Green Park chamber’s plan sparks concerns over traffic

By Alyson E. Raletz

Residents recently told Green Park Chamber of Commerce officials they are concerned about the amount of traffic the chamber’s proposal to revitalize Yuma Drive would generate.

At the Green Park Board of Aldermen’s request to obtain public input, chamber officials presented the plan to about 40 residents and business owners during a town-hall meeting last week at the Green Park Resident Center. But not all of that input was positive as nearly every comment or question centered around whether the plan was increasing traffic in the Ronnie Hills subdivision, traffic on Yuma Drive and traffic on Lindbergh Boulevard.

The chamber’s plan would provide a signalized entrance at Flori Drive and Lindbergh Boulevard. It also would realign Flori Drive to Lindbergh Boulevard including both the left and right-turn entrance and exit lanes.

The project also would relocate the existing Lion’s Choice restaurant to the west parcel at Flori and Lindbergh. This would share a curb cut with the neighboring office building and would create a longer left-hand turn for the entrance to Ronnie Hills and the Village of Green Park, two adjacent subdivisions, according to the chamber.

Jim Corcoran, who lives in Ronnie Hills, asked chamber officials how many cars the new Lion’s Choice Restaurant would bring in off Flori Drive and how it would affect the Ronnie Hills subdivision.

“All these cars coming in off of Lindbergh, when the light changes, how many cars are going to be able to get in there for the residents of Ronnie Hills and of the farms and everybody else back here that wants to go through there?” Corcoran said. “You’re creating a bottleneck. It’s a bottleneck already, but you’re narrowing the bottleneck.”

Chamber of Commerce President Jim Smoot, who owns Fantasy Coachworks, told Corcoran that he did expect activity and the restaurant’s business to increase, but he did not anticipate an increase of traffic — traffic will be the same as it always has been.

“If your question is: ‘Is it going to be easier for you to get in and out of your house or harder?’ I would tell you it would be easier because right now we have the same amount of traffic that travels Lindbergh up and down,” Smoot said. “So, regardless of whether you wait at one of those slider streets by Fantasy Coachworks to get out on Lindbergh or whether you wait three cars down on Flori to get out of Lindbergh, that’s of no consequence. The tide will be the same.”

Smoot said the plan is aiming to redirect traffic, not create it. He explained that the plan asks for left and right-hand turn lanes going out to Lindbergh and left and right-hand turn lanes coming into Flori. Lion’s Choice also would have a separate entrance.

“So what you’re saying is if there’s a back up, who would it affect? It would actually affect people that would be sitting inside Ronnie Hills. It wouldn’t affect you as coming in or out of the street … If there’s a back up at Flori or somebody feels they don’t want to wait at the traffic light, there’s a separate entrance to get in and out of Flori Drive. Will it affect you getting in and out of Flori? No.”

According to the project, the plan also would:

• Alleviate southbound Lindbergh Boulevard site-distance hazards at Flori Drive.

• Complete the Yuma Place extension for the Village of Green Park subdivision residents, reducing cut-through traffic in the nearby subdivision of Ronnie Hills. This also would provide a second entrance for emergency vehicles to the Village of Green Park.

• Create a new residential area and buffer of luxury town homes on Yuma Place separating Ronnie Hills and the Village of Green Park from the commercial corridor.

• Eliminate rental homes and non-conforming commercial users and replace obsolete buildings/vacant houses at the Lindbergh/Flori/Yuma intersections.

• Eliminate eight Lindbergh curb cuts and replace them with four new curb cuts helping to “control traffic and reduce traffic hazards.”

The chamber also would like to attract new shopping and restaurant developments to Green Park. Some of the project’s main points include:

• Constructing a boutique-style shopping center.

• Attracting a full-service “sit-down restaurant, such as Applebee’s or Chili’s or a single-use retail center like the LaZ Boy Furniture store at Lindbergh and Von Talge Road.

• Attracting a 24-hour convenience store/discount gas station, such as QuikTrip or Casey’s General Store.

Village of Green Park resident Jim Gleason said he wasn’t concerned at all with getting in and out of Fantasy Coachworks onto Lindbergh because he never had that problem.

He was more concerned with the effects a QuikTrip would have on Lindbergh.

“I don’t how many cars go in and out of QuikTrip at an hour at a time. But if I said 200-300, I think that’s a small number,” Gleason said. “So you’ve got X amount of cars exiting and entering and I’m concerned about what that is going to create.”

Smoot said that QuikTrip was only an example the chamber had used and no developers were involved with the project.

“Can this project fly without QuikTrip?” Gleason asked Smoot later in the meeting. “… I’m not opposed to the development. I don’t know that I want a 24-hour convenience store at the end of my street … The money that QT’s generating for the city has nothing to do with what it takes to fund the project. My question to you is this project fundable if you don’t have a player like QT coming to the table …?”

“It’s possible, but not probable,” Chamber of Commerce member Larry Callahan answered. Callahan helped Smoot present the redevelopment plan to community members last Monday.

Gleason replied he didn’t care how many stoplights the chamber tried to put in — a QuikTrip would significantly increase traffic on Lindbergh.

Other residents said they also were concerned about the increased traffic in Ronnie Hills and how that would affect the safety of neighborhood children, while others pointed out they didn’t care how much revenue development would bring in for the city — they just didn’t want more traffic in their neighborhoods or on Lindbergh.

Callahan contended that development would come to Green Park, whether residents liked it or not.

“These pieces of property, these parts of the plan, are going to be parceled off into commercial property … What we tried to do is present a program as one unit instead of everybody coming in and putting in something different because that’s basically what’s going to happen,” Callahan said.

“You can sit here and say it’s not going to happen, but believe me, it’s going to happen … This is an exceptional plan so it can be done in an organized way. That’s the only thing that we are trying to point out. It’s not that we’re trying to force traffic on you or anybody else,” he said.

He told those who attended the plan was not solid or set in stone. The plan is changeable, he said, which is why he appreciated the public’s input.

But Smoot later told the Call the chamber has no intention of changing the redevelopment plan before aldermen consider it during a future board meeting.

“I was very excited about the outcome of the meeting,” Smoot told the Call. “The major concern is traffic and we will work hard on trying to solve the problem. But it’s too soon to make any specific changes. I really feel we put the proper amount of work into the proposal before it was unveiled to public.”

He said when people are at a town-hall meeting and take five minutes to look over a plan, they only understand its overall idea.

“If we really sit down and look at measurements and the width of streets … quite honestly I think we solved any traffic concerns …” he said.

As far as people being enthusiastic about revitalizing Yuma Drive, he said, “I don’t think anyone was opposed to that.”