Wednesday, July 17, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

2019 downtown master plan still stirs controversy, debate

Two years ago, a consultant’s group made a significant number of recommendations to substantially reconfigure downtown Graham.

For the most part, the plan has been put aside but, in many cases, decisions were not reached on the city council’s final position on some of the issues.

On the night of the 2019 elections, the council voted, 3-2, to approve the plan with nine changes recommended by then-councilman Griffin McClure who had not sought re-election. His motion was also supported also by then-councilman Lee Kimrey, who lost his re-election bid that very night, and Melody Wiggins who now faces voters in 2021.

Voting against McClure’s motion for approving most of the plan’s outlines were mayor Jerry Peterman and councilman Chip Turner.

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Two years later, the candidate dissatisfaction with the plan is clear.

Most candidates, other than Montoya, express broad disagreement with the specific recommendations to overhaul downtown Graham with wider sidewalks, narrower streets, eliminating Court Square parking (both around the courthouse and the perimeter), getting logging and other trucks off of Main Street, removing one parking lot (on West Elm Street), and building a parking deck (on West Harden Street).

Wiggins avoided making comments on any specific dimensions of the company’s recommendations, which were listed in the newspaper’s supplemental questionnaire. In her summary response, Wiggins says, “The Graham Downtown Master Plan was passed with numerous amendments on November 5, 2019,” apparently referring to the nine changes incorporated by McClure.

Talley, Turner, Alvis, Chin, Flood, and Parsons had almost uniformly negative reactions to the consultant’s proposals for:

· Eliminating all parking around the Historic Court House and the perimeter of Court Square; one of McClure’s revisions would also kept about 40 pull-in spaces around the exterior, but was non-committal about parking around the courthouse itself;

This drawing from the consultant shows the original plan for Court Square, with no parking whatsoever and specialty features in the four corners. The splash pad (top right/northeast corner) was eliminated during city council consideration.

· The four corners of Court Square would have various specialty features; a “splash park” envisioned for the northeast corner was removed by one of McClure’s revisions, but the other three corners appeared to maintain the consultant’s recommended changes, including the planting of many trees in lieu of current parking;

· Elimination of loading zones along North and South Main streets and East and West Elm streets; one of McClure’s revisions suggested leaving loading zones “as close to current sites as possible.”

· Putting in a roundabout at South Main and McAden Street; this idea “should not be pursued,” under McClure’s November 5 revisions;

· Building a parking garage on county-owned property along West Harden Street;

· Narrowing the lanes of traffic on South Main Street;

Lanes would be narrowed from five now to two under the 2019 proposal for downtown Graham. Pictured above is the proposed look; below is how the street looked in 2019.

· Re-routing truck traffic off Main Street onto Marshall Street; one of McClure’s revisions suggested broadening the consideration of where truck traffic might be diverted, to include Gilbreath, Harden, McAden, and Maple in addition to Marshall;

· Eliminating a parking lot on West Elm, substituting instead a small park.

The drawing above shows the consultant’s ideas for West Elm Street, contrasted to the (2019 and today) look below.

Only Montoya voices support for any of the consultant’s ideas, voicing support for elimination of Court Square parking, addition of specialty features around the perimeter of Court Square, and for the park on West Elm Street. She did not voice an opinion on other aspects of the plan, saying, “I’d like to do more research on the topics.”

Six of the candidates were also straightforward in opposing the use of “eminent domain” as a means to force citizens to sell their property for the city to acquire land for some of the proposals.

See the full supplemental questionnaire and the candidates’ responses on page 6 [last page of questionnaire below].

Candidate biographical information can be found here:

The full questionnaire is HERE  Scroll to last page for questions on the downtown plan.

See story on candidate positions on other issues:

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