WINCHESTER — A proposal to build a traffic-calming roundabout on South Pleasant Valley Road continues to draw fire.
During the public comment portion of Tuesday night's City Council meeting in Rouss City Hall, five people spoke against the proposed traffic circle and another 20 submitted written concerns regarding the project. All of their comments focused on the potential impacts the roundabout could have on the residential neighborhoods west of South Pleasant Valley Road.
Katt Eaton, a Parkway Street resident who served five years on the Winchester Planning Commission before resigning from the panel in January 2020, told council the traffic circle is a bad idea and accused city officials of downplaying the amount of vehicles that could use it to enter the neighborhoods parallel to South Pleasant Valley Avenue.
"The narrow, one-way residential streets that make up our neighborhood were never designed nor intended as a through street running up from South Pleasant Valley Road," Eaton said, suggesting the roundabout would work better if moved a few blocks north to the heavily used intersection of South Pleasant Valley Road and East Cork Street.
The roundabout is proposed for inclusion in Winchester's latest update to its Comprehensive Plan, which serves as a blueprint for the city's development and growth over the next decade and beyond. Even if it is included in the plan, there is no guarantee it will ever be built.
If the roundabout is constructed, it would connect to East Leicester Street and open a travel lane linking South Pleasant Valley Road to an area adjacent to City Yards near downtown Winchester.
"That street [Leicester] is very narrow and would dump traffic out in residential neighborhoods, one of them ours," Parkway Street resident Susie Rhodes wrote in an email to council. "There is hardly room for any parking on all those narrow streets back near Leicester. Why in the world would you want a roundabout right there? This looks so disruptive."
"Many of us do not have driveways and have to park on the street," Shawnee Avenue resident Bethany Kirby said to council on Tuesday. "Many of our streets are one way, or are two way but cannot accommodate two vehicles traveling in opposite directions at the same time."
Further complicating the issue is a proposal currently before council to build 25 townhouses and an office building on a narrow, 4.3-acre stretch of land sandwiched between South Pleasant Valley Road and the backyards of several single-family homes along Opequon Avenue. The roundabout is targeted for the southern end of the 4.3 acres, but the property's owner, Schwartz Family Investments II LLC, has said it would build an access road to the townhouses and office building at that location even if the roundabout never materializes.
"To myself and many other residents, opening up Leicester Street to Pleasant Valley in any capacity, whether to grant limited access to the proposed [townhouse] development or via a full-blown traffic roundabout, seems disastrous," Kirby said.
"If we get a lot more traffic through there, there's going to be children hurt, children killed," said Shenandoah Avenue resident Deb Lloyd.
"People around here don't know how to drive," added Parkway Street resident Bruce Smith, who said he opposes both the roundabout and the proposed townhouses and office building.
On Tuesday, City Council held a first reading regarding a proposed rezoning of the 4.3 acres at South Pleasant Valley Road. Currently, single-family houses could be built there by right, but in order to build 25 townhouses, the developer needs Winchester to add a Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation to the parcel's Residential Office (RO-1) zoning. A public hearing and final vote on the rezoning is scheduled for council's next business meeting on Sept. 28.
The roundabout is being considered for inclusion in an update to Winchester's overall Comprehensive Plan. The city's Planning Commission has said it intends to issue a recommendation on the revised plan in October, then forward the item to City Council for a public hearing and final vote later this year.