Dalton dispute is polite

November 23, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Dalton, a small three-block subdivision off Route 29 that predates Columbia, isn't very accustomed to controversy.

In fact, before a recent county proposal to close Diamondback Drive at Route 29, the biggest dispute perhaps had been the long-defunct Dalton neighborhood association's court case against a neighbor who kept a commercial pickup truck on his property, recalled 35-year resident Fred Pausch.

The County Council resolution to close off Diamondback Drive from access to the county's main north-south highway has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the area roughly bordered by Routes 29, 175, 108 and Thunder Hill Road.

But Jeffrey Marcon, a Diamondback Drive resident who started a petition drive to close the road, and Mr. Pausch, who lives on adjoining Dartmouth Road and launched a counter-petition, said they don't expect an acrimonious dispute.

"I don't think it will be anything vindictive," said Mr. Pausch. "There's a disagreement over logical reasons. If it's decided against us, we'll live with it. If it's decided the other way, hopefully they will."

Mr. Marcon started a petition several months ago to close the road at Route 29 primarily to improve safety. He said motorists exiting from the highway, often congested during afternoon rush hour, use Diamondback Drive as a shortcut to local neighborhoods and tend to exceed the residential road's 25 mph speed limit. Also, the 0.4-mile-long road ends at Thunder Hill Elementary School and lacks a sidewalk along part of it, he said.

"What we have is a public safety and welfare issue," said Mr. Marcon, who has two young boys.

Mr. Marcon and his wife, Suzan, collected 22 petition signatures, mostly from Diamondback Drive families.

Mr. Pausch canvassed surrounding neighborhoods, including Dalton, collecting 250 signatures in opposition.

Some residents who oppose the closure expressed concern about access for emergency vehicles and potentially lowered property values at a Nov. 15 council hearing.

But Mr. Pausch acknowledged the main reason for the opposition is that residents "don't want to be inconvenienced."

The county has scheduled a meeting for the opposing groups at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at Thunder Hill Elementary School. Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, the resolution's sponsor, and county public works and State Highway Administration officials are expected to attend.

The county's traffic engineering division has recommended closing the road. Only one other local road -- Columbia Road -- still has an at-grade intersection with Route 29, which has been ++ converted into a limited access highway with interchanges. But Columbia Road doesn't connect with other local streets, as does Diamondback Drive.

Traffic engineering Chief C. Edward Walter said Diamondback Drive has "potential for cut-through traffic," which is undesirable near an elementary school. He said county Police and Fire departments don't object to the closure.

Closing Diamondback Drive would mean motorists would have to travel via Routes 175 or 108 to gain access to the neighborhoods.

"What's two minutes' inconvenience compared to the potential of a child being hit?" asked Mr. Marcon.

Mr. Pausch said he has no quarrel with Mr. Marcon's position but argued that closing Diamondback Drive would increase traffic on other main roads in the community, including Mellonbrook and Lightning View roads.

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