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Several Elizabethtown residents and business owners attended Tuesday’s city council meeting to urge members to consider alternatives to closing Woodland Drive as requested by Hardin Memorial Hospital officials to expand the emergency room department.
Those in attendance told the council closure would cause more problems, especially with traffic flow through residential neighborhoods, for residents and businesses and that only HMH would benefit from the proposed closure.
“If you close up Woodland, as sure as I’m standing here, the traffic will come down
Mercer Street,” said Tom Buerman, who spoke on behalf of his wife, Debbie, who owns Taylor Made Assisted Living on Mercer Street.
As proposed, the closing would occur between Cardinal Drive and Layman Lane and a cul de sac would be installed facing south on Woodland Drive just north of the Cardinal Building adjacent to DaVita Woodland Dialysis Center.
Dr. Lucian Moreman, whose practice is on Woodland, presented the council with 1,900 signatures of city residents, business owners and patients who receive service in the affected area opposing the proposal.
Moreman told the council it is natural for HMH to want to expand to the main campus’ west, but closing Woodland poses obvious traffic problems.
He said if travelers come from the east, more traffic will be forced to drive narrow roads, such as Cardinal Drive and Long Avenue. Traffic approaching from the north would be forced down a congested Mercer Street onto West Dixie Avenue. Those wishing to access Woodland Drive from the south would have to make a left turn from West Dixie Avenue onto Mercer Street.
“There are huge disadvantages,” he said. “I hope the needs can be met by working together. We’re willing to work with the state, the county and the city to come up with a solution for the long term.”
Joyce Josey, who lives on Mercer Street, said traffic speeds through the area now and if Woodland Drive was closed, traffic would only get worse in her neighborhood.
“Traffic on Mercer is awful as it is now,” she said. “I’m praying you don’t close Woodland Drive because Mercer is just going to be terrible.”
Movie Palace owner Ike Boutwell said his parking lot already is used as a route from North Dixie Avenue to Woodland Drive and is worried with the closure patrons to his cinema would be endangered by those cutting through.
Apothecare Pharmacy owner Gary Hamm and attorney Don Skeeters both said it didn’t appear HMH has entertained other options. Skeeters went on to say HMH has only spoken to the two businesses effected and has not taken the rest of the area into account.
“I didn’t get any feeling that there was any give and take,” Skeeters said about his meeting with hospital officials.
Skeeters said it would be up to the city council to “do right” by the city, its residents and themselves and force the hospital to find alternative solutions.
“If any other business came to you and said, ‘We want to close a street,” we wouldn’t get past [city planning director] Ed Poppe,” Skeeters said.
Mayor Edna Berger assured their input would be considered in any decision, but the council is not ready to make one yet.
“This is not a decision that any one of us will make lightly,” she said.
Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other news
Elizabethtown City Council passed an ordinance to change the zoning
at 101 and 103 Gallery Place, owned by Warm Blessings soup kitchen, from residential to commercial. The change allows for the construction of a parking lot for the soup kitchen.
The council opted to table an order to approve Wright Consulting
Associates Inc. to design plans for a new sound system for the Historic
State Theater. Councilman Ron Thomas said he wanted more time to consider whether it is the proper time to invest a possible $100,000 dollars on top of the $75,000 already budgeted to the theater. The consultation and design plan could cost more than $15,000 and Thomas said if they were going to spend that amount of money on a plan, it would be because they are ready
to commit to the project.
Councilman Marty Fulkerson also wanted more time to vet the company to see if they were the right fit for the historical property.
Councilman Kenny Lewis was the lone objector to tabling the order.