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One of the biggest concerns about the Arbor development of the golf course is the increased traffic it will produce on the frontage road known as Beach Drive, which is the only exit from the Southern Circle, Mockingbird Lane, and Venetian Gardens Subdivisions, residents of the Legacy High-rises, the Legacy Villas, and the Armed Forces Home, and the residents living in homes facing Beach Drive. This narrow 2.2-mile road is controlled by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). The excess density of the Arbor development is a major concern because all the residents in the new Arbor-built 177 homes also must use one entrance into and out of the former golf club property onto Beach Drive.
Construction vehicles and later the estimated addition of 354 residential cars will be forced to use this limitedly dangerous road. The south side of Beach Drive drops precipitously down to the west-bound lane of a busy Highway 90. (2) There is no land available to widen this road. (3) The double yellow lines indicating that the road is for two-way traffic are faded to the point of being imperceptible because of MDOT’s poor maintenance, causing visitors to think the road is one-way. (4) It is frequented by speeders and rarely monitored by the police department. The traffic signal at the corner of Beach Boulevard and DeBuys Road/Highway 90 is too short for allowing east-bound traffic to exit quickly and efficiently when more cars use this street, and the exit to the west is slowed because traffic from Beach Drive must wait for an opportunity to merge onto Highway 90. If 354 cars leave the Arbor development six times a day, 775, 260 more cars will travel Beach Drive every year.
The Gulfport Code of Ordinances, Chapter 9, Article III SUBDIVISIONS, Item 9-50(B) states that “The street layout shall be devised for the most advantageous development of the entire neighborhood in which the land to be subdivided is locating. . . . The street layout shall also provide for the future projections into unsubdivided lands . . . . There are vacant R-1 residential lots on Beach Drive as yet built upon as well as 19.5 acres of the William Carey University lands. There are also undeveloped and undivided lands at the entrance of Southern Circle. The Planning Commission approved the Arbor plan without considering future traffic on Beach Drive when these other properties are developed. There was no provision for future projects into unsudivided lands on Beach Drive when the Planning Commission rubber-stamped the Arbor plan, violating the city’s ordinance Item 9-50(B).
The residents adjacent to the back nine holes of the golf course are justifiable concerned too. The back nine is land-locked: hemmed in on the south side by railroad tracks with no streets east, west, or north of the back nine leading into or out of that land. How and where will roads be built around the back nine Arbor subdivision, which residents believe will contain apartments and be even denser than the front nine? College Park and Greenview Subdivisions both have homes whose backyards are adjacent to the back nine. Will Arbor invoke eminante domain laws for the destruction of current homes in the developer’s attempts to find outlets from the land-locked back nine? Will existing subdivisions also face mass and form code violations like the front nine residents are experiencing? Although Arbor has not yet submitted a plan for developing the back nine, the residents living near the back nine are worried and have joined the the Arbor development protest because they too are subject to breathing toxic chemicals, facing drainage issues, traffic congestion, and the loss of property values.
Traffic congestion generated by parents picking up their children from Anniston Avenue Elementary School, located on Jones Street and serving the children in East Gulfport near the former Great Southern Golf Course, requires that a long line of cars wait for up to an hour in the lanes of public streets: Jones, Anniston Avenue, and Collins Blvd. The line of cars is so long that some cars wait in a line south of the railroad tracks, and alternate feed is required when this line reaches the line backed around onto east Collins. This bottleneck situation forces cars using these three public streets between 2:00 PM and 2:45 PM to use one open lane for two-way traffic, causing traffic jams and dangerous conditions. Additionally, children from the school who walk home from Anniston must cross these three roads filled with traffic without the aid of policemen or school safety guards. An Arbor representative stated in an open meeting that Gulfport School System has agreed to build eight new classrooms just to accommodate the additional number of school-age children anticipated to occupy the Arbor homes will build on the front nine holes. The number of classrooms needed to accommodate the increased school population when the back nine is developed is unknown at this time. Additional students will add more cars to an already serious traffic problem. None of the three roads parents currently use to pick up their children from school can be widened to create a waiting lane because the surrounding neighborhood houses are situated on their lots with the minimum setback from the street required by the city code.
The city has not revealed any information about the actual number of additional classrooms two Arbor development will require, the increased taxes required to build new classrooms, or the possibility of having to bus area children into different school districts. The city must provide parents with information about how construction noise during school hours seriously impedes young children’s education. Increased traffic near Anniston Avenue Elementary School will exacerbate already unmanageable traffic jams.
City officials must require Arbor to conduct traffic assessments and release the results of these assessments to MDOT and affected neighborhood residents before final approval of Arbor’s plans.