Since receiving approval to open a store in Chapel Hill in late 2016, Wegmans has continuously worked with residents to make sure the store won’t have negative impacts on the community.
In 2017, Wegmans' special use permit was approved by the Chapel Hill Town Council, but the permit included a stipulation that detailed what must be done to address the potential for increased traffic on nearby residential streets.
“Prior to issuance of the zoning compliance permit, the developer shall meet area residents and Town staff to develop and finalize the traffic calming devices,” the stipulation said.
A traffic calming device is something like a speed bump or a four-way stop intersection.
On Monday, a group of Town employees met with local residents at the Chapel Hill Public Library to discuss what devices should be used in the area around the proposed Wegmans location in between Old Durham Road and U.S. Highway 15-501.
Judy Johnson, an operations manager in the Town's Department of Planning and Development Services, began by acknowledging that the Wegmans store could cause traffic issues, but the Town wants to work with local residents to find a solution.
“The cut-through traffic is a tremendous concern, and we are here to listen,” she said. “... We’re going to take notes, and we’re looking for feedback on our plan.”
Traffic engineering manager Kumar Neppalli discussed the specifics of the proposed plan, which were based on community input and the department’s expertise.
“We have 17, 18 types of traffic-calming devices in the Town that we implement to reduce the traffic problem, and we took those 17, 18 ideas and took your input and looked at the streets around the Wegmans store and came up with some recommendations,” he said.
One part of the proposed plan was the implementation of all-way stop signs at both intersections of Garden Street and Scarlett Drive and three more on Standish Drive.
“All-way stop control is the most effective traffic calming device,” Neppalli said.
A large change in the proposal is a median between Old Durham Road and Scarlett Drive that would prevent left turns from one road to the other.
Another substantial change is the installation of a traffic diverter at the intersection of Cooper Street and Old Durham Road. This change would prevent residents from entering Cooper Street from Old Durham Road. Neppalli said this would inconvenience Cooper Street residents and others in the surrounding area, but the measure is an important device to reduce cut-through traffic.
At the end of the meeting, the floor was opened to those in attendance to address their questions and concerns. For almost 30 minutes some citizens grateful for the plan, while others voiced their worry about congestion, backups, accidents and pedestrian safety in the area.
While the meeting began with answers, it ended with even more questions.
Neppalli made it clear the goal was to finalize the plan in the upcoming weeks in order to implement any changes before the store opens to gather traffic data with the new devices in place. They will then take data again six months after Wegmans opens, compare the data to the benchmark and see if additional action is needed.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.