By Travis Gettys
FORT WRIGHT - A proposal to develop a three-mile stretch of Ky. 17 as a retail and residential corridor took shape as area planners discussed a final draft of the plan Tuesday with City Council, which could vote on the proposal at its Oct. 13 meeting.
The plan calls for two to three "form districts," zones that give the city greater control over what future development would look like to prevent haphazard architecture and other types of sprawl.
Although each district will remain distinct, "there will be some elements that are consistent throughout," said Larisa Keith, principal planner with the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission .
Planners have studied the area since March, as city officials prepared for the opening this month of a Wal-Mart SuperCenter, which met stiff resistance from residents but was built within strict design guidelines established by the city, including lower signs, more landscaping and fewer curb cuts.
"Wal-Mart shows that cities can force businesses to conform," said City Administrator Larry Klein. "We have to make sure we expand that through the entire corridor."
Officials also wanted to minimize traffic problems that could come with expected growth in neighboring areas, which use Ky. 17 as a major north-south artery.
Planners considered several options to prevent traffic bottlenecks, and decided to place a roundabout - a road junction formed around a circle with traffic moving in only one direction - at each end of the corridor.
Motorists would use the roundabouts to make legal U-turns instead of left-hand turns onto and off of the road, which can stall traffic in each direction.
Eliminating left-hand turns could actually cause traffic problems, said property owner Joe Michels, because motorists would not be able to get back onto Ky. 17 with ease.
The plan could also hinder development, he said, because some prospective buyers and visitors might not be familiar with roundabouts.
Planners also called for a network of access roads to link businesses behind buildings and parking lots, which would keep some local traffic off Ky. 17.
With form districts, the city could compel developers to place businesses near Ky. 17 and connect them with sidewalks to encourage pedestrian traffic.
Property owners will have a chance to discuss their concerns about the proposal at another public hearing Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., in the conference room of Sanitation District No. 1.
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