GREENVILLE — The potential relocation of a city street took another step forward Tuesday evening as the city aims to improve parking and traffic flow at Spectrum Health United Hospital.
The City Council unanimously approved to introduce an ordinance to vacate a portion of Marvel Drive, from Oak Street to Judd Street.
The ordinance itself will not be voted on until the council’s regular board meeting on June 6, at which City Manager George Bosanic said additional documents related to the street vacation and relocation project would be provided.
The vote came after a public hearing for comment on the recommendation from the Greenville Planning Commission to vacate the street and relocate it 115 feet to the east.
According to Bosanic, by moving the street, an opportunity would be proposed for the hospital to establish parking adjacent to the facility instead of having pedestrians cross a street.
“This would also remove the quirky curve in existing Marvel Drive, making it safer for the motoring public,” Bosanic said, referencing the street’s unusual intersection with Judd Street.
The move of the street would also call for curb cut closures on Oak Street that currently provide access to parking at Baldwin Heights Elementary School. In turn, a new larger curb cut would be created off of the new Marvel Drive, which Bosanic said would improve safety at the school.
Bosanic said the decision would create alternate routes for parents to drop and pick up children at the school, as opposed to forcing all cars to the intersection of Luray and Oak streets, where student crossing and bus access tends to be limited to a confined area.
According to Bosanic, the project is estimated to cost approximately $200,000, of which the city is paying $60,000. Bosanic said Spectrum will be paying the remainder of the costs for the relocation project.
“We had four bidders and they came a bit underestimate,” he said. “We will vote on those bids on June 6.”
If approved, Bosanic estimates construction would begin sometime in July.
In relocating the street, the six houses on that portion of Marvel Drive have been gifted by the hospital to Habitat for Humanity, and three of the homes will be relocated.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the transfer of surplus land on Greenville West Drive for two of the three homes to be relocated to newly rezoned residential lots on the corner of W. Coffren and N. Lincoln streets.
“We’ve been working with Habitat for Humanity because those are nice houses. It would be a shame to see them have to be demolished,” Bosanic said. “We’ve vacated the street right of way at Coffren Street and negotiated an agreement with habitat to relocate these homes on two lots that we have created as a result of the vacation.”
In exchange, the city received $6,000 and a parcel of land located adjacent to Tower Riverside Park on N. Franklin Street from Habitat, to provide parking for a potential future splash pad.
During the public hearing, Greenville resident James Cameron, who lives near the potential relocation project on Alexander Street, said he took issue with the city acting hastily in approving the project.
“From what I see today, I want to request the City Council to delay this request until after Spectrum Health United Hospital presents and has an approved plan that has been adopted by the city. Moving of a street is not a plan,” he said.
Cameron cited “uncontrolled growth” by the hospital in the past five years, which he claims has resulted in vacant land and unmanaged land use, leaving the local neighborhoods “looking more like a parking lot than a family residential neighborhood.” He would like to see the project studied in more detail.
“I am very worried that the project will be done as (an) undervalue project leaving the neighborhood the only option but to live with it,” he said.
Though the relocation of the street is listed as an option in the city’s master plan, Cameron said there were other options listed that the city could have pursued, including future expansions northward toward Washington Street, as opposed to the south into established residentially zoned areas, and expanding to the south onto the former Greenville Country club property.
Fellow Greenville resident Mike Blanding, who lives on Judd Street, brought forth concerns about new sidewalks and potential tree removal.
“Are we going to lose all of those beautiful trees that I get to look at eery day?” he asked.
Councilwoman Jeanne Cunliffe, who serves as council liaison to the Planning Commission, said she felt the recommendation had been brought forward with proper due diligence.
“The Planning Commission is very aware of what rules we need to follow, and this has been on our agenda since January,” she said. This is a plan (the city’s Master Plan) that has to be updated every five years, and it just so happened that this was a good year to do this (street relocation).”
Cunliffe said while Cameron is correct about alternative options in the Master Plan not being used, that doesn’t mean they weren’t reviewed by the commission.
“Because something appeared in the Master Plan five years ago, or two years ago, that doesn’t necessarily mean that our direction of the city or needs of the city can’t change,” she said. “The Planning Commission definitely is considering all options on this.”
Councilman Larry Moss, however, agreed with Cameron on the point of viewing the hospital’s official plans for the new site.
“I think Mr. Blanding made a good point about seeing hospital plans,” he said. “I think it would be good for us to see that before wee take any further action.”
Councilman Mark Lehman said he empathized with Cameron’s concerns about the city moving hastily, but stressed he has confidence in city staff to accomplish the task regardless, specifically citing City Engineer Doug Hinken.
“I’m happy that we have a team of people that are able to choreograph the logistics of this, because it’s something to behold,” he said.