Each month 80,000 - 100,000 car trips, flowing in and out of the excessively dense Arbor and Elliott subdivisions, will occur. In a year, 1,200,000 more cars will travel along Beach Drive, which is only 2.2 miles long. These numbers do not include the use of Beach Dive by existing residents who much use this street to get to their homes. Originally built in 1926 as part of US Highway 11, Beach Drive is already narrower than the required widths for today’s two-lane roads and cannot be widened because of its inflexible topography. Traffic jams on Beach Drive will create unsafe driving conditions and gridlock. Cars will “stack” at the intersection of DeBuys and Beach Drive at the traffic signal and while merging with east bound traffic on Highway 90. The Mississippi Department of Transportation owns Beach Drive, and residents have asked for a real traffic study prior to the city of Gulfport’s approval of the density for the Arbor and Elliott subdivisions. Yet, MDOT has not made a traffic study on Beach Drive since the Arbor and Elliott subdivisions have been proposed. Because of years of traffic wear, Beach Drive must be re-striped to indicate that it is a two-lane road. Residents’ requests to MDOT engineers to re-strip Beach Drive over a year ago have been ignored. Residents have testified that visitors, especially those staying at the Legacy Condos with short-term rentals, think Beach Drive is one-way. Although such confusion by visitors is infrequent, cars traveling in the wrong lane are dangerous. According to residents, traffic on Beach Drive is already at peak capacity because it not only serves existing subdivisions but also serves the Armed Forces Home, two condo high rises, and “villas.” Additionally, there are 20 residential lots in this area and two commercial lots that are available for development.
New traffic, once the land-locked back nine of the golf course is developed, will create more traffic congestion on Anniston Avenue, Ford Street, Highway 90, and DeBuys, depending upon where an access road is built. Because there is currently no road access for Arbor’s development on the back nine of the golf course, it is impossible to evaluate the traffic that the Arbor development will create until Arbor submits a site plan. The absence of a site plan for the back nine has generated anxiety, for that parcel is zone R2. “By right” Arbor Sites can build 2000 apartments there.
The city of Gulfport is responsible for the safety of its residents when it approves new developments. In spite of this requirement, the petitions of hundreds of residents, and hours of residents’ testimony about problems with the existing road conditions and their limitations were ignored and the myopic City of Gulfport’s Planning Commission approved Arbor’s general plan anyway.
Emergencies: Beach Drive is the only road for Beach Drive, Southern Circle, Venetian Gardens and Mockingbird Lane residents must use for everyday travel and during evacuations. The subdivision on Allen Drive also fronts Beach Drive but has a second exit onto Anniston Avenue. Additionally, if the one road leading in and out of Southern Circle and Venetian Gardens on Beach Drive is blocked by an accident, fire trucks and ambulances cannot service these subdivisions during emergencies. The International Fire Code, adopted by the city of Gulfport, requires TWO entrances into subdivision; yet the proposed plans for the new Arbor Sites development is encroaching on an existing neighbor as a second entrance and Elliott Homes subdivisions only showed ONE entrance in violation of the fire code. Also, since some portions of Beach Drive are in a “VE” flood zone, flooding occurs on Beach Drive during storms due to inadequate drainage and/or rising Gulf waters, making Beach Drive unsafe for car travel at times and trapping residents during certain weather events.