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Wednesday, 22 July 2009 18:54

Waynesville’s South Main presents a vexing problem

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Sounds like Waynesville’s leaders heard just what they expected last week regarding South Main Street — many people feel many different ways, and so no matter what the outcome many are going to be unhappy.

Waynesville’s leaders and residents have a real challenge in front of them as they decide just how best to re-design this corridor. South Main Street connects two distinctly different areas — the thriving, historic town center and the new big box development that currently includes Super Wal Mart and Best Buy. Along the way are nice neighborhoods, lots of small businesses, and a lot of open asphalt parking areas. The challenge is to provide the right roadway to bring together two areas that have commonalities and are also, in many ways, polar opposites.

The state Department of Transportation has so far said it will adhere to the town’s wishes. They say this corridor is not connected at all to any of its thoroughfare plans to move mass numbers of vehicles, and so will defer on this one to town leaders and local opinion. That means local residents and towns apparently won’t end up fighting DOT for the road they want, which still happens way too often.

So what is best? It seems fairly obvious that a road that gets progressively smaller as it nears downtown’s portion of Main Street makes sense. Bike lanes and sidewalks should be included the entire length of the route. Waynesville has already established a reputation as a pedestrian-friendly community, and making these main corridors adhere to this long-range plan is obviously in the best interest of the town and its citizens.

The area between Country Club Drive and the entrance to Super Wal Mart will be the most difficult. Some businesses in this area likely won’t be around within a few years, but others are right now awaiting the decision on the roadway so they can complete plans. This is where some will walk away dissatisfied with the final decision. Some think it’s time to four-lane this area — a move that would lead to the razing of many buildings — while others like the haphazard collection of small, privately owned businesses. For some, that’s the character of Hazelwood.

“It seems like they are trying to get rid of old Hazelwood to beautify the town. That’s what the sole purpose is,” said Oma Lou Leatherwood at a public hearing on the road held last week at Hazelwood Elementary School.

For others, the need to re-develop the area is obvious: “It’s just really decrepit looking. They are never going to attract businesses if that stretch is so ugly,” said Joellen Habas.

And so, without doubt, there will be losers and there will be winners. Some aspects of what needs to be done here are obvious, but some decisions will likely be made on the gut instincts of town aldermen. Stay tuned.

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