development

Projects under development are a common sight in Huntersville, and a new town policy raises the minimums on expected traffic courts triggering an analysis of required project-related road improvements.

HUNTERSVILLE – Developers must still address the impact their projects have on the local road network, but a long-discussed change in policy endorsed by the town’s planning and transportation staff relaxes the standards requiring pre-development traffic analysis.

After months of debate – and partly in response to commissioner inquiries about ways to make the town’s development review process more efficient – commissioners approved an amendment to the town’s zoning ordinance by a 5-1 vote at their Jan. 7 meeting. The action raises the initial traffic count threshold requiring a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), a prescribed study of a proposed development’s potential impact on traffic on nearby roads and intersections. The TIA also identifies road or intersection improvements a developer must make to keep the road network functioning at an acceptable level once development occurs.

The change was recommended by town staff members, who explained the town’s existing traffic-count thresholds were requiring many developers to invest time and money in TIAs that indicate no need for road or intersection improvements.

The old rules stated that a TIA was required for any development expected to generate 50 or more peak-time vehicle trips, or 500 or more daily trips, on a neighboring road or intersection. The change raises the peak-hour threshold to 100 and the daily count trigger to 1,000.

The new thresholds, as explained to commissioners by town Transportation Engineer Stephen Trott, are more comparable to guidelines established by other municipalities. And the change should also result in fewer inconsequential TIA efforts.

“We’re looking to better align thresholds with the mitigation requirements,” Trott said.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, the Huntersville Planning Board recommended the changes by a 7-1 vote, and the town’s Ordinance Advisory Board endorsed the change by a 5-1 vote. But members of those boards, along with Commissioner Dan Boone – the lone dissenting vote on the town board – also urged a continued evaluation of the town’s rules.

Bruce Andersen, a former chairman of the town’s planning board, and Hal Bankirer, a former chairman and current member of the planning board, were among those who spoke during public comment sessions endorsing a closer examination and possible overhaul of the TIA rules.

And during the presentation about the proposed changes, Principal Planner David Peete acknowledged that while the planning board voted in favor of the proposed changes, members “expressed frustration” with the entire TIA package..

Commissioners who voted for the change also suggested a re-examination of the town’s guidelines, perhaps starting with discussions at the town’s two-day planning retreat that starts Jan. 31.

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