Residents oppose Route 97 changes Plan would eliminate well-used intersection

December 15, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Proposed changes to a busy 2-mile stretch of Route 97 north of Westminster, including the relocation of a section of Pleasant Valley Road, have drawn heated opposition from residents.

About 50 people attended an informational meeting for homeowners Thursday about the proposed relocation of part of Pleasant Valley Road west of Route 97.

The proposed relocation, which would eliminate Pleasant Valley Road's intersection with Route 97, was the focus of the meeting, said J. Michael Evans, Carroll County's director of public works. A new section would be built through county-owned farmland for about $550,000 after 1999, Evans said.

Sentiment was overwhelmingly against the proposals presented by Evans, although several residents praised some changes that have been made to the road in the past year.

Cindy Lang, who lives on Pleasant Valley Road, which would be turned into a cul-de-sac under one proposal, collected 53 signatures on a petition to the County Commissioners. The petition opposes the relocation of Pleasant Valley Road and a recent county planning staff recommendation to rezone some agricultural land along Route 97 for industrial use.

The Pleasant Valley intersection with Route 97 would be closed under the county's proposal, with a new section built from Chris Lane in Kalten Acres to Old Meadow Branch Road.

The other intersections in the area under study included Kriders Church Road, Old Meadow Branch Road, Old Bachmans Valley Road, Magna Way/Airport Drive, and Bachmans Valley Road (Route 496). Old Bachmans Valley Road has already been made a dead end.

Evans also outlined a series of proposed changes -- everything from new stop lights to road redesigns -- along Route 97 from the Route 140 off ramp north to Bachmans Valley Road.

'Another Ritchie Highway'

Many residents charged that the improvements were designed primarily for proposed industrial uses and would turn the road into "another Ritchie Highway."

John R. Benjamin of Chris Lane said that he hoped safety was the primary concern, but believed "that the only reason we're here is that this is needed for the six parcels they're going to rezone to light industrial -- and that's the only thing that matters.

"You can say what you want. Without the road coming up, you won't be able to sell off and get industry in where you want them," he added. "Anything we say isn't going to stop this."

"I think the county is trying to capitalize on an investment they made on a piece of ground," said Ed Aldridge, a Pleasant Valley Road resident.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," Evans replied.

Safety concerns

Later, Evans said he resented accusations that the improvements were intended to serve proposed industrial development.

"It is easy to get off in Neverland on that, but it is not true," he said. "This project came about because of a concerned group in Kalten Acres after several deaths," including one of his employees, he said.

Police found speeding was not a big problem -- probably because traffic is too heavy, Evans said. The problems had more to do with traffic volume and poor flow, he said.

Differing viewpoints

But residents said they were thinking in terms of getting lower speed limits, increased police enforcement and improved turning lanes -- not drastic changes in the roads.

Gail Myers, a 20-year resident of Kalten Road, said she was one of those who called the county to do something because "we knew these people" who died. It had nothing to do with promoting development, she said.

"We felt enough was enough. Our intent when we called [the county] was purely safety -- not intended to have all these people here about their property values," she said.

"I'm very upset about the situation here tonight, because none of in Kalten Acres wanted it to come to this. The six to eight of us wanted at least one traffic-monitored intersection so we could get in and out safely.

"I apologize to all of you," she said, to applause.

Residents speak out

Although only six people had signed up to speak, 25 more took Evans' invitation for "any other comments?"

The lead-off speaker of those who had signed up was Ralph G. Peters Jr., a 15-year resident of Pleasant Valley Road. He spoke at length for the group and summarized their concerns, including their wish to get the speed limit reduced to 40 mph and the difficulties residents foresee with snow removal, trash collection, deliveries, school buses, water run-off and declining property values if the road were closed off.

"The county has increased the number of intersections by four since I have lived there," Peters said. "Now you're wanting me to give up my intersection, which has been there for 80 to 100 years, because of intersections you created.

"This road is being developed to accommodate the increasing volume of traffic from increased development," he said to applause.

"The county is spending a lot of money to build a road that we don't feel is needed. We asked for improvement at the intersections to make it safer to use the existing roads -- not for new roads to bypass our community."

Evans later told the crowd he'd be happy to have the money for other projects.

Mike Gist, a South Pleasant Valley Road resident and assistant chief of the Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Company, said emergency services already have trouble with access -- and with too many roads with the same name preceded by "old" or "new."

Pub Date: 12/15/97

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