Also: City forms 'innovation team,' plans park renovations.
Palm Coast will narrow Whiteview Parkway to add dedicated left turn lanes and extend the bike path to U.S. 1.
“We really don’t need additional lanes; we don’t have that much traffic,” City Manager Jim Landon said in a City Council meeting March 27. “It’s those left and right turns where people stop and wait and have problems.”
The real problem stretch, he said, is between White Mill Drive and U.S. 1, where there’s no path and no shoulder.
“Just like we saw on Old Kings Road and Lakeview (Boulevard), it’s just ripe for the next bicyclist getting hit or a pedestrian walking in the street. So we’re trying to extend the path all the way out,” Landon said. “This is really a serious safety issue, and one that’s documented that we’ve had deaths, and it’s just a matter of time before we have others if we don’t take some action.”
The city plans to shrink the road from two lanes each direction to one in each direction, but add left turn lanes, and, at some intersections, right turn lanes at well. Some left turns would require a U-turn.
Councilwoman Heidi Shipley questioned the project, saying she’d heard complaints from residents during a community meeting.
“The people that were there didn’t want anything done,” she said. “I expected to see people there that wanted this project done; instead, everyone that was there was against the project. ... They came up with a lot of counter-problems that would happen. ... So I think we need to ... take the information that they gave us, have another meeting and kind of tweak it, so that the people could have some more input in it.”
Landon said the city’s engineers had already considered resident feedback, and that some of it was just complaints from residents who’d no longer be able to use their current cut-throughs under the new plan.
Shipley said they were talking about having to make a U-turn.
“If that saves a life, absolutely,” Landon said, “Because it’s those left turns where we’re seeing the serious conflicts.”
Nobile noted that the eastbound stretch of road has two left turns in quick succession — one at Wood Aspen Lane, then one at Woodbury Drive — that can be confusing for drivers.
“I don’t know what they were drinking when they made that up,” he said.
Mayor Milissa Holland said she wouldn’t mind doing more public outreach, but that she did not want to halt the whole project.
Councilman Bob Cuff said residents’ comments to him suggested that locals see it as beautification project instead of a safety project.
“I get the impression that a lot of people that saw that presentation thought, ‘Ah, this is just another expensive bike path,’ and didn’t even look at the basic reason they’re doing this, to try to save lives and decrease the number of traffic accidents,” he said.
Landon noted that drivers speed through the area at 50-60 mph, and there’s no shoulder. “This is trying to get an extension of the bike path all the way to U.S. 1, because if you don’t, it’s just not a safe route,” he said.
Other intersections along Whiteview also need reworking, including the one at Whiteview and Belle Terre Parkway, he said.
“That whole intersection doesn’t work well, either,” he said. “This is one that has a lot of statistics behind it that warrant it. It’s not a beautification project. It is trying to save lives.”
CITY CREATES ‘INNOVATION TEAM’
Palm Coast’s city staff is forming a 14-person “Innovation Team” to focus on innovative ideas concerning three city issues: downtown, “smart city” and civic engagement.
The team, Assistant City Manger Beau Falgout told the City Council at its March 27 meeting, was formed “to start addressing some of those conversations that you’ve had and accelerate some of those solutions.”
“I think this is fabulous, and I’m unbelievably excited about this, because I think this puts us on the right trajectory with having a team that will guide us through this process,”Mayor Milissa Holland said. “When we’re looking at our downtown and surrounding areas and telling our story, I believe geographically we’re positioned well.”
She asked what the team sees as the biggest challenge for innovation in the city.
One was attracting talent to the area, said a consultant to the city. “What do employers want? ... It’s really access to great talent,” he said. Getting that talent to Palm Coast is, he said, is partly a matter of raising awareness about the city. “The first thing is getting the word out, and cohesively presenting what that word is,” he said.
PARK RENOVATIONS PLANNED
Palm Coast is working on the second phase of Holland Park — which will include a splash park, fitness station, handball and pickleball court and shade for the dog park and bocce ball court— in the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and will be renovating there Long Creek Nature Preserve with a nature center, more trails and educational kiosks in 2020, according to a presentation at the March 27 City Council meeting.
The city also plans to renovate the pedestrian element surrounding Town Center Central Park in 2022.
The city expects to spend $2.76 million on parks and recreation renovation and maintenance projects over the next five years, including replacing sod at the Indian Trails Sports Complex, resurfacing basketball courts and replacing playgrounds equipment.