Planning and Development Committee, December 20, 2012


Master Plan for Carpenter Neighborhood Park (PR13-14)

Consideration of the Master Plan for Carpenter Neighborhood Park

Speaker:  Mr. Doug McRainey


From:  Doug McRainey, PRCR Director

Prepared By:  Paul Kuhn, Parks Planning Manager; Laura Cove, Associate Director of Engineering

Approved by:  Benjamin T. Shivar, Town Manager

Approved by:  Michael J. Bajorek, Assistant Town Manager


Executive Summary:  Since January of 2012, the Town has been working on the Carpenter Neighborhood Park Master Plan.  Staff has completed the master plan process, including obtaining citizen input and has provided several options for Council’s consideration.  Staff recommends Council’s adoption of Option 1 of the master plan which includes a right-in/right-out access point on Louis Stephens Drive and a full access point on Carpenter Town Lane. 


Background:  In 2007, the Town of Cary purchased 45 acres of open space in Carpenter for the purpose of protecting Cary’s agricultural history from development, using State of North Carolina funds via the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (NCPARTF).  This purchase included two future park sites:  the 29-acre historic A.M. Howard Farm located on the north side of Morrisville Carpenter Road and an additional 16 acres on the south side of Morrisville Carpenter Road designated as a future neighborhood park.


The site for the Carpenter Neighborhood Park is the above-noted 15.79 acre site, located south of Morrisville Carpenter Road, east of Louis Stephens Road, west of the homes on Hamilton Hedge, and north of Carpenter Town Lane.  While the Carpenter Neighborhood Park is primarily intended to be a neighborhood park and serve the adjacent neighborhood, it is also designed to serve the residents living within 1 mile of the park.


Cary parks are often a draw to residents living outside of the 1 mile radius due to the unique character of each park.  We anticipate that this park will also draw residents from outside the 1 mile radius.  


Discussion:  The proposed Master Plan was developed by a consultant team led by DHM Design located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Public involvement has guided the planning process and shaped the proposed Master Plan. Key milestones regarding the planning process include:

·         Public Meetings/Input (2)

·         Citizen Design Committee Meetings (2)

·         Public Feedback Session at Western Wake Farmers Market on 3 concepts – May 2012

·         Citizen Meeting regarding Connectivity – August 2012


Attached to the staff report is the Carpenter Neighborhood Park Master Plan Report that describes the planning process in detail, the analysis of the park site, the concept plans and the final draft of the proposed master plan.  The appendix includes meeting minutes as well as the traffic analysis.


Below is a summary of the framework for the park’s master plan:


·         Preserve as much of the site as possible, including protecting the wetlands and protecting 58% of the existing tree cover.  In addition, the plan incorporates the original 1.4 acre pond to help create an historic identifying landform and organizing element for the park.

·         Evoke and highlight the region’s agricultural history – to celebrate the rich heritage of western Wake County’s agricultural legacy

·         Tell the story of succession – to take advantage of what the site has told us about its condition, its history and to illustrate the story of succession for generations to come

·         Create enjoyable and safe walking paths – to help ensure healthy outdoor living opportunities where walking and pedestrian movement is promoted and enhanced

·         Incorporate the American Eagle Flight 3379 Memorial into the overall design – to ensure that a vital connection to the area’s history is kept, treasured, and highlighted in a meaningful tribute to those who passed away and those who saved the survivors. American Eagle Flight 3379 crashed approximately 1 mile from the project site on December 13, 1994 killing 15 persons with 5 survivors.

·         Ensure safe and effective vehicular access – to ensure consensus with NCDOT, Town of Cary Staff, and the adjacent neighborhood


As far as distinct park program elements, the following elements were proposed in the final master plan.  These were noted as standard elements in the PRCR Master plan for a neighborhood park but also validated during the public feedback sessions and the concept reviews:


·         Preserved Forest (58% of site)

·         Non-programmed Play Field Lawn Area for passive recreation (0.75 Acres)

·         Pond (1.4 acres) with grass terraces overlooking the pond celebrating the agricultural history of the site

·         Children’s play area for natural and creative play

·         Community Garden and orchard

·         Restroom facility

·         Flight 3379 Memorial

·         Neighborhood greenway connections linking to the park

·         Basketball/Multi-Sport court (Future Lights)

·         Loop Walking Trail within park (0.4 miles)

·         Future Grade-separated tunnel to create safe crossing to A.M. Howard Farm site

·         Public Art

·         30-space parking area with vehicular access to public right-of-way

·         Small shaded seating areas(1 table or 1 bench)

·         1 Large picnic shelter (6 tables) and 1 Medium picnic shelter (4 tables)


Along with the program needs the park project will be required to meet other ordinance requirements.  This will include buffers to adjacent neighbors and along the street, extension of utilities and road improvements.  Morrisville-Carpenter Road will be required to add curb and gutter and sidewalk.  Due to the existing configuration of Morrisville-Carpenter Road an asymmetrical widening will occur.  The majority of the widening will occur on the A.M. Howard Farm property bringing the road much closer to the existing historic buildings on the site.  This may have an impact on this Town owned property when it comes time to develop this property.  The full impact will not be known until a master plan is developed for the A.M Howard Farm.  At this time staff does not anticipate that this is something that cannot be overcome.


Park Access

Neighbors, primarily those living along Carpenter Town Lane, have expressed concerns throughout the process, including at the public meetings, at specific neighborhood meetings, at multiple Town Council Meetings and in numerous emails to staff and Council Members.  The most prominent issue seems to be related to the effects of vehicular access to the park from Carpenter Town Lane.  These concerns include, but are not limited to pedestrian/bicycle safety, particularly for younger children along Carpenter Town Lane, headlight glare into the homes across from the proposed park driveway, additional traffic along neighborhood streets, primarily Carpenter Town Lane, speed of vehicles along Carpenter Town Lane, decreased property values resulting from an access point along Carpenter Town Lane, concerns about personal safety, and cars parked along Carpenter Town Lane which may affect regular traffic flow as well as emergency vehicle access.  Staff has seriously considered the concerns expressed by the neighbors of the future park and has made a change to the draft master plan as well as provided Council with two additional options for consideration.


The Carpenter Neighborhood Park site is bordered by Louis Stephens Drive to the west, Morrisville Carpenter Road to the north, homes along Hamilton Hedge Place along the east and Carpenter Town Lane along the south.  Louis Stephens Road is a state-maintained major thoroughfare with a posted speed limit of 35 mph.  In the section adjacent to the proposed park, Louis Stephens has two lanes in each direction separated with a narrow grass median.  There is curb and gutter and sidewalks along both sides of the road.  Current traffic volumes on Louis Stephens in this area are approximately 5,000 vehicles per day with projected increases to 6,000 vehicles per day in 2017 and 9,000 vehicles per day in 2035.  Morrisville Carpenter Road is a state-maintained major thoroughfare with a posted speed limit of 45 mph.  In the section of Morrisville Carpenter Road adjacent to the park, the roadway is one lane in each direction with turn lanes at intersections.  There is no curb and gutter or sidewalks at the present time.  Current traffic volumes on Morrisville Carpenter Road in this area are approximately 9,000 vehicles per day with projected increases to 11,000 vehicles per day in 2017 and 16,000 vehicles per day in 2035.   Both Hamilton Hedge Place and Carpenter Town Lane are town-maintained residential streets with a posted speed limit of 25 mph and a standard street with of 27 feet (22 feet of pavement and 2.5 feet of curb and gutter on each side).  Parking is allowed along both Hamilton Hedge Place and Carpenter Town Lane.  Carpenter Town Lane (See PR13-15d) has sidewalks along both sides of the street and large street trees along the roadway.  Neighbors, most of who live along Carpenter Town Lane, have expressed concerns about the narrowness of the road.  Since the road meets the Town’s standard width, the perception of narrowness is most likely due to the street trees and on-street parking which helps create the feel of a narrower-than-typical street, potentially resulting in a traffic calming effect.


Due to concerns raised by the neighbors, staff conducted a traffic volume and speed study on both Carpenter Town Lane and Hamilton Hedge Place as well as a crash analysis.  The traffic volume and speed study was performed between August 6th and August 10th, 2012.  The results indicate that traffic volumes average approximately 606 vehicles per day on Carpenter Town Lane and 242 on Hamilton Hedge Lane.  As confirmed by the Police Department, the traffic speeds on both streets are typical of what has been observed along residential streets in Cary, with the 85% speed on Carpenter Town Lane of 30 mph and the 85% speed on Hamilton Hedge Lane of 27 mph.  The 85th percentile speeds are speeds at or under which 85 percent of people are driving, and are typically used as the basic factor in establishing speed limits.  The crash analysis included data from the previous five year period from July 1, 2007 until August 15, 2012.  There were no reported crashes on Hamilton Hedge Place or Carpenter Town Lane from Louis Stephens Drive to Hamilton Hedge Place.  Prior to the time of this analysis, in November, 2006, a fatal crash involving a young pedestrian occurred on Hamilton Hedge Place on the north side of Morrisville Carpenter Road (i.e. not adjacent to the proposed park).  The child darted from behind the storage unit into the street.  The report by the Police Department concluded that a storage container contributed to the crash by obstructing the driver’s field of vision.  The report did not indicate that speed was a contributing factor in this crash. 


Staff has continued to listen to concerns raised by the neighbors and reevaluated the proposed access points with a particular focus on safety for motorists as well as pedestrians and cyclists.  As a result of these reviews, staff has determined that the access to the park should be revised to include a right-in/right-out access point off of Louis Stephens Drive (instead of the full movement shown on the draft master plan).  This access configuration is the most viable solution for both the short and long term needs of the park and the community and meets the Town’s standards and ordinances. Staff developed three options with different access option for Carpenter Town Lane for Town Council to consider. 


Option 1 –Right-In/Right-Out on Louis Stephens with full access on Carpenter Town Lane

·         Louis Stephens Drive: While NCDOT tentatively granted conceptual approval for a full movement access on Louis Stephens Drive, they indicated that if operational or safety problems were to occur in the future, the access would need to be modified accordingly.  A right-in/right-out access point should eliminate any potential crash problems associated with left turns across multiple lanes of traffic.  In addition, with the right-in/right-out access point, pedestrians crossing Louis Stephens can be better accommodated with a refuge point in the median and less potential conflicts with vehicles.  As far as operational concerns, staff has concerns about the future needs at the intersection of Louis Stephens Drive and Morrisville Carpenter Road and the need for an additional or longer left turn lane which could impact a full movement access point.  The right-in/right-out access point will preserve the opportunity to make future improvements at this major intersection.  This option would most likely result in a cost savings over the original proposal, would preserve the existing median on Louis Stephens and provide for a safer pedestrian crossing.  Additional u-turns at the Louis Stephens Drive/Morrisville Carpenter Road intersection are possible as well as the potential for more traffic using the neighborhood streets.

·         Carpenter Town Lane:  In addition to the Town’s standards and ordinances on connectivity, since the park is intended to serve both the Carpenter Village Neighborhood as well as the surrounding community, a second access point into the park is valuable.  Local roads primarily serve as a means for access, whereas higher classifications of roadways serve more of a mobility function.  The current and projected traffic volumes on Louis Stephens Road and Morrisville Carpenter Road confirm this situation in this particular roadway network.  Without this access point off of Carpenter Town Lane, people who want access the park would have to travel to a major road to obtain vehicular access to the park.  Staff has looked at options other than access onto Carpenter Town Lane as currently shown (i.e. Morrisville Carpenter Road, a second access onto Louis Stephens Drive, an access point on Carpenter Town Lane directly across from Dominion Hill Drive).  With the other options do address some of the citizen concerns, each of the other options has challenges and do not appear viable alternatives.  This access point, in combination with the right-in/right-out on Louis Stephens allows people including park users, maintenance staff, emergency services, etc. to access the park to/from many directions in an efficient manner.


Option 2 –Right-In/Right-Out on Louis Stephens with full access on Carpenter Town Lane with bollards which are only removed when the access is needed

·         Option 2 has the same access configuration on Louis Stephens Drive as Option 1.  Option 2 is similar to Option 1 for Carpenter Town Lane with the exception that bollards would be installed along the access road to restrict vehicles.  This option most likely addresses some of the concerns of the neighbors such as headlight glare into the homes across from the access point but may also cause additional concerns such as contributing to more on-street parking along Carpenter Town Lane by park users who drive to the park but don’t want to go into the parking lot and instead park along the street and walk into the park.  From a long term standpoint, this option preserves the access options for the park.  In the meantime, in addition to being useful for maintenance staff and emergency services, this access road could also serve as an additional parking area if the designated parking lot is full and overflow parking is needed.


Option 3 – Right-In/Right-Out on Louis Stephens with no vehicular access to Carpenter Town Lane with Council waiver of connectivity ordinance

·         Option 3 has the same access configuration on Louis Stephens Drive as Option 1 and 2.  Option 3 does not propose any vehicular access onto Carpenter Town Lane.  This option appears to be most closely aligned with the solution that has been suggested by the neighbors.  This option would only provide a right-in/right-out access point on Louis Stephens. This option most likely addresses the majority of the concerns of the neighbors but does not meet some of the Town’s goals, particularly as related to connectivity and general principals of access.  Typically, local roads primarily serve as a means for access, whereas higher classifications of roadways serve more of a mobility function.  In this option, people who want access the park would have to drive to a major road to obtain vehicular access to the park.  With regard to connectivity, although waivers of connectivity are typically reviewed at the time of site plan, in this case, in order to provide some certainty to the neighbors, if this option is selected, Council should take formal action on the connectivity waiver.


Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board

The project was presented to the Board at their November 5, 2012 meeting.  The Board recommended approval of the Master Plan and Option 3 (waiver of connectivity ordinance) with a vote of 9 to 1. 



Design and permitting of the park site plan is planned to begin in January of 2013 and be completed by early 2014.  Due to the NCPARTF grant used to partially purchase the property, the Carpenter Neighborhood Park must be under construction by June 22, 2014 to ensure full compliance with the grant requirements.  


Fiscal Impact

Operating: There are no operating impacts associated with this staff report. 

Funding: $85,000 has been appropriated to date to the PR1144 Carpenter Neighborhood Park project.  $55,870 has been encumbered/expended leaving an available balance of $29,130.  This project is also slated to receive an additional $2 million in voter-approved Community Investment Bond funding.  Upon approval by Council, bond funding will bring total PR1144 appropriations to $2,085,000 yielding an updated available balance of $2,029,130 for construction and project completion. (It should be noted that the pedestrian underpass that would connect Carpenter Park to the A.M.Howard Farm site is currently not part of the project budget.  This is estimated at $550,000 and will be done when the road is widened.)

In addition, the memorial for Flight 3379 as currently proposed in the project is estimated to cost up to $50,000. Funding for the memorial will come from private sources.


Staff Recommendation:  Staff recommends that Council adopt the Master Plan and Option 1 in regards to the vehicle access.  This includes a right-in/right-out access point on Louis Stephens Drive and a full access point on Carpenter Town Lane. 


1.     Staff recommends Council approve completion of design in order to meet the requirements of the grant.  $150,000 should be allocated out of the $2 million budget for Design, permitting, construction administration and testing.


2.     Staff recommends a separate account be setup within the project to allow the Town to receive donations for the Flight 3379 Memorial.