The East Lincoln Betterment Association continues to be a leader in the east Lincoln community while increasing awareness of pending Lincoln County decisions that are important to overall quality of life for residents. The community’s interest in being heard has steadily increased every year, particularly around the traffic.
Earlier this year an unprecedented unification of almost all the homeowner associations on Webbs Road (more than 1,000 homes) led the way in influencing the county officials’ thinking, as new proposals began to be challenged. Changes in policies have begun to be seen from no longer accepting funds in lieu of delivering on promised road improvements for traffic mitigation to ensuring preservation or improvements of main road intersections being affected by additional development.
While we are seeing some changes, it is not enough considering community members have highlighted their density concerns for over a decade and now it has become very visible to everyone the impacts of decisions made years ago. Not only are some of the intersections intended to allow for the smooth flow of traffic failing to perform well, in some cases they have become dangerous as we see an increase in the number of collisions adding to the demand on our EMS resources.
Some of the recent decisions by other counties to cancel business projects due to concerns about traffic impact is almost the opposite of what the community has been told could be done in the past, over and over again. We continue to see road improvement budgets delayed or removed all together, so the challenges are not going to be solved any time soon. Allowing any further degradation of traffic flow by approving new projects will be viewed very negatively by the community.
Besides traffic, we need to see a very real separation of residential and commercial. ELBA has been approached by a number of community members trying to understand the planning and zoning process for considering requested changes. The one underlying concept that always becomes the point of discussion is the planning of “transition.” As has been said before, when new areas are initially developed there is typically a wide range of uses due to the lack of any oversight and planning, but over time uses begin to be grouped and separated, which increases with planning.
All communities want to have separation of residential from commercial (which includes industrial), which is one of the reasons why planning and zoning attempts to put plans and processes in place to support such objectives. The key is to have a process that facilitates the transition to more consistent grouping of uses over the long term.
Can the planning and zoning team share with the community the strategy and methods for maintaining the separation of areas, while managing the transition of areas over time?
Examples of questions people ask:
– Are there identified preferred zoning categories bordering residential areas?
– Is there a method of prioritization of various commercial categories (light to heavy) to be placed farther and farther from residential areas, and if so how is it measured?
– Are existing barriers (ie. roads, freeways, rivers, etc.) used for separation?
– Do you have strategic objectives (traffic levels, EMS response times, etc.) and metrics to report level of success?
These are a few examples of the information being sought, but the underlying theme is consistent, which is how does the planning and zoning process maintain consistency and ensure separation of zones as a large area evolves and develops. There are proposals in process that continue to create community concerns about transition.
There have been concerns expressed at recent public hearings and the initial feedback is that nothing can be done. We have learned over the past decade that if you accept the “business as usual” answers, we will get more of the same challenges we are facing today.
East Lincoln County is a great place to live, the real question is, has it been improving over the past 10 years, or said another way are we proud of the actual changes that we see. We need a strategic balancing of planning priorities to be able to support constantly improving quality of life in East Lincoln County, not a tactical approach of just approving one more development for tax revenue.
– George Barr is a member of the East Lincoln Betterment Association board. This is part of a series of columns from regional business services agencies.