AIKEN - Members of the Aiken city and county planning commissions tentatively agreed Thursday night to work together on improving heavily traveled Whiskey Road.
Representatives met at City Hall and discussed creating an "overlay" district in which businesses on Whiskey Road between Pine Log and Talatha Church roads would adhere to a set of ordinances. Currently, 70 percent of that area is governed by the county. The remainder is governed by the city.
"If ever there was an opportunity for the city and county to work together, it's on Whiskey Road," city commission member Bill Reynolds told the group. "It would require some different thinking and cooperation."
The city-county collective listened to urban design speakers from LDR International, a Maryland company that has worked on implementing a similar plan for Augusta's Peach Orchard Road for the past 15 years.
LDR began working with the city of Aiken in February. It has been researching Whiskey Road ever since, both by observation and by talking with residents.
LDR representatives outlined a plan that would produce a "quality environment and retain and enhance business." As part of the inter-government agreement, the city and county would have to choose one entity that would lead an effort to form common ordinances affecting such things as landscaping, signs, land use, parking and design review.
Which group would lead was not decided Thursday, although both planning commissions decided to discuss the matter further.
In regard to reducing traffic at Whiskey Road, LDR recommended creating more inner parking lot connectors that would reduce the number of entrances along the thoroughfare, eliminating acceleration and deceleration lanes and creating a uniform speed limit.
To further beautify the state route, LDR suggested creating a larger buffer zone between Whiskey Road and the sidewalk, disguising fencing and power lines with trees and shrubbery, and enforcing stricter sign ordinances.
Overlay districts also have been used in Columbia County in the Evans Town Center, in Hilton Head, S.C., and in Greensboro, N.C.
"It's less complicated" for Whiskey Road, LDR urban designer Craig Watson said. "This was one of the biggest achievements, getting the county and city together."
Working as a team is the next step.
"The criticisms I've heard center around traffic congestion," county planning commission member Fred Christensen told the audience. "This is all beautiful, but it appears that it will impede the flow of traffic."
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803)279-6895.
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