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Forest Hills sets hearings for road safety ordinances

The Sylva Herald & Ruralite of Sylva, North Carolina

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Forest Hills residents will have an opportunity to make their voices heard regarding two proposed ordinance changes next week.

Public hearings for a new speed limit ordinance and a no-parking-on-roads ordinance are set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, at the Cullowhee Recreation Center.

The process for getting to this point has been a long one. Town board member Clark Corwin brought the idea for restricting parking on the sides of roads to the table in July. Officials started looking into taking steps to address speeding in August.

Since then, town board members discussed the two issues at length, had speed trailers put up for a short period of time and received speed limit recommendations from both town planning board members and local law enforcement.

As it stands now, about half of the town's roads are state-maintained with speed limits of 25 mph, as decided by the N.C. Department of Transportation. Speed limit signs cannot be erected on non-state-maintained roads until the speed limits are listed in the town's ordinances.

Town board members decided Feb. 3 to set the proposed speed limit for non-state-maintained roads at 15 mph. For areas of the road where 15 mph might be too fast - such as the sharp curve where North Country Club Drive becomes South Country Club Drive - "Slow" signs will be put up to warn drivers to lower their speeds.

The decision came after hearing from town planning board members who were asked in January to monitor their speeds while driving around town to see what speed felt comfortable.

When it comes to the no-parking-on-roads ordinance, town board members expressed concerns in December about some of the town's already-skinny roads when they are lined with parked cars. There was also a question of whether emergency vehicles could pass through should a situation arise.

The proposed parking ordinance for Forest Hills will be consistent with the state ordinance, which prohibits cars from being parked on the shoulders of any public roads. An exception to the rule is: "unless the vehicle is visible for 200 feet in either direction and does not obstruct traffic." Mayor Kolleen Begley said Feb. 3 the proposed Forest Hills ordinance should have the same exception.

In another matter, town board members held a joint meeting with planning board members March 16. Don Kostelec of Kostelec Planning and Sealy Chip-ley of Chipley Consulting presented the final report on the community workshop held in November.

At the workshop, residents were able to give feedback to town officials on different ways they would like to see the town improve.

Much of the workshop discussion surrounded the valley in the town's center and its potential uses. Popular ideas suggested at the workshop include greenways, parks/open space, an outdoor gathering place such as a pavilion and low-density residential housing or a "cottage cluster neighborhood."

Chris Green of Mach 2 Investments currently owns most of the more than 70-acre parcel being discussed. The land was formerly a nine-hole golf course. Forest Hills would be looking to purchase a portion of the land for uses to be determined by the town board with the community's backing.

Chipley said all of the ideas listed in the report were meant to maintain the community's "roots." Green, who attended the joint meeting March 16, said the report fell in line with a lot of the ideas he had for the land.

"I think we have a golden opportunity to find a common ground and work together to make that a reality because it's a great piece of property in a great location," said Green. "It has all of the desirable traits, we just need to find common ground and go from there."



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Original Publication Date: March 26, 2015



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