Funding for a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly crossing at the Heide Trask Drawbridge, discussion of an alternate route from the Love Grove neighborhood and the fate of a historic downtown home were among the topics discussed at the July 9 meeting of Wilmington City Council.
An ordinance authorizing city manager Sterling Cheatham to enter into an agreement with the state’s Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to construct a long-awaited pedestrian and cyclist crossing
underneath the Heide Trask drawbridge was passed unanimously, along with an accompanying ordinance to accept $250,000 in NCDOT funding for the project. The crossing will connect the north side of Wrightsville Avenue, traverse beneath the mainland side of the bridge, and connect to the other side, allowing cyclists safe passage past under the five heavily-trafficked lanes, and to the rest of the Gary Shell Cross City Trail.
Following the unanimous passage of a continuing resolution for the rezoning of more than 300 acres at 3151 S. 17th St., to create a mixed use development, councilmembers heard a presentation by the city’s sustainability project manager, Susan Gooding, which highlighted many past sustainability initiatives, including an over $1 million energy efficiency block grant, and the success of the Big Blue recycling project, which has seen a 75 percent overall participation rate since being rolled out earlier this year.
Glancy Thomas, chairwoman of the Commission on African American History then followed with its annual report, highlighting several of its projects during the past year, including the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom kiosk at Orange and Water streets, the Colored Troops marker at the Market Street National Cemetery and their hosting of the Heath Brothers at Thalian Hall.
Former city councilman Ronald Sparks kicked off an impassioned discussion concerning the Love Grove community, a north Wilmington neighborhood adjacent to MLK Parkway which was cut off from the rest of the city when a CSX train carrying chemical tankers derailed last month, stranding residents inside the isolated neighborhood with no alternative exit route.
Sparks, on behalf of his engineering firm, proposed a $3.44 million, 980-foot bridge and roadway be built to connect the neighborhood with One Tree Hill Way. Some three dozen Love Grove residents applauded in response to Sparks’ final slide, which showed a large picture of last weekend’s fatal train crash in Quebec, implying that a potential disaster could be imminent without an option for Love Grove.
Mayor Bill Saffo, Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Earl Sheridan, and Councilwoman Laura Padgett indicated support for such a proposal, although Tony Caudle, assistant city manager, indicated that staff would continue engaging railroad company CSX on potential alternative routes that the company had previously indicated were off the table.
An expired special use permit was unanimously re-approved to allow a 150-foot wireless communications pole for AT&T on South College Road. Following the council’s unanimous passage of that ordinance, a public hearing to allow a historic home at 208 S. Third St. to become a multi-family dwelling drew more than an hour of discussion by planning staff, former residents, neighbors and representatives of the house’s owners. Ultimately the ordinance was continued to the following meeting, to be held Aug. 6.