Planning Commission recommends downgrade for Rolling Hills Drive master plan

A sign notifying residents of possible changes to Rolling Hills Drive stands near the intersection of Old Missouri Road. A similar sign is planted near North College Avenue.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Fayetteville Planning Commissioners on Monday recommended changing a 20-year-old master plan that outlines the longterm vision for Rolling Hills Drive.

The change would ensure the street remains a two-lane roadway, despite its current classification, which calls for an eventual four-lane boulevard.

Rolling Hills Drive is labeled a “Principal Arterial Street” in the city’s Master Street Plan, which is used in conjunction with the Master Trails Plan to help guide long-range traffic planning. The change, brought forward by city staff and approved 8-0 by the Planning Commission, would amend that classification to a “Collector Street.”

The collector classification is given to streets that collect traffic from smaller residential streets in neighborhoods and facilitate traffic movement towards an arterial system. Collectors can vary in width and function, but may only include a third lane when warranted at certain intersections.

The master plan for Rolling Hills Drive has sat dormant for years, but was recently revisited during discussions with property owners over the potential for new developments near the intersection at Old Missouri Road and to the east of Butterfield Trail Elementary School.

Aside from the street classification, the plan also envisions an eastern extension of Rolling Hills to Crossover Road.

However, city planners said after looking at traffic counts and studying the area, the Master Street Plan’s vision was probably overkill.

For starters, the existing Rolling Hills Drive is wide enough, staff said, and the downgrade to a Collector Street would ensure it stays in character with the existing neighborhoods. And while the city does need a tool to accommodate for the eventual development of the wooded area on the east side of Old Missouri, a roadway that cuts straight through to Crossover Road would likely create more traffic than the area could handle.

Staff’s alternative was to instead recommend a realignment of the extension that connects to Oak Bailey Drive. The 90-degree turn, staff said, would discourage drivers from using the extension as a pure cut-through to College Avenue, but would still provide connectivity needed to alleviate future traffic congestion.

Residents who spoke Monday were in favor of the downgrade, but asked the commission to remove the extension entirely from the master plan. Neighbors cited concerns over increased traffic, the safety of children who walk to Butterfield, and interference with the wildlife on the undeveloped land.

Several commissioners said while they sympathize with the residents’ fears, the undeveloped land will certainly be built upon at some point and with the construction of homes and businesses will absolutely come roadways.

Commissioner Matt Hoffman said while it’s ultimately up to the developer to construct streets, it would be wise to keep some type of east-west connection on the books if the city is to have any influence over how the area is built.

Commission chair Ron Autry agreed and said with the city growing at such a rapid pace, an increase in future connections could help alleviate the already congested intersections surrounding the area.

The commission voted 6-2 to recommend the realignment, with members Matthew Johnson and Thomas Brown voting against. Johnson, who lives on Warwick Drive said he was sided with his neighbors and didn’t like the idea of labeling Oak Bailey as a connection point. Brown said he would’ve preferred the commission leave the arterial classification in place, but consider a re-route of the extension that’s further south.

The commission’s recommendations will require City Council approval before going into effect.