Matthews commissioners divided over South Trade

By Josh Whitener

Residents attending the Matthews Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, June 10, may have felt a smidgen of déjà vu.

At the meeting, commissioners again voted against a motion to widen South Trade Street to a four-lane road from Fullwood Lane to the intersection of Pleasant Plains and Weddington roads. The board is expected to discuss alternatives to the project in a work session, likely to be held Monday, June 17.

Commissioner Jeff Miller made a motion to approve the $7.7-million project, with Mayor Jim Taylor and Commissioner Nancy Moore joining him with votes in support of the project. Commissioners John Urban, Suzanne Gulley and Kress Query and Mayor Pro Tem Paul Bailey voted against the project.

The motion and vote were identical to last month’s decision, where Miller, Taylor and Moore voted for the full project and Urban, Gulley, Query and Bailey voted against it. According to Town Attorney Charles Buckley, commissioners could legally choose to revote on the same motion at every subsequent meeting.

The motion was not without discussion, as commissioners spent more than an hour mulling over their reasons for supporting or opposing the project.

Those in favor of the project cite the results of engineering studies conducted on the corridor as a reason for supporting the project. Matthews has spent nearly $1 million on multiple studies which have claimed widening the corridor would relieve traffic woes for drivers and subdivisions.

“It’s not a matter of build it if they will come,” Moore, a Brightmoor resident, said. “It’s a matter of they’re already here … I’m hoping we have the foresight to look into the future to see what traffic is going to be 20 years from now, but the reality of it is we have to deal with what we’re facing daily.”

Miller agreed.

“We can blame (the traffic) on citizens of Union County and (say) they’re not going to be paying the taxes, but these people are our neighbors, as well, just like other people down the street or behind this in another development,” he said. “… I urge you to find another project that would benefit 25 to 30 neighborhoods.”

Last month, Public Works Director Ralph Messera and representatives from Kimley-Horn and Associates presented a cheaper alternative project that would widen South Trade from Fullwood Lane to the Chesney Glen/Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association intersection. The project would likely cost about $5.2 million, they said.

Taylor spoke in favor of the alternative project, saying it could possibly be a “phase one” if the town is able to secure state funds to pay for the remainder of the $7.7-million project, which he said is something he’s trying to make happen.

Mayor Pro Tem Paul Bailey criticized Taylor’s approach, claiming the $5.2-million project wasn’t a true compromise.

“The modified plan is not a solution,” Bailey said. “… I’m not going to compromise on the modified plan with a phase two coming, and that’s what I’ve heard, and that just doesn’t make any sense. Let’s get a modified plan that’s a real modified plan.”

Despite his reservations, Bailey said something needs to be done to alleviate traffic along South Trade and asked to see more detailed plans outlining the alternative project before he’ll consider supporting it.

In 2004, voters passed $10.5 million worth of parks and street bonds – $5 million for parks and $5.5 million for streets. Although the bonds weren’t attached to any specific project, widening South Trade Street was listed as a possibility, Moore said.

“I feel that we are totally doing a disservice to the voters” if the project isn’t approved, she said.

Commissioners opposing the motion have cited a number of reasons why they’re against the project – a potential 2-cent tax increase, the fact that South Trade is a state-maintained road and the desire to use the town’s money to benefit other areas in Matthews.

The board agreed to discuss the project in a work session sometime next week, likely June 17, and hope to leave the meeting with a more concrete idea of the steps they believe the town should take.

“As much as I hate to defer this and postpone this, I do see there might be an opportunity to come to a resolution in the end and a solution,” Taylor said.

What do you think?

Do you think South Trade Street needs to be widened? Share your thoughts on the proposed project in 400 words or less, and we’ll publish it as a Letter to the Editor. Email your letter to news@matthews and include your name, the town/city where you live and phone number.

Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly does not publish anonymous letters.

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