies the intersection operates at a level of service (LOS) F, this is a graded scale where A is the best, and F is the worst in terms of traffic congestion.
Despite this, plans have been submitted to the city for a rezoning request to add more than 30,000-square-feet of retail at the intersection and increase traffic from the property from 28 trips per day, to 2,082 average trips per day.
This is a 7335.71% increase in traffic volume, but developers claim the request is reasonable.
The property owners include Robert N. Batuyios from New York, Nicholas Batuyios, Peter Saffo, and the Batuyious Saffo Recombination.
A LOS of F, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, “Describes forced or breakdown flow. Such conditions generally exist within queues forming behind breakdown points.”
The property in question sits behind the Walgreens Pharmacy and is currently zoned R-15 (residential). There are two residential units on the property now with private driveways accessing the major roadways.
Despite the fact that traffic is already at the lowest grade it could get, city staff is supportive of the request.
“The comprehensive plan identifies the site as within a High-density Transition Area of Opportunity and Mixed Use Place on the plan’s Growth Strategies Map. The comprehensive plan calls for development and redevelopment that is compatible with the surrounding area and also supports development and redevelopment in areas already served by adequate infrastructure. The proposed rezoning would apply an appropriate zoning classification that is consistent with surrounding properties and allow for commercial development that is compatible with the surrounding area. The proposed rezoning is also compatible with the
commercial node located around the intersection of Market Street and Gordon Road. Staff believes the proposed zoning amendment is consistent with the recommendations of the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan and the focus areas of the city’s strategic plan; staff believes the request is reasonable or in the public interest and recommends approval of the request,” according to the city staff report.
Justification from owners
So how do property owners justify the development and 7,000%+ increase in traffic?
They do so through four different points including the fact that the property would be more viable as commercial property, the fact that Wave Transit serves the area, and the fact that the Military Cutoff Extension project will alleviate some of the traffic in the area.
According to the request, “Traffic counts provided for the sections of Market Street and Gordon Road in the vicinity of the proposed rezoning are presently found to be in excess of their reasonable capacities, translating into an unsatisfactory service level. However, we believe that the proposed rezoning, though conventional and not conditional, is still justified to address the potential additional volume for the following reasons:
- The proposed rezoning would allow for a more viable land use along a major thoroughfare and is consistent with City Council’s economic development priorities. The site is underutilized with the existing three residences. The form, function, and land-use efficiency, based on area characteristics such as existing infrastructure, adjacent uses, unique site characteristics, needs of the community, and geographic location, would be improved if this “island” of a residential district were changed to match the surrounding commercial district.
- The site is located at an interconnected node of two major roads. Any development of the subject tracts would depend on recombining these tracts with adjacent tracts under the same ownership, thereby providing the required street frontage. A comprehensive plan for the commercial quadrant will ultimately disperse traffic to two arterial roadways.
- There is an established transit route for public transportation along Gordon Road.
- The NCDOT Military Cutoff Extension project is ultimately intended to improve traffic volume and provide for more efficient flow in this area.”
The areas surrounding the property are mostly commercial businesses, so the ‘island effect’ that is referenced is accurate. The justification that traffic would be divided onto two major roads (Gordon Road and Market Street) while likely, it is still worth pointing out that both roads are currently operating well overcapacity.
The fact that Wave Transit currently has a route that runs on Gordon Road does not mean that route will run in the future since the public transportation system is facing significant difficulties. In fact, New Hanover County said it would be pulling its funding from the transit system (most of Gordon Road is actually in the county, not the City of Wilmington).
Wave Transit has also been talking about service reductions in order to save the transportation system money, so the viability of using the existence of a public transportation route near the property is questionable.
Finally, the Military Cutoff Road extension project is well underway but the true impacts it will have to traffic on Market Street and Gordon road will not really be known until the route is complete, which is still two years away at least.