A Town of Hilton Head Island plan to rebuild a crumbling, flood-prone Lemoyne Avenue to connect South Forest Beach Drive and Cordillo Parkway drew fire Thursday night from a group of Forest Beach property owners.
The residents -- including villa and condo owners from Oceanwalk, Ocean Breeze/Treetops and Seascapes -- acknowledged that Lemoyne is in desperate need of repair, but worry the quiet road will become a busy thoroughfare that opens the area to criminals and vandals.
"We bought there because it was a quiet, secluded, tree-covered community," said Treetops villa owner Peggy Edwards. "It's private and secure. Now, you're telling me you're planning to take that away from me."
Former Oceanwalk board president Bruce Bartow, who owns two condos there, agreed.
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"You will drastically change the character of the community. The project is over-ambitious."
A majority of the 27 residents at the meeting said they'd rather the town rebuild the road, but stop short of connecting it with Cordillo. Existing traffic, they argue, doesn't warrant the connection.
The roughly $925,000 project would be paid for through impact fees the town charges developers to offset the costs of building roads and enhancing intersections. Construction is slated for October 2014 to March 2015.
Currently, Lemoyne functions as a private driveway providing access to the villa and condo developments.
Town engineer Jeff Buckalew said extending and widening the narrow road:
- Serve increasing traffic demands
- Cut emergency response times by up to 66 seconds
- Eliminate an existing cut-through between South Forest Beach and Cordillo from private property
- Improve pedestrian safety by consolidating the number driveways along the roadway, limiting the number of crosswalks and building a corresponding pathway.
The proposal would also realign the road to improve sight distance for drivers. A blind curve makes it difficult for motorists to spot beachgoers who sometimes walk down the middle of the road, Buckalew said.
The project also calls for drainage improvements that would slow the road's deterioration.
Raised cross walks and "speed humps" would be installed as would gradual curves to slow motorists down.
"It won't be a straight-shot, drag strip," said project manager Heath Duncan of Ward Edwards, the town-hired engineering firm.
Buckalew said town officials will take Thursday's feedback and report back to Town Council.
The town purchased Lemoyne Avenue in 2003. The purchase came after the town received "an unmanageable" number of complaints about the road's poor condition, said town traffic engineer Darrin Shoemaker. He said the road's private owner had no interest in maintaining it.
Since then, the town has periodically patched the potholes that dot the road -- short-lived fixes that will cost officials more in the long run, he said.
"We've done what we are able to do in-house without a public works department to take care of the worst situations," Shoemaker said. "The town felt its time to ... stop putting (bandages) on it."
Not everyone at the meeting objected to the proposal.
"Lemoyne is a mess and I applaud any improvement there," said Gary Fons, a principal at Vacation Time. "I can't see where this is a negative at all."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.