GREENVILLE — The decision to relocate Marvel Drive now rests in the hands of the Greenville City Council.
On Thursday, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend a relocation of the city street, from Oak to Judd Streets, 115 feet to the east, to the City Council.
The decision came after an hour-long meeting that included a public hearing in which three city residents addressed concerns about the street relocation, which would provide Spectrum Heath United Hospital with more area for future parking and potential expansion.
City Manager George Bosanic said the goal, if approved by the council, is for the construction of the relocation to begin this June, once school is out at the adjacent Baldwin Heights Elementary School.
The new street will be built on land that is currently occupied by five residential houses — all of which have now been purchased by the hospital.
Bosanic said until every home was purchased, there was no reason to bring the proposal forward, but after the hospital recently acquired the fifth and final home, they are prepared to move forward with the city.
“The hospital has been acquiring properties adjacent to it for future expansion, and it didn’t make any sense to bring this forward until that happened,” he said.
Three of the homes are expected to be relocated to other parts of the city, with the remaining two likely to be demolished.
Bosanic said the hospital was approached with this arrangement by the city, in an effort to prevent it from building additional “island parking lots” north of Oak Street, which results in both employees and visitors of the hospital to cross the street.
“Over time now, this is becoming quite a bit of a concern in regards to the safety, pedestrians primarily,” he said. “As we look at the expansion for parking, which is a real concern and real need for the hospital, we can leave Marvel where it is, but that would just create another (island parking) situation where all of those folks would be crossing another street to get to work.”
In addition to the new street, the parking entrance for parents and buses at Baldwin Heights Elementary School would also be redesigned, with the parent drop-off and teacher parking area receiving access off of the new Marvel Drive, and buses dropping students off at Faber Drive.
Those arrangements would be pending the passage of the upcoming school improvement bond proposal, which residents are voting on today.
According to City Planner Tim Johnson, the proposal for the relocation falls in line with the city’s Master Plan, which calls for the relocation of the street as one of the possible ways for the hospital to expand.
“It’s always wonderful when a plan can predict something, and it actually happens,” he said. “In conclusion, this project would benefit both the school and the hospital.”
Johnson said he did not anticipate the altered traffic patterns to create any additional problems for residents, with the exception of Joseph Schrader at 903 Judd St., as the new Marvel Drive would no line up with his residence.
During public comment, Schrader announced his concern with the new potential traffic patterns impacting his residence, and resident James Cameron, who lives at 806 Alexander St., said he felt the new plan was encroaching on the area neighborhood.
“I’ve been a little concerned about this proposal ever since the hospital started buying homes on Marvel Drive,” Cameron said. “The neighborhood, it’s been well maintained for 60 years and now I feel we have a real encroachment into the area. I see other good opportunities (the hospital could pursue) that really don’t include this.”
Cameron said he felt the hospital’s expansions over time to the north, and potentially to the west, has resulted in creating additional traffic issues.
“I think this is moving too fast. I think we’ve made too many mistakes already,” he said. “The Greenville Country Club, which is now vacant, is undeveloped. It’s for sale. It’s got to be cheaper than building new roads. In the master plan, it was stated that it should be considered.”
Bosanic and members of the Planning Commission said they were sympathetic to the concerns of the residents, but felt the positives of the project outweighed the negatives.
“With that growth of the hospital, certainly comes some challenges,” Planning Commission Chairman David Ralph said. “I understand the perspective of selecting options, and how the city might hope to steer those options, but at the same time, a hospital is no different that a private company. The hospital has made some choices as to where to acquire properties, based somewhat on the opportunity to acquire those properties.”
“They now own property that makes this able to happen,” Ralph continued. “I don’t want to diminish, particularly for Mr. Schrader, the concerns of residents, but in his situation, it is a relatively small change, and part of the hope of this plan is to improve traffic movement at that location.”
Upon voting for the recommendation from the planning commission, Ralph said the City Council will now be responsible for making a decision on that recommendation.
In closing, Planning Commissioner Dale Reyburn said the street relocation is a result of living in a growing city.
“You have to share the burden of the development of the city, and I think that’s what we’re doing today,” he said. “I think it’s going to create better traffic flow and a safer environment.
Ralph said the city would continue with its communication with neighbors impacted by the potential relocation, and they will again have an opportunity to speak before the City Council if they wish.