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Western Branch Town Meeting held December 6, 2016
Following are responses to issues, grouped under headings, raised at the Western Branch Town Meeting.
Faded Pavement Markings – Bruin Drive
The Public Works Traffic Engineer reports that an on-site inspection was performed on December 12, 2016. The inspection result indicated that repair of the legends is warranted at this site. The repair is scheduled to be completed within two weeks, weather permitting.
Pothole Repair - Bruin Drive
Public Works Operations Manager reports that the pothole repairs are scheduled to be completed by January 6, 2017, weather permitting.
Street Sweeping Operations
Public Works staff acknowledges that the street sweeping operators should always use water to suppress the dust while sweeping the street, and should always provide sufficient time to allow the residents to move their vehicles away from the operation areas. Staff assures that supervisors will be notified of the incidents and operators be instructed to follow the operational procedures.
Streets in the Silverwood neighborhood are part of the Western Branch Street Sweeping Route. The schedule of street sweeping operations for this area is on a three-time cycle annually. These streets were swept on April 21, August 29 and December 19, 2016. Sweepers require extensive pre and post trip maintenance and cleaning, and the Bowers Hill yard is not currently as well equipped as the central Greenbrier yard for this purpose. Public Works will evaluate the possibility of basing the sweeper team in the Public Works Bowers Hill yeard furing the Western Branch zone cycle.
Maintenance of the Railroad Path along Sterns Creek
Public Works reports that the railroad path currently is owned by Commonwealth Railroad and that the maintenance is their responsibility. Staff contacted Commonwealth Railroad regarding the maintenance of the path. Meanwhile, Public Works staff visited the site on December 12, 2016 and did not find any debris or vegetation that requires attention.
Maintenance of Stern Creek
Public Works crews have completed the removal of blockages and debris from the side ditch and rear canal.
Additional Signage on Bruin Drive
The Public Works Traffic Engineer reports that additional No U-Turn signs will be posted in the median along Bruin Drive at the N Radcliffe Lane intersection.
Elizabeth Harbor Drive Improvements
A request was made concerning improvements of the narrow section of roadway connecting Elizabeth Harbor Drive to Gum Road, the following report is provided.
Our Traffic Engineer reports that Elizabeth Harbor Drive is a public street that runs from Taylor Road to a T-intersection with Watts Brothers Lane. Watts Brothers Lane completes the connection between Elizabeth Harbor Drive and Gum Road, this street however, is not a city maintained roadway for the entire length. The section of Watts Brothers Lane that connects at Gum Road to approx. 400’ to the east is recorded as an ingress/egress easement and is not in the public right of way. Public Works provides street maintenance for the existing roadway, however, roadway widening for Watts Brothers Lane is not anticipated with the current alignment. The extension of Elizabeth Harbor Drive to Gum Road is shown in the City’s Master Transportation Plan (MTP) by constructing a new roadway that will provide a direct connection to Gum Road. The alignment proposed in the MTP provides added safety by eliminating the sharp bends that are present with the existing alignment and relocates the intersection at Gum Road to where it will be in a straight section of the road with better visibility. The existing daily traffic using Watts Brothers Lane is approximately 500 vehicles per day. Closing this street is not recommended until which time the new alignment is completed. The large majority of properties that access Elizabeth Harbor Drive are undeveloped. Construction for the new alignment is anticipated to occur with future develop that will access Elizabeth Harbor Drive and increase traffic demand.
Sidewalks on Dock Landing Road
A project to install sidewalks along Dock Landing Road that would have connected to the existing sidewalks along Jolliff Road and Portsmouth Boulevard was initiated in 1999. Public Works presented the proposed sidewalk project to the community at a Public Information meeting. At that meeting, however, the large majority of homeowners that front Dock Landing Road did not approve of the project. Without the public support the project was subsequently withdrawn. City projects that have proposed to add new sidewalks along existing residential streets have generally been met with mixed support. These projects usually require costly relocation of utilities, right of way acquisition from the homeowners, and the redesigning of the roadside stormwater facilities and driveways along the segment of roadway that sidewalks are being constructed. Because of the high cost associated with adding sidewalks along existing local streets Public Works has limited sidewalk projects to streets with adequate available right of way and/or roadside development that will support a sidewalk project. Recognizing the need to provide sidewalks along our streets, our City Code and roadway design standards have been amended to include sidewalks in the design of new streets.
Additional Signage at 7-Eleven
Our Traffic Engineer reports that a new Stop sign will be installed at the 7-Eleven exit driveway to Gum Road.
Western Branch Area Bike Trail
The current rails-to-trails project plan developed by Public Works for the Western Branch area proposes the conversion of Commonwealth Railroad line and Seaboard Rail line to a recreational trail. When completed this trail system will connect with the regional trail that currently starts in Suffolk and will eventually extend to Norfolk and Virginia Beach (see attachment). The new trail planned with this project will also connect with the existing trail system that runs along Bruce Road and Tyre Neck Road making an off-street loop system that provides direct access to the many adjacent neighborhoods. Project plans consist of two separate phases. Phase I will convert the abandoned Commonwealth Railroad line to a trail from I-664 to the Portsmouth City line. Phase II completes the connection by converting the Seaboard Rail line to a trail from the end of the Phase I project at I-664 to the Suffolk City line. City staff is currently working with the Virginia Port Authority to complete the transfer of land that will be needed before moving forward with this project.
The upcoming project from Western Branch Blvd. to the Suffolk line is a transportation alternative program project (VDOT TAP). This project was awarded from an application that requested funds for the entire path to Suffolk (Phase I - Western Branch Blvd. to Gum Ct. and Phase II - Gum Ct. to Suffolk line); however, only a portion of the project was approved. The City applied for Phase I of this trail project but was awarded partial funding. The City is applying again for additional funding now (we will know the outcome in early 2017). Total funding amount available will determine how much of the trail will be done as Phase I.
The current project is for $300,000 versus the requested Phase 1 at almost $800,000. Therefore, only a portion of Phase I will be able to be completed. The exact portion has not been determined at this time, primarily due to the fact that the project is awaiting the right-of-way to proceed with the design. The design will determine the most feasible segment of the trail to move forward. The plan completion for Phase I of this trail is anticipated to begin when the Railway right-of-way is transferred to the City; which appears to be early 2017.
The City is continuing to look for funding to have the segment from the Suffolk line to the end of the current project completed. Staff is actively looking for funding sources for the “informal” path under I-664. The Department of Parks, Recreations and Tourism is responsible for the path maintenance of the trail.
A question was raised concerning trail maintenance and the section of the trail related to Tyre Neck Road. Phase I of the stone-dust trail restoration is currently in progress, which includes resurfacing beginning at Taylor and Bruce Roads, running east toward Tyre Neck Road. Other sections of the trail are scheduled to be resurfaced after Phase I is completed in January, although Tyre Neck Road is not one of them.
Dispatchers are required to ask a number of questions from 911 callers in order for the information to be entered into the computer system and appropriate responses made.
Illegal Activity – Sterns Creek
A Police Officer investigated the concern and will continue to monitor the area.
Emergency Calls – Cell Towers
Cell phone calls will go to the nearest cell tower even if it is in another jurisdiction. Chesapeake Police work with Portsmouth Police, as well as those in other jurisdictions when this occurs. The direct number to the Police dispatch center can be used if assistance is needed.
Designated Code Compliance Inspector for Ahoy Acres
The City has eight designated Inspection Work Zones, including one for Western Branch. These zones are established based on geography and demand within each zone. The inspector supervisor is Audrey Smith. If there are any concerns that need to be addressed, they can be directed to Ms. Smith for review. Code compliance enforcement is generally limited to citizen identified violations. The Department considers citizen identified violations as a high priority. If there are any concerns, please feel free to contact the inspector supervisor directly or the Customer Call Center.
Code Violations – Airline Blvd.
The property owner has submitted a use-permit application and fence permit that would potentially resolve the violations. In the event the applications are not approved, enforcement will proceed until the violations are resolved. While property owners seek a Conditional Use Permit, City Council policy allows businesses to continue operations.
Manhole at Wood Ln. & Cobb Ave.
The depression in the street is due to a deteriorated sewer manhole as well as pipe that needs replacing. The project will replace the manhole and up to 20 feet of clay pipe in all three directions from the new manhole. The replacement pipe will be 8” PVC. Additionally, the project will include fiberglass cured in place pipe (CIPP) lining of 305 feet of 8” clay pipe, 12 service laterals to homes reinstated, pavement overlay and traffic control measures. City’s contractor may begin the work the first two weeks of January and, barring inclement weather, complete in about three weeks.
Status of Western Branch Task Force
The Task Force process has been delayed recently due to the ownership changes at Chesapeake Square Mall. However, the Focus Groups have been completed and the next step will be to provide the recommendations from the various Focus Groups to the Steering Committee. The Department of Economic Development will ask the Steering Committee to prioritize the recommendations that will then be provided to the Economic Development Authority and to City Council. The Task Force Steering Committee plans to meet on December 14, 2016 with a report to the Economic Development Authority and City Council during the first quarter of 2017.
To recap: The first meeting involved assembling the Task Force Steering Committee (made up of key property and business owners in the Western Branch Business District) on August 26, 2015; in addition to the Steering Committee, the EDA has assembled a number of Task Force Focus Groups; the initial Community Task Force Focus Group took place at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, September 23, 2015; the second Entrepreneurial Task Force Focus Group took place on October 14, 2015; a third Real Estate Focus Group meeting took place on November 18, 2015 (this group included members of the commercial real estate brokerage community; and a fourth Focus Group with Key City Staff was held on March 10, 2016. At that meeting the following was addressed by City staff including representatives of Planning, Development and Permits, Traffic Engineering and Economic Development: Comprehensive Plan including Overlay Districts, Traffic Engineering and Development and Permits process, Portsmouth Boulevard Widening Project, and Attraction and Retention of businesses in Western Branch.
Ditch Maintenance along Denning Lane
The Assistant City Engineer reports that the Shorewood Drainage Improvement which is scheduled to start this spring will address the concerns raised along Denning Lane.