Main Street improvements in Mathews

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Aug 07, 2019 - 03:38 PM

Photo: Mathews Main Street Committee member Carol Bova, left, explains details of the planned Main Street enhancements during a public forum Tuesday afternoon at Thomas Hunter Middle School. Residents questioning her are, clockwise from top left, Kate Bunner, John Craig Lewis and Susan Krista. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Mathews Main Street Committee member Carol Bova, left, explains details of the planned Main Street enhancements during a public forum Tuesday afternoon at Thomas Hunter Middle School. Residents questioning her are, clockwise from top left, Kate Bunner, John Craig Lewis and Susan Krista. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

 
Photo: Allan Roy, left, questions landscape architect Ricky Wiatt of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin about the plans for the Main Street enhancement project during a forum on Tuesday at Thomas Hunter Middle School. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Allan Roy, left, questions landscape architect Ricky Wiatt of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin about the plans for the Main Street enhancement project during a forum on Tuesday at Thomas Hunter Middle School. Photo by Sherry Hamilton

Photo: The plans for the Mathews Main Street project currently call for bump-outs, landscaping, and a crosswalk at the Hyco Market and Hardee’s at the intersection of Buckley Hall Road and Main Street. VHB landscape architect Ricky Wiatt said those features will be the subject of further discussion with residents.

The plans for the Mathews Main Street project currently call for bump-outs, landscaping, and a crosswalk at the Hyco Market and Hardee’s at the intersection of Buckley Hall Road and Main Street. VHB landscape architect Ricky Wiatt said those features will be the subject of further discussion with residents.

A handful of Mathews residents attended an open forum at Thomas Hunter Middle School on Tuesday afternoon to get a look at the proposed plans for enhancements to Main Street. A second public forum is scheduled for 7 o’clock tonight, also at THMS.

Stations were set up in the school’s multipurpose room, with large displays highlighting the three parts of the plan that have drawn the most public interest—the entrance to Food Lion, Main Street parking and Hyco Corner.

Ricky Wiatt of Mathews, a landscape architect with the project’s design firm, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, was on hand to answer questions, along with Mathews County Department of Planning and Zoning Director Thomas Jenkins, Mathews Main Street Committee Chair Bette Dillehay, and other members of the committee.

Among the Mathews residents attending was Susan Krista, who said that her major concern had been that curbing bump-outs proposed for various locations along Main Street would extend into the current roadway, decreasing road width. However, she said she had been told that the structures would extend only as far as the width of the current parking spaces and would not decrease the current usable width of the driving lanes, and she was fine with that.

“I have no problem if they’re not taking the road width,” Krista said.

However, she still had a concern that trucks would have trouble negotiating the right-hand turn from Buckley Hall Road onto Main Street at Hyco Corner. The design calls for creating a landscaped area at Hyco Market, with a realignment of the curb toward the driving lane. 

Wiatt explained that the realignment would not affect the ability of large trucks to make the turn because they don’t pull close to the curb at that intersection anyway. Rather, he said, they swing wide and turn into the opposite lane, on the Hardee’s side of Main Street. Wiatt said that such a turn is legal for large trucks that are turning onto roads with a 25 mph speed limit, since the traffic is moving slowly enough for oncoming vehicles to see the trucks and yield.

Krista said that a computer can provide a turning radius for an intersection that would be viable as long as the driver “turns the steering wheel at X angle.”

“But our drivers are not computers,” she said. “If you reduce that angle, you’re going to have trouble.”

Wiatt said that the intersection needs further development and comment. In addition, he said, the owner of Hyco Market would need to give the project the right-of-way across the property in order to reduce the curve. Otherwise, “We would be encroaching into their property,” he said.

Krista said she would like to see a transparent overlay of the plan, with an image of the current roadway underneath so the two configurations of Main Street can be compared. Wiatt said that such an overlay is being created.

Mathews resident John Craig Lewis said that he didn’t like the way the first phase of the Main Street plan had turned out, but that he understands that grant funding has to be used for the purpose for which it was allotted. Much of the discussion on Tuesday night was being driven by vehicular concerns, said Wiatt, but the Main Street grant was awarded primarily to enhance pedestrian safety and access to Main Street and to provide drainage. A crosswalk planned for Hyco Corner, from the Hyco Market side to the Hardee’s side, can’t be moved too far south along Main Street and away from the corner, he said, because it reduces the ability of pedestrians and traffic turning onto Main Street to see each other.

Lewis proposed a broad-brush solution to the whole Main Street problem—create a second road parallel to Main Street that would run from Buckley Hall Road behind the Food Lion shopping center to Tabernacle Road and allow people to bypass Main Street altogether. He said that such a road used to exist, albeit a dirt road. It began in the vicinity of the former Lequeux residence on Buckley Hall Road, he said.

“A second road would make the town more friendly,” he said, “because people wouldn’t have to drive through town if they didn’t want to.”

Such a road would also open up the land behind Food Lion for development, said Lewis, and expand the village.

Ultimately, Lewis said, what the Main Street Committee is doing is good, especially the proposed installation of lighting along that section of Main Street.

”Local Mathews people don’t look for change,” said Lewis, “but change happens. Having this meeting and discussing it is a whole lot better than Phase 1.”

Other changes that were discussed were the creation of five-foot-wide, ADA-compliant sidewalks along all of Main Street that would be achieved by shifting the sidewalks back toward the buildings and away from the utility poles; building a low brick wall for seating along the sidewalk in front of Westville Baptist Church, which is on an elevated plot of land; making wider parking spaces by acquiring property rights in certain areas on the eastern side of Main Street to accommodate parking for food trucks; and widening the exit from the Food Lion parking lot into the northbound lane of Main Street by moving a utility pole that stands there.

Attorney Conrad Bareford, who owns the property adjacent to the Food Lion entrance where the utility pole is located, objected to the idea that he would be asked to sacrifice some of his land in order to have the utility pole moved. He said that Food Lion has more land than he does and should be responsible for creating adequate ingress and egress for its own property, whether that means installing a second entrance or building an access road behind the shopping center to Buckley Hall Road.

“They can fix it with their own resources,” he said. “My building’s for sale; they could buy the whole thing. But it would be cheaper for them to just make a second entrance.”

Bareford said the project needs to fix drainage and parking and put utility lines underground. Otherwise, he said, “you’re not going to fix anything.”

While an original consideration of the Main Street Committee was to put utility lines underground, that idea was long ago dismissed because of the cost.

The plan does call for additional drainage along Main Street, but Robert Peterson would like to see an additional measure taken—the installation of flood gates in Put-In Creek. He said that road and drainage work won’t stop the town from flooding during a major hurricane.

Wiatt explained that water can get trapped on the back side of flood gates, and that the addition of drainage from Main Street would cause ponding on Church Street. He said the project calls for installing structures as large as possible to collect drainage underground. In addition, he said, the green areas in the bump-outs aren’t just for decorative purposes; rather, they’re also collection areas for rainwater, with drains installed in the center of some of them.

Dillehay said that the forums are important so that people can see what the plans for Main Street are, get an explanation, and discuss their worries about the project.

Supervisor Amy Dubois, who was present at the forum, said that she felt like the event gave people the opportunity to explore the possibilities and for Main Street businesses to see what options they have while it’s still early in the process.

“There are many decisions that can occur with the business owners,” she said. “I love people talking and exploring ideas.”