By David Rogers. January 14, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Whether High Country travelers used their GPS devices or good ol’ fashioned maps a few years ago when U.S. 321 through Blowing Rock was torn up with the widening project, rerouting their north-south journey through town by way of Green Hill Rd. apparently had unintended consequences.
COVER IMAGE: Fairway 11 Court resident Pamela Lowry speaks to the Board of Commissioners about the dangers inherent to speeding on Green Hill Rd, particularly the “blind curves” to the north and south of the Fairway 11 Court intersection with Green Hill Rd.. Photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
In a word, the culprit is spelled S-P-E-E-D and Blowing Rock’s Town Council got more than an earful at Tuesday night’s regular January meeting. During the early portion of the meeting devoted to Speakers from the Floor, two residents who live along Green Hill Rd. expressed their frustration with excessive speed-related noise, as well as near calamity in the form of accidents at intersections blind curves at either end.
Pamela Lowry, a resident of Fairway 11 Court described the worsening conditions at her street’s intersection with Green Hill Rd. Another resident, Rick Parsons, trotted out a short powerpoint presentation of a study commissioned by former Blowing Rock Police Chief Tony Jones. Included among the data collected were studies that showed on one January day in 2017 the number of vehicles that passed along Green Hill Rd. in any given hour, as well as the maximum speed of those cars passing through each hour. In that study, the traffic peaked between 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm, with 221 vehicles passing by the monitor during the 4:00 pm hour and maximum speeds reaching almost 60 miles per hour during almost every hourly interval during that 24-hour period.
Both residents criticized a traffic study conducted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation between September and November last year as being not even in peak season and represented them as virtually worthless.
While a good portion of the drivers using Green Hill Rd. through Blowing Rock may have “discovered” it as an alternative route during the construction period on U.S. 321 and simply continued to use it because they find it more convenient or faster than going through town on Valley Blvd., the circumstances have worsened because of new and planned new homes being built in the immediate neighborhood. According to the Lowry and Parsons, 10 new homes have been built recently or are in the early stages of construction or planned to be built in the near future.
Short of having law enforcement present 24/7/365, the Green Hill Rd. residents are requesting that stop signs be placed at the street’s intersections with Heather Ridge Rd., Wonderland Dr. and Fairway Ct.
One audience observer said to Blowing Rock News afterward, “Stop signs, roundabouts, rumble bumps…whatever device you want to use to slow people down will ultimately help solve the problem, most likely. Those commuters who started using Green Hill Rd. during the 321 widening project to cut through town because it was faster to use that route will start going back to Valley Blvd. if they are not gaining any time or convenience on Green Hill Rd.”
The residents are circulating a petition of others in the neighborhood concerned about the problem, as well as sending emails to town staff and council members. Town Manager Shane Fox said he is taking the lead on exploring options with the NCDOT, since they have responsibility for Green Hill Rd. to Wonderland Dr. and the town has responsibility from Wonderland south, to where it joins U.S. 321 near the Green Park Inn.
In other business, the Board of Commissioners heard two reports. One was by Fox, providing a recap of last week’s Town Council Retreat. In early June, Fox will complete his first year on the job. He reported to the audience in attendance that the Town Council members and town staff covered a lot of ground during the three-day special planning session hosted by the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum. “In 25 hours of meetings we covered 25 topics,” he said. Later, new Commissioner David Harwood smiled and said, “I have to refer to my notes, but I think it was 125 topics!”
The second presentation was spearheaded by Planning Director Kevin Rothrock and a representative of Benchmark Consulting with a report on the “visioning” work regarding development along Valley Blvd. That full 75-page report, available in the board packet by CLICKING HERE, is being passed on to the Planning Board for its recommendations as to whether or not to implement any or all of Benchmark’s recommendations.