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Roads: Route to park could get paving this fall

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Paving could start on a portion of the dirt road that leads to Stables Park this fall even though the balance of the project won’t begin until 2017. The timetable depends on how soon Georgetown County can obtain easements, according to Ray Funnye, the county Public Works director.

“Time is of the essence. The next thing is to get community buy-in,” he told a dozen residents at the start of a meeting last week. When he left an hour later, he said he had what he needed from the community.

The work will pave two-thirds of a mile of Petigru Drive from Aspen Loop in Litchfield Country Club south to Martin Luther King Road. The state Department of Transportation will install turning lanes at the intersection with Martin Luther King Road. Work on the state portion of the project, which also includes some paving, won’t begin until March 2017. The county portion could come as early as October, Funnye said.

The state portion of the project will cost $830,000. The county’s portion will cost $650,000. The work has been planned since Stables Park was developed on the site of the former Litchfield Plantation stables beginning in 2011.

The project will include 4-foot-wide bike lanes on each side of Petigru Drive. DOT would like to connect those with sidewalks along Martin Luther King to Kings River Road, said Jessica Johns, the agency’s assistant project manager. “Sidewalks are a top priority of GOT and the county,” she said. They weren’t included in the current project due to the cost, she added.

Concerns that the paved road would run close to houses in the River Club development were resolved through meetings with residents. The county will shift the paving away from the residential area. It will be about 25 feet from the property line to the edge of the paved bike lane. The issue was complicated because the property owners association and residents put up a fence along Petigru Drive to stop people cutting through the woods to get to the gated community. A portion of the fence was in the public right of way. That will be moved as part of the project.

Elaine Trousdell, a River Club resident whose house abuts the road opposite the park entrance, asked the county to install a guard rail. Two vehicles have run into the fence behind her property. She also asked the county to lower the proposed speed limit on that portion of Petigru from 30 to 25 mph.

Funnye said the county would consider it, but he pointed out that there will also be a drainage ditch between the road and the fence. The road will divide around live oaks, which he said should help “calm” traffic.

Tom Leis, a member of the property owners association board, said River Club residents were pleased with the changes the county made.

Another area property owner still has doubts. Essau Bessellieu owns a house on Petigru Drive south of the project area and a lot on the corner of Martin Luther King Drive where DOT will have to acquire right of way for the turn lanes. He said the project will funnel traffic and stormwater through the Parkersville community and only benefit developers who own property along Petigru. “It’s going to devalue my property,” he said.

The county approved a 36-lot subdivision on 15 acres at the Martin Luther King intersection in 2014. “We aren’t doing this project to enhance development,” Funnye said. “We seized an opportunity we thought would be good for the community.”

Although the intersection work appears large, Johns said it is the minimum size under DOT standards for such a project. “It is not an indication of development coming in,” she said.

Art Baker, the county’s capital projects manager, said a study of drainage in the area will look for ways to get stormwater into the saltwater creek behind Litchfield Beach. Pipes installed under Highway 17 last year as part of a median project should make it easier to improve drainage, he said.

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