A plan by the City of Nitro to annex slightly less than two miles of Goff Mountain Road and a small segment of Lakeview Drive across Interstate 64 from Cross Lanes was rejected by a unanimous Kanawha County Planning Commission vote on Wednesday.
The road annexation would have connected a previously annexed section of Goff Mountain Road on the Institute side of Goff Mountain with the Nitro Marketplace shopping center and Mardi Gras Casino, located within Nitro’s city limits.
While no homes or businesses would have been affected by the proposed road annexation, a standing room only crowd of more than 100 Cross Lanes area residents crowded into Cross Lanes Elementary School’s multipurpose room, where a public hearing on the plan took place immediately before Wednesday’s vote. Most of those who took part in the hearing either voiced opposition to the planned annexation, or cheered those who did.
Nitro Police Chief Bobby Eggleton told the crowd that annexation of the two road segments was needed to help ease traffic congestion near the intersection of the shopping center and casino, where 160 mostly minor car accidents occurred in the past 18 months.
While praising the Tyler Mountain Volunteer Fire Department and Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office’s rapid response times to emergencies, Eggleton said there are occasions when Nitro police and firefighters arrive at crash and fire scenes minutes ahead of their Kanawha County counterparts.
“When people have fender-benders, they won’t move their cars until police arrive to investigate,” Eggleton said. When Nitro police are traveling the 1.89 miles of road connecting Nitro Marketplace with Nitro proper “we are out of our jurisdiction,” the police chief said. “We can control the accident scenes, but we can’t work crashes until the deputies get there.”
During the Christmas shopping season, Nitro officers would be able to do as their counterparts in South Charleston do in the Southridge area by leaving their vehicles to direct traffic at key intersections, Eggleton said.
The proposed annexation, the police chief said, would not solve traffic jams in the Nitro Marketplace area, but would allow the situation to be partially eased.
“We’re not here to put it to you,” said Eggleton. “There’s no land-grab here, and no homes or businesses are included in the annexation.”
“It’s just that traffic is affecting commerce and the Marketplace is our commercial heartbeat,” said Nitro Mayor David Casebolt. “There’s been no new development there in years, and the reason for it is the traffic.”
“We all want to see congestion improved, but annexing the roads won’t do it,” said Cross Lanes resident Ron Davis. “What’s needed is a back way into the mall, and no one seems to be planning for it.”
“The sheriff’s department and Tyler Mountain Fire Department are doing a great job now, and we don’t really need Nitro’s help,” said Drema Miller. “This is just the first step to annexing businesses and homes.”
“This annexation would only benefit Nitro and do nothing for Cross Lanes, “ said Kevin Thomas of Cross Lanes.
After 2.5 hours of discussion and questioning, county Planning Commission member J.D. Strickland moved for a vote to deny the annexation request, citing neighboring citizens’ opposition to the plan. It passed unanimously.
On Dec. 5, the Kanawha County Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on the proposal, taking the planning commission’s recommendation into account.