Town leaders touted the creation of the plan as a formality — something town leaders wanted on the books before the North Carolina Department of Transportation finalized its own plans for the entirety of N.C. 107, which runs through Sylva.
There are already sidewalk and landscaping requirements in the town’s zoning ordinance. However, Sylva hired an architect to draft an actual rendering, depicting how the town would look under the zoning ordinance if its suggestions for greenery and pedestrian and bike paths were followed.
The town paid for the plan with a $10,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that works with rural mountain communities.
Now that it has adopted a plan, the town is able to show DOT what it would prefer the streetscape look like before the state sets its N.C. 107 reconstruction plans in stone. However, DOT doesn’t have to accept the town’s input.
The DOT project aims to improve traffic flow on the congested highway, fix dangerous intersections and build new sections of roadway along N.C. 107 all the way from U.S. 23 Business in Sylva to Western Carolina University. DOT has been studying the N.C. 107 corridor in Jackson County and is gathering feedback to find the best solutions.
The next step for the town board is to hold a public hearing to get comments concerning the streetscape rendering before it will become the go-to document for streetscape standards downtown.
“This plan would supersede any of the [existing] sidewalk and landscaping requirements,” said John Jeleniewski, Jackson County’s code compliance officer. “Have folks do landscaping based on this plan, which is our ultimate goal anyway.”
The current standards require trees every 20 feet and flowers or shrubs in between. That would remain the same under the new landscaping plan. There must also be one tree for every 1,500 square feet of parking. Parking lots with more than five spaces must include landscaped areas that cover no less than 10 percent of the total area.
Business and building owners are grandfathered in and not have to change anything unless they renovate 50 percent or more of the property.
Separate from the streetscape plan, Sylva’s planning board has talked about developing a landscaping-specific ordinance that could limit what types of plant species business owners could place outside their buildings.
Waynesville underwent a similar but more expansive process for its South Main Street corridor. The town hired a company to design its ideal streetscape, which looked at the position of parking lots, greenery, sidewalks and bicycle lanes, based on community feedback.
N.C. DOT is also looking at revamping South Main Street in Waynesville, and leaders wanted a plan in place that would show DOT what it wants the reconstruction of the thoroughfare to look like. Although the plan was presented to DOT, the department doesn’t have to accept any of the town’s suggested changes.