BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Proposed housing developments around The Shops at Fallen Timbers could increase traffic as much as 210 percent at the intersection of Black Road and Stitt Road, according to a recent study.
Lucas County Engineer Mike Pniewski said the condition of Black Road and traffic counts at its intersections with Stitt and Waterville Monclova roads already warrant the addition of turn lanes, a widened roadway and berms, but plans for 174 villas and 229 homes make those improvements even more necessary.
During the November 15 Monclova Township trustees meeting, Pniewski presented the traffic study, which trustees have awaited since property owner Zac Isaac and developer Steve Mitchell first submitted a zoning change request on February 1.
That request – to rezone 28 acres of property from A/R Agricultural Residential and M-1 Industrial to R-1 Residential – would allow Mike White of Buckeye Real Estate Group to build 57 single-family homes on 9,000-square-foot lots in the interior and 20,000-square-foot lots along Black Road.
Since that first public hearing in February, trustees have postponed a decision while awaiting the traffic study. The concern is that the 28-acre parcel is just part of a larger development that could dump all traffic out onto Black Road.
The triangular-shaped parcel is just west of a 90-acre parcel in Maumee that the city previously approved for residential zoning and will be combined into one housing development that will have 172 homes. In addition, Maumee approved the rezoning of an adjacent 24-acre parcel to allow for 174 single-story villas with eight units to a building.
A Norfolk Southern single railroad track runs through the middle of the property to service Johns Manville, and Isaac is waiting for the railroad to approve a crossing that would allow residential traffic to also access Fallen Timbers Lane. Construction on the villas has not yet begun because the railroad also needs to give permission to bore under the tracks for utilities, Isaac said.
During the few months that Isaac had a camera out on the property, he noted that the spur has about 30 rail cars a month, bringing in raw materials to Johns Manville at night, so the risk of a crossing is minimal.
“The railroad is safety-conscious,” Isaac said.
The traffic study took into account how the Black Road traffic would be impacted in two scenarios – with and without that railroad crossing – but Pniewski said getting permission from a railroad is notoriously difficult. The study also looks at the impact of phase one – the villas – as well as a full buildout with 229 homes and the villas. Counts were made at peak hour, or around 5:30 p.m.
At the intersection of Black and Waterville Monclova, current peak traffic is 88 vehicles per hour making a left turn onto Black from southbound Waterville Monclova. Those counts are expected to increase to 121 in phase one; to 146 with the full build including a railroad crossing; and 177 without a railroad crossing – a 101-percent increase.
At the intersection of Black Road and Stitt Road, current peak traffic for those turning right from Stitt onto Black is 62 vehicles. With phase one, that would increase 66 percent to 103 vehicles per hour. Once the development is complete, that would grow to 117 vehicles if a railroad crossing is in place or 192 vehicles without that crossing within the development – a 210-percent increase.
The traffic study and internal numbers indicate that turn lanes are already warranted at the Black Road intersections with Stitt and Waterville Monclova roads. Black Road also needs to be widened to allow for 11-foot lanes and berms, Pniewski said. With development planned, the need is more apparent. Often, developers pay for a turn lane in front of a development, but it’s another thing to ask them to chip in on the cost of improvements at intersections, Pniewski said. He’s working with Isaac and hopes to find an agreement so that the county, township, developer and Maumee all share the cost. He believes that’s possible, and so does Isaac.
“We know we will add traffic and we will pay our fair share,” Isaac said. “That’s never been an argument.”
With the traffic study finished, Isaac believes that trustees have all the information they need to make a decision during the public hearing set for Monday, December 6 at 5:45 p.m.
The study, while focused on the impact of Isaac’s development, also gives the township some direction on how to better prepare for other growth in that area. To the west of Black Road, the owner of 163 of the 200 acres of farmland has indicated to Pniewski a desire to eventually develop – and an openness to possibly use a residential TIF (Tax Increment Financing) agreement. Much like a commercial TIF, this essentially generates revenue off the increase in property values as the land is developed. The funds would go into improvements such as roadways and infrastructure.
“If there’s an opportunity to make improvements and get agreements with the developer and townships, that’s part of our job,” Pniewski said. “It’s in the developer’s interest as well as ours. As we get more developments, the character of the community can change unless it is managed well.”