Part 23 Glenwood South Small Area Plan Objectives (in part):
Address parking needs by minimizing the loss of existing building, discouraging large surface parking lots and exploring multi-use parking opportunities.
Provide various forms of transportation to support a compact form of development. The area’s transportation system should focus upon the development of a successful pedestrian and transit system to serve the area in addition to the automobile.
Yada yada yada. A fine example of how Raleigh’s various comprehensive plan/s fare is seen in City Council’s vote approving the paving of Needham Broughton High School’s front lawn in light of the above text. With an all-too familiar lack of imagination, aesthetics, history, safety and disregard for it’s own procedures City Council, in a seven to one vote (Thomas Crowder being the only renegade), sent a message about its fealty to the internal combustion engine and how easily cowed it apparently can be by a gaggle of self-indulgent youngsters staging a sit-in on the front lawn – sitting in Daddy’s cars. Oh the conviction and principles of these brave youngsters!
The most gnawing and under-discussed aspect to the entire charade was neatly summed up during a talk with a Broughton neighbor one pleasant afternoon after the presentation of the new Comprehensive Plan. Dave Colwell is a twenty year Raleighite, at the current address for five, the very model of the sort of citizen the hooplah is directed toward when the babblicious myth of “citizen involvement” is rolled out. At his modest Peace Street home, Colwell talked about his involvement from the very beginning of the public input period, when the Raleigh Historic District Commission sent out notices of a meeting in March. He became involved in the discourse over the gamut of the issues, some
of them of more importance than the school’s face shot.
“I was concerned about the traffic flow on Peace Street and the proximity to the neighborhood and to the Raleigh Apartments. My concern is how the traffic will circulate through the proposed parking lot onto Peace Street with the egress now proposed,” he said right off, something I hadn’t thought of, odd, considering I have been in one crash via a dumb driver right there.
“I spoke with a couple of neighbors who expressed concerns about where the exits would be from the proposed parking lot,” Colwell continued. “There were a lot of architectural concerns as can be documented from other meetings but my concerns were primarily for safety. I live on this street and have concerns about the amount of traffic on this road and the number of accidents,” Dave said, as we spoke in his front room, traffic whizzing by.
“There are many accidents, especially in the mornings and the afternoons. Trying to drive anywhere around the campus is very, very risky. I’ve seen students come up Smallwood the wrong way.” At the Raleigh Historic District Commission, there was only a vague plan and as Colwell put it, “a lot of verbiage.”
“Throughout the meeting, the school representatives and the site planner were there, making a presentation that showed the only curb-cut on Peace Street to be down by Saint Mary’s. At the time, it was shown to a one way in, one way out – right turn only, close to the intersection. At the meeting, it was stated that this was not acceptable by the Department of Transportation and that it had to be moved farther west on Peace Street, to come out near the Raleigh Apartments. At that point, my concern was seeing as how there are a lot of accidents on this road, why introduce another variable of cars
trying to cross center lane turning traffic?”
Colwell’s other point is that there was no attempt to develop a plan according to the dictates of the public notification system in place.
“They didn’t proceed with this correctly. It was September before the Planning Commission reviewed the plan, including Wake County School System’s plan. The Raleigh Historic Commission’s approval had expired. I voiced to them that there was no revised proposed plan sent to the homeowners. The plan was revised during the approval meeting. I objected to that. I said we had to have a proposed plan. They didn’t care. They approved it anyway.”
Dave was puzzled and nearly indignant about the lack of foresight and
imagination about the stealth plan.
“The parking lot, as designed, has many turns. The only ingress is off of Saint Mary’s street, which is a mess. The only way out is through a labyrinth of cars. It’s a curvilinear parking lot. This project has not been well thought-out. There are a lot of resources we have here within walking distance, the College of Design. This could be some sort of design project. Possibly there could be program where the highest 100 GPA could get to park. Something can be thought through. We live in an urban environment.”
We talked about the effect on the parking situation in Cameron Park, where presumably some of the impetus for the lot may have emerged.
“Students will continue to park in the neighborhood. They are going to continue to park there and cross the street right at the intersection, where this proposed now-two way turn out of the parking lot expansion is, across the center turning lane where cars are already coming flying down Peace Street going downtown.”
I pointed out that during a recent City Council meeting, to forestall possible west-bound congestion at the proposed Morgan Street roundabout, there was a suggestion to direct traffic right on Saint Mary’s street and left, westbound onto Peace at Broughton, adding yet another variable into the stew. Colwell just shook his head.
“Why do we have a planning commission? The City Council approved it anyway. Why do we have this process? Why do we have Mitch Silver and everybody underneath and why do we have citizen volunteers who take the time to consider and make recommendation’s that are going to be disregarded by the City Council? “What did they approve?” asks Colwell. “Every step of the process has to be approved by the homeowners. They don’t know what has been approved. Neither does the City Council or anybody. They’re probably drawing something right now.”
In this newly-minted millennium, many cities are developing and reengaging alternatives to the US’s vulnerable, obsolete and destructive transportation system, based on the petroleum powered automobile. Not our little Raleigh where nostalgia for the sixties lives on with laughably inadequate mass transit, national standing for bad air and roads, roads, roads.
Crowder was spot-on when he spoke, before the vote, on the importance of open space, a diminishing factor as Raleigh becomes a more crowded, urban environment. Besides the value of a walking space, a place to feel the earth under one’s feet, there is psychological value to the randomness of the living world, even a tended lawn. With the steady increase of the hard-angled gray of the synthetic world, as well as the ubiquitous vistas consisting of parked automobiles, there is intangible, intrinsic worth to the non man-made, even if one is not aware of it and disparages the very concept.
There is a world beyond video games, television and the myriad petro-gick used in automotive systems, where the point-source runoff will get dumped, in the case of Broughton, into Pigeon House creek, in turn runs into Crabtree and eventually the Neuse river, where it will become our downstream neighbors’ problem.
The world is changing. With the latest hiccup in fuel prices coupled with all the “green” talk (just another fad, I ’ spose), seems the schools would be an appropriate venue to begin to launch a dialog and begin to test practical alternatives to the same old. It wasn’t that long ago those students, by necessity, used their brains and their bodies to get around, walking, riding bicycles. The indulgent times we have created have instilled an expectation of the car, and in the case of a status-oriented school like Broughton, not just any old car.
Fulfillment of this expectation puts financial demands on families and the infrastructure. Lifestyles nurture habits. In the case of the de rigueur automobile, there comes a dependency on the car. Habits begun early can pay dividends later in one’s life. It wouldn’t seem that difficult to arrange the right sort of incentive to encourage high schoolers to use some other form of transportation. Face it, most folks could use the exercise.