Members of Elm Street Cultural Arts and Greenprints Alliance created a conceptual plan that involved closing Elm Street to vehicular traffic, a move that raised eyebrows among some downtown merchants.
Both organizations met last week with city leaders, downtown business owners and members of the city’s Downtown Development Authority to discuss the impact of the opening of Walton Communities’ new apartment complex.
Walton Woodstock, a 300-plus multi-family residential unit, is under construction just off Main Street.
Ann Litrel, a member of Elm Street Arts’ board of directors and owner of Ann Litrel Art in downtown Woodstock, said part of the city’s Greenprints trail network will soon connect from Towne Lake Parkway to downtown Woodstock.
That trail is set to intersect with Elm Street and since there are about 25,000 households in the Towne Lake area, Litrel said it’s imperative the city begin to address the safety aspect of having bicyclists, walkers and drivers all accessing Elm Street.
“When the trail is completed, it’s going to bring a whole new contingent of bicycle riders into downtown Woodstock,” she said.
Both organizations have floated the idea of completely closing the road or making the street only accessible to one-way traffic.
Litrel said their drawing is not in the form of a proposal and the issue will ultimately be decided by the Woodstock City Council.
However, some merchants attending last week’s meeting expressed concerns about any change to Elm Street’s traffic pattern.
Analisa Guay, co-owner of Woodstock Art & Glass, said Elm Street is a primary artery her business relies on for deliveries and shipments. Any change, she added, would make it difficult for her to operate her business.
Lee West, owner of Diversified Mortgage on Main Street, pointed out that Cupcakelicious also relies on Elm Street for deliveries of its supplies. On Thursday, West added he felt making the street one-way was a possible compromise.
“It’s an avenue for us to explore and look at other things,” he said.
Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques said it’s hard to predict future traffic patterns, so the city hasn’t made any decisions about the future of Elm Street. He added a lot of direction is dependent on how the Towne Lake Parkway improvements, which would install a left turn lane onto North Main Street, would respond to traffic use.
He also said the city has eyed possibly converting part of Mill Street back to two-way traffic, but added that may not happen since “it’s not in any shape to be considered for a two-way street right now.”
Henriques said he hopes downtown merchants understand that any decision the city makes will result from extensive public input.
“Nothing is a done deal,” he said.
Shawn McLeod agreed. McLeod, president of Elm Street’s board of directors, added the proposal was just a mechanism to get the conversation started on the impending safety issue of the trail network and apartments coming to fruition. She noted the issue will ultimately have to be decided by the city leaders.
“All we wanted to do is just say here’s a problem and this will ultimately be a safety issue,” she added.