The fierce fight to block the eventual extension of Sherwood Drive will likely turn on a study taking place in the next 18 months to revise the transportation plan for the whole town — after a decade of growth and change.
Some 60 homeowners from neighborhoods along the current, dead-end length of Sherwood Drive packed the planning commission meeting last Monday to make sometimes desperate pleas to not extend their street up the hill to Airport Road.
The issue arose as a result of a 220-acre land swap near the Payson Airport. Ironically, the road extension that provoked an outcry isn’t at issue —since it’s already in the current general plan.
However, the town recently launched the new traffic study which will test the 1998 projections that underlie the current road plan for the whole town.
That study measured traffic volumes, then predicted future increases based on the proposed use of still-undeveloped land.
Those predictions called for the extension of Sherwood, Green Valley Parkway up to Airport Road and Wagon Trail to the newly extended Green Valley Parkway.
The new roads would enable people living and working on the mesa around the airport to reach the highway on Airport Road, the other end of town on Green Valley Parkway. Sherwood Drive would provide an additional steep and narrow outlet in the middle of a three-mile stretch of Airport Road. It would give people at the base of the hill a way out of the neighborhood in an emergency, provide access to proposed hillside lots and help connect the new businesses and homes on top to the rest of the town, said Director of Public Works LaRon Garrett.
In 1998, the traffic counts showed Sherwood carried about 2,100 cars per day. The projections predicted 3,453 cars by 2002 and 4,236 by 2007. The extension would carry a projected 3,206 of those cars in 2007. Without the extensions of Green Valley, Sherwood and Wagon Trail, the study predicted that by 2020 Sherwood would have to carry 10,572 cars per day as a result of anticipated new construction — about four times the 1998 total.
Actual traffic counts have already lagged far behind the predicted flows. In April, Sherwood carried 2,400 cars per day — much less than the 3,453 projected for 2002 without the extension.
Garrett said the current traffic study would revise all the estimates, which will help the town council amend the transportation element of the general plan in the next two years. The current general plan amendment did not include a traffic study.
Residents living in the neighborhoods surrounding Sherwood who testified at last week’s planning commission fear the extension will ruin a quiet neighborhood.
“These changes will literally destroy our neighborhood,” said Allan Schwartz, which provoked such a burst of applause from the standing-room-only audience that Commission Chairman Hal Baas admonished the spectators to refrain from reacting.
Commissioner Russell Goddard said the road extension “is not an issue we’re discussing today,” but would become an issue in the event of a request to actually rezone the property.
“Our objection is to the traffic that’s going to be generated as a result of changing the land use,” protested Schwartz.
“... in the zoning process,” interrupted Goddard.
“But how does that affect the road — if the change is a done deal?” asked Schwartz.
“... in the zoning process,” repeated Goddard, indicating that homeowners should fight the actual extension of the road years from now when landowners seek a zone change in connection with a particular project.
Mark Miller, president of the Woodhill Property Owners Association, said opponents of the extension had gathered 379 signatures from people living in the area.
“People do not want to see that road go through,” said Miller.
Resident Ed Cameron said the town could satisfy most of the opposition by dropping the proposed extension of Sherwood.
“I don’t hear a win/win/win proposal here,” said Cameron. “Why are you so dead set against” eliminating the extension?