Photo | Lagniappe
The city of Daphne recently cleared land between the police station and Target on U.S. Route 98 as part of a transportation project, but city officials offered no wordabout future commercial development.
Land clearing on city-owned property between the Daphne Police Department and the Target retail development is related to a transportation project, city officials told Lagniappe last week, calling it premature to discuss whether the property is targeted for commercial development.
Responding to questions about it and rumors on social media, Daphne City Council President Robin LeJeune said he had no information on the clearing. Councilman Ron Scott said he had a “suspicion of what’s going on,” but when he asked around City Hall last week, he couldn’t find any answers from the building or planning departments.
Afterward, Daphne Community Development Director Troy Strunk said while he couldn’t comment on “potential” commercial space the city may sell or lease in the future, the clearing is primarily part of a transportation improvement project approved by the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to remedy heavy traffic to Target and restaurants including Chick-fil-A.
“That intersection can get very congested at certain times of the day and part of [the Alabama Department of Transportation] ALDOT’s recommendation was looking at eliminating the full movement at the primary access,” he said. “So, that will become a right-in, right-out only. Full movement will be shifted south to a lighted intersection known as Lavender Lane.”
Lavender Lane is essentially a dead-end street to the police station, with city-owned property on either side.
“We will take the opportunity while we’re clearing trees for the additional right-of-way; we’re clearing that entire piece,” Strunk said.
Eastern Shore MPO Coordinator Sarah Hart confirmed, saying the plan “entails modifying the median in front of Chick-fil-A, realigning the Halls Lane intersection, adding a northbound turning lane on Van Avenue, extending Lavender Lane to the Target parking lot and adding a traffic signal at Lavender Lane and U.S. 98.”
The project was included in the MPO’s FY20-23 Transportation Improvement Plan and was included in Resolution 2019-26 as “U.S. 98 Corridor Improvements,” approved at the September 2019 MPO meetings.
Hart noted it was originally planned for next fiscal year, “but due to the number of stakeholders and business owners in the area and having everyone on board to move forward, the timing was right to get this project going and we moved the design up to [this year].”
Public Works Director Jeremy Sasser said at this point, the city was “simply cutting the timber and we are going to bring in fill dirt to help fill in the hole and get the elevation closer to the elevation of 98. Once we do this we are going to plant grass and consider it complete as far as I am concerned.”
Sasser said that aside from the transportation project, “there are no proposed uses for the vacant lot that I am aware of” and “any update on that will need to come from the mayor’s office.”
Strunk said while the city does lease other commercial property — notably a part of Jubilee Square on U.S. Highway 90 — “at this time we don’t have any comment on the potential space.”
Both Strunk and Sasser said the city had obtained a land clearing permit from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) for the project but a copy has not yet been provided to Lagniappe.
In a phone call with Lagniappe last weekend, Daphne Mayor Dane Haygood said there are “multiple things” going on at the site and if any council member was unfamiliar with the plan “they either have short memories or maybe they understand they can’t speak [about it].”
First and foremost, Haygood said the city has been working with ALDOT and affected business owners to find amicable solutions for the corridor, which is one of the busiest in the city.
“ALDOT has been unhappy with some of the traffic flow there and additional development,” he said. “But one problem is it’s not an acute fix. You can’t just do one median cut and it’s modified; there is a domino effect.”
Strunk said engineering hasn’t been completed on the property and it will be the end of year or longer before there is any construction on the site.
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