Multiple residents have voiced concerns over noise, the road's size and keeping wetlands safe.
A proposed plan to construct an extension off Yorktowne Boulevard connecting to Willow Run Boulevard has left some Port Orange residents wondering if there is an alternative to the roadway project and others troubled about how the area will be affected once the road is built.
Those concerns were brought up by multiple citizens during a Thursday, May 30, meeting where city officials discussed their projected plans for what would happen with the extension and their reasoning for deciding the road should be constructed.
The current plan for the Yorktowne extension is to construct the road through a piece of property that sits east of Williamson, south of Willow Run, West of Chardonnay Lane and north of Yorktowne. Between Chardonnay and the road, there would be stormwater ponds. The city is proposing the extension act as a right turn off Yorktowne and traveling north along the far east side of the property to Willow Run where motorists would be able to make a right or left-hand turn.
The road is also being designed for four lanes but could possibly be built with two lanes depending on the need. Designing for a four-lane road makes it easier for expansion if and when the time comes, according to City Manager Jake Johansson.
According to Johansson, the extension was planned as a way to relieve congestion on Dunlawton, especially at the interchange, while also providing relief for the Hidden Lake community and surrounding neighborhoods. Johansson said there has been a problem with people cutting through Hidden Lakes, and he is concerned about residents' safety in that area. He hopes creating the extension will decrease the number of motorists speeding through the neighborhood or not stopping at stop signs.
"I want them to use Yorktowne and get thru-traffic out of those two neighborhoods where kids are walking home from school from Horizon," Johansson said. "It's just easier for me to give them a 35-mile-an-hour street that they can go down and safely get to Willow Run without endangering the lives of those people."
However, some residents are concerned about the environmental impact the road would have if built. Environmentalist Nancy Long said that residents seem to feel strongly about overdevelopment in the city and are concerned about the destruction of watershed areas, wetlands and the natural areas in the city. She said that traffic and water quality — even availability of water — are major concerns.
It's these concerns and others that have led some residents to form a petition against the extension. According to conservationist Derek LaMontagne, there are about 100 signatures on the petition.
"The end result would be that the City Council carefully review the effects of opening this area to development and hopefully rescind the road extension and development approval due to the effects this road extension would have on the environment and traffic increase," Long said. "The city hiring attorneys to oppose their own residents also seems a waste of taxpayer money."
According to Community Development Director Tim Burman, the extension is being set up as a fair share project, meaning the city is and will be collecting from developers with projects around the area of the extension to help with funding. Burman said the city is also trying to work with the county on future projects to bring in additional funding.
"Now is the time to get the road moving," Councilman Drew Bastian said. "It's going to give us relief."
As for the environmental impact, Burman said the original layout for the extension was further west in the middle of the property cutting into a piece of wetland. The road was then pulled east, closer to Chardonnay, where it will no longer cut through the central wetland, only a small area to the southeast.
LaMontagne said that it is not just wetlands but the whole Spruce Creek watershed that is being neglected. LaMontagne expressed concern with the city's stormwater management practices and said that Sweetwater Creek, the tributary near the proposed project, has been left to deteriorate in recent years.
According to LaMontagne, the most sensible solution is to pursue more conservation efforts, including using funds to preserve the properties instead of clear them. He said partnerships with the state and other agencies should also be pursued.
"The ecosystem is not the only thing that will suffer," LaMontagne wrote in an email. "Quality of life will be burdened by increasing traffic problems, as well as noise and air pollution from I-95 and the new road, the city footing the entire $2.4-plus million bill, besides losing species habitat for people who enjoy nature."
But the road isn't the only possible change that has raised concerns. The property the road will cut through could one day be bought and built on. According to Burman, the property is zoned as mixed-use, which he said allows for flexible designs and for construction to be pushed further toward Williamson. Johansson said that he hopes whatever is developed on the property is something that residents in the area will want to use.
However, no one has yet to buy the property for development.
According to Burman, city officials anticipate that the future land use and zoning will go to council in June for a first and second reading before being finalized in July. Once that is given the green light the next stage will be to begin working on the right-of-way alignment.
"I am open to ideas, but something's going to happen here," Johansson said. "And we think this is the least impact to this community and the city and the best use of land for the city."