The City of Oak Ridge North is considering the rerouting and expansion of Robinson Road, the creation of walking and cycling trails and other possible roadway changes as part of its comprehensive planning initiatives.
Oak Ridge North and Halff & Associates, a consulting firm, presented comprehensive plan initiatives to residents at Oak Ridge Baptist Church April 23, the result of several months of data gathering with residents and local stakeholders. The recommended plan constructed by Halff & Associates and the city's Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee included transportation, infrastructure, economic growth, neighborhoods, community building and parks improvements.
"This area is growing faster than possibly any area in the country," said Halff Vice President James Carrillo on the plan. "Change is coming. You can either make changes or you can let changes happen to you."
Perhaps the most significant changes involve the Robinson Road area. Carrillo said the proposed plan to address traffic congestion would add a third, managed middle lane on Robinson Road. The direction traffic travels on the new lane would change depending on the time of day to address rush hour needs. The plan also proposes the rerouting of Robinson to make it veer right just west of City Hall and meet up directly with the section of Robinson east of Hannah Road.
Not only could the rerouting address congestion at Robinson and Hannah, but it could create a town center area near City Hall and the old section of Robinson Road, Carrillo said. The plan suggests creating a "heart of the city" in that area with parks and new businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants.
"We're designating that to have a different kind of character than your usual commercial area," Carrillo said.
Other transportation concerns mentioned by the plan include I-45 and Robinson Road, strategies to better facilitate north-south movement and possible traffic calming initiatives on collector streets like Patsy Lane, Harlan Lane, Westwood Drive, Maplewood Drive and Blueberry Hill Drive.
The plan also suggests the city continue to work with The Retail Coach—a retail recruitment firm—on business recruitment to seek higher quality developments , and to look at changing land uses, including areas outside the city but within its extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Possible infrastructure improvements include an upcoming project to overlay the city's streets and the construction a sound wall or addition of vegetation to mitigate noise along I-45, Carrillo said. The plan encouraged the creation of pathways and pocket parks for residents, Carrillo said, while the city could also consider expanding Marilyn Edgar Park and adding a community center to host events.
Residents expressed concerns about the preservation of home values and the quality of the neighborhoods, which Carrillo said could be addressed by developing neighborhood associations. He said the city could also examine zoning and subdivision standards, tree preservation ordinances and building codes.
Carrillo said community identity is also an area of concern. The plan proposes adding signs entering and leaving the city, with a possible "major branding feature" to be constructed along I-45 several years in the future. The plan also encouraged neighborhoods to come up with names, which could be placed on signs entering the communities.
"It's the small things that add up which say, 'This is a great place to live and we're proud to be a part of it,'" Carrillo said.
The plan includes a vague timetable for when projects would ideally be completed with some taking as little as five years and some as long as 20 years. Carrillo reminded the public the plan is "not locked in stone." Mayor Jim Kuykendall said a second public meeting regarding the comprehensive plan would be held sometime in late May before it is sent to City Council for approval.