Town right to consider Coligny traffic plan now

Getting as much of the traffic/parking work done ahead of time will hasten district's redevelopment.

newsroom@islandpacket.comMay 6, 2014 

Hilton Head Island's Planning Commission is smart to tackle as many traffic and parking concerns as possible now before work gets underway to redevelop the Coligny area.

The redevelopment plan may include a children's museum, a park and a playground paid for by a tax-increment financing district.

The new attractions are certain to draw more visitors to the already bustling spot where vehicles, bikes and pedestrians must navigate around each other. The commission is right to work on a traffic plan now to increase safety, provide additional parking and make the area more navigable.

The more that can be done now, the better. It will hopefully hasten the area's redevelopment, a town priority for 15 years.

As Commissioner Terry Ennis said, "It's the low-hanging fruit concept. If something doesn't need to wait, let's do it."

At a recent Planning Commission meeting, residents suggested solid ideas, including traffic signals at the crosswalk on South Forest Beach Drive off Coligny Circle to alert pedestrians and bicyclists when to cross. That would be paired with a stoplight on South Forest Beach Drive to direct traffic entering and leaving the circle, and to stop cars when pedestrians need to cross.

The commission is also looking for additional parking options. We hope they'll give serious consideration to an off-site parking idea floated by Frank Babel, co-chairman of Hilton Head's Bicycle Advisory Committee, to allow visitors to park in under-utilized lots outside of Coligny, then take a trolley into the district. We think a low-profile parking deck could also be a solution.

Whatever the final traffic and parking plan, it's good to see the commission talking to the community about what they want.

In November, Town Council dropped a plan to build a University of South Carolina Beaufort campus at Coligny because of residents' concerns over increased traffic.

This time around, the town has been inclusive, gathering residents' opinions at a workshop in April and at Planning Commission meetings. The responsive approach is refreshing and exponentially increases the odds for community buy-in.

We hope it continues in 60 to 90 days when consultants are scheduled to present revised redevelopment plans for the Coligny area.

While it's impossible to please 100 percent of residents, it's clear that a majority of them want low-profile development paired with traffic and parking improvements. That's an achievable goal that will not only delight visitors, but the people who live in the area too.

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