Questions, debate still cloud Jetton Road pedestrian lights
by Staff Writer
by Frank DeLoache
CORNELIUS – The board of the Peninsula Property Owners Association plans to pursue its request for the town to help pay for lighting along Jetton Road, after clarifying that the association wants less expensive safety lighting for pedestrians, not regular street lights.
The association maintains the lights would serve residents at a number of other subdivisions as well as homeowners living west of the Peninsula.
In a personal appeal to the board, Commissioner Jim Bensman, who is a Peninsula resident, asked the association to turn over control of the road to the state and town.
“This request has been fraught with strong emotions, misinformation, inadequate documentation and undue pressure brought to bear on elected officials to try to force a decision,” Bensman said in a written statement to the board.
Jim Duke, president of the Peninsula association board, disputed Bensman’s assertions. The association sent its request to Mayor Jeff Tarte and Town Manager Anthony Roberts, and “they have not asked for any clarifications or changes,” Duke said in an email to the Herald. “The request to them was thorough and complete.
“… The first request is under study by Duke Energy and should be ready soon. Duke’s analysis will clarify the need, place the lights precisely and cost the project to current pricing.”
Town Manager Roberts confirmed he is waiting on the cost analysis from Duke Energy.
He will bring the report to the Cornelius Board of Commissioners because the town does not currently have a policy covering “pedestrian lighting.” The town’s only policy covers providing street lights, which requires more light poles and higher illumination. The final decision will rest with the board.
The lighting issue has caused friction between Cornelius board members and between commissioners and Peninsula residents, who previously bombarded commissioners with emails asking the town to help pay for the lighting along Jetton.
A key sticking point is the extra cost of “decorative poles” the Peninsula association wants installed. The association has offered to contribute $60,000 toward the project, but a majority of town commissioners have said they are concerned about obligating the town to more requests from other subdivisions.
In a written statement, Jim Duke, president of the property owners association, said: “This dark section of Jetton is dangerous at night to walkers and bikers and deserves sincere consideration. The road services not only the Peninsula but also Patrick’s Purchase, Connor Quay and hundreds of other families living west of Jetton Park. It is my hope that the Town Board looks beyond the bureaucratic stumbling blocks and addresses the real issue – public safety. We are offering a public-private partnership that will benefit so many folks. It should be a ‘no-brainer’ for our elected officials.”
Bensman attended the Peninsula association’s June 1 board meeting to pose a number of strongly worded questions and suggestions. In a written statement, Bensman said he also wanted to correct minutes for a previous meeting stating that the project “is being held up due to my opposition to it.”
Though he said “nothing could be further from the truth,” Bensman then he raised questions about the proposal “due to the incompleteness of the request, the inconsistency of the request (street lights or pedestrian safety lights), the undocumented nature of the request (no letter from the PPOA almost six weeks into the discussion) and the town policy on street lights, which does not provide the payment for decorative lighting ‘adders.’ ”
If board members decide to pursue the lights, Bensman asked them to consider “alternative light types … that would be more cost effective than the decorate poles requested.”
Though he said he will recuse himself from voting on the issue when it comes to the town board, Bensman asked Peninsula leaders if they have “any safety related data or police reports that substantiate the safety need for pedestrian safety lights?
“If not,” he continued, “what is the factual basis for the request?”
The N.C. Department of Transportation ultimately may have the final say in whether the lights are added and where, said Bensman, who then suggested the Peninsula association turn over control of borders along the state road.
“On one hand, it is a state road providing access to other neighborhoods,” Bensman said. “However, the (property owners association) controls Jetton as a neighborhood road for landscaping, architectural standards and sign restrictions. Therefore, if Jetton is truly be considered a state, public-access road, then the (property owners association) should cease all such activities and have Jetton only be subject to town regulations.”