County supervisors approved a new road extension to connect with Church Road as part of a commercial development.
County supervisors approved a new road extension to connect with Church Road as part of a commercial development.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday sided with three Gluckstadt landowners who are now breaking promises they made to local residents to get their land re-zoned for commercial use in 2015.

The board voted unanimously to allow developers Ron Hutchinson, Annette Harreld, and John Harreld to extend a road originally designed as a cul-de-sac off of Calhoun Station Parkway to connect to Church Road, adding a new intersection to an already-congested area.

 



The three landowners had agreed in 2015 to a compromise with concerned residents in the area in order to get the board to approve their request to rezone their parcel of land from R-1 residential to C-2 commercial. 

That agreement came with 22 stipulations, one of which was that they would not extend the road to connect with Church Road.

John Wade, a lawyer from the Brunini law firm who spoke on the landowners’ behalf Monday, said having a cul-de-sac instead of a thruway was detrimentally affecting the trio’s ability to attract high-end businesses to locate on the land.

Previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings have established a precedent in such cases: the petitioner requesting the variance must provide evidence of a significant change in the character of the neighborhood and prove the change would meet a public need.

To that end, Wade argued that a 100-yard stretch of Church Road which has been widened from two lanes to three where the new road would connect has changed the area significantly, and that the public need was to provide easier access to and from a possible future development.

They also tried to argue the new intersection would help ease traffic for drivers traveling east on Church Road to get to Gluckstadt Road south, a point their own traffic study undercuts.

The group submitted the traffic study, conducted by Jackson-based engineering company Neel-Schaffer, as part of its proposal. Data from the study shows new developments will significantly increase traffic to and from the area, producing 2,431 new daily trips if 225,000 square feet of general office space develops on the land and as many as 20,785 new daily trips if 559,000 square feet of retail develops.

Compounding the problem is the location of Germantown High School, which is located on the other side of Church Road and sees high volumes of traffic during both the morning and afternoon peak hours. The county has already removed several stop signs on Stribling Road and this particular section of Church Road to fix peak-hour traffic flow that Sheriff Randy Tucker characterized Monday as “a nightmare.”

Two Gluckstadt residents, Walter McKay and his son Jay McKay, spoke in opposition. Both were involved in the original compromise that saw the land rezoned in 2015.

“We live out there,” McKay said. “So we know what the traffic is like. We know what it was like before they took the stop signs down on Church Road and Stribling Road. It might be better now, but the traffic is still increasing every year.”

Keith O’Keefe, Central Mississippi Manager and Senior Vice President of Neal-Schaffer, told the board that although there is currently no need for a new traffic signal for motorists on Church Road, there will be a need for one in the future. He also said the company’s study predicts that some drivers will treat the road like a bypass for the Church Road-Calhoun Station intersection.

District One Supervisor Sheila Jones and District Two Supervisor Trey Baxter expressed discomfort with the rezoning, with Jones telling Wade at one point she “(does) not believe you have met your burden of proof.”

Both ultimately voted to approve the variance with the condition that the new connection would be a “right-in, right-out only” intersection. That means drivers heading east on Church Road, and not west, will be able to access the new road and drivers turning off of the new road will only be able to turn east.

The landowners also agreed to take responsibility for the cost of constructing a new turning lane off of Church Road on-site.