At the heart of the plan is a map classifying current streets and future extensions.
“This plan helps developers know what the city is expecting in terms of roads and streets, and their suggested uses,” said Councilman Eric Paul.
The plan contains some contested concepts — a long-debated North Clark Street extension and a proposed roundabout on the south side of town — but nothing in the plan is final.
“This isn’t meant to be set in stone and it’s not meant to last for the next 30 years. It needs to be looked at occasionally and updated as development happens,” said Matt Ruder, civil engineer with DOWL HKM. The city paid the Sheridan company $62,500 to update the document.
The city last adopted a street plan in 1989. The main goal of the 2013 version is to identify collector and arterial roads that can handle larger amounts of traffic. Some of those roads already exist — such as Coulter Avenue and Absaroka Street — but the plan outlines ways to improve those and other more heavily-used roads.
The plan classifies streets based on what kind of traffic they’re designed to handle. For example, a local road handles residential traffic up to 25 mph and allows for driveways and on-street parking. By contrast, an arterial road allows for traffic up to 35 mph, provides fewer access points and doesn’t allow parking on the street.
The new plan identifies areas to preserve for future higher traffic corridors. If a street will someday serve as a main arterial road, the city doesn’t want a subdivision built in the middle of it, noted Councilman Josh Shorb.
“What developers choose to do inside of collectors and arterials is primarily up to them,” Councilman Paul said. “But if we can help it, we don’t want them putting a development right over the top of a collector or arterial and end up with hodgepodge roads.”
North Clark Street
The direction of a dotted line extending Clark Street to the north became a catalyst for the city to update its master street plan.
For years, city leaders have sought to preserve a Clark Street extension as a north/south arterial road, though the northern property is outside city limits at this time.
In November 2010, the Powell school district showed interest in purchasing the agricultural property north of Clark Street for a new Parkside Elementary School. However, the city’s 1989 street plan showed Clark Street curving to the northwest toward Absaroka Street/Elk Basin Highway, and school officials said that extension conflicted with future plans for an elementary school.
The city later vacated the proposed curved extension and replaced it with a new straight line heading north.
The Johnson Sibling Trust, which owns the property, appealed the city’s decision, and the trust’s attorney, Michael LaBazzo, asked the city to wait on proposing a new road until the city updated the master street plan.
The new plan includes several different options for extending North Clark Street. One of those alignments — connecting Clark Street to Beartooth Drive — was included in the final plan by councilmen at LaBazzo’s request earlier this month.
A draft of the plan initially excluded that alternative. City Building Official William Petersen said the city’s concern was putting a street directly behind homes that already have North Day Street in front of them.
“These property owners deserve consideration as well,” Councilman Paul agreed.
However, LaBazzo said the extension to the east became the Johnsons’ preferred alternative.
“While our first request was to have no extension, we talked to Planning and Zoning, we talked to the council, it didn’t seem like that was going to be the end result,” he said. “So we looked at the other alternatives.”
LaBazzo wanted the Beartooth Drive connection included so a future developer knows it’s an option.
“The main thing we have to show is that there needs to be a street somewhere in that chunk of ground when they develop it,” said John Sides, chairman of the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
The plan also calls for improving the safety and efficiency of the Fair Street and South Street intersection, just south of the railroad tracks. Currently, the Powell Electric building stands as an island surrounded by those streets. South Street forms a Y around the building and Fair Street borders its west side.
Ruder, the DOWL HKM engineer, said the plan provides options to make the intersection safer.
Two of the three concepts included in the final plan call for removing the building. One shows a roundabout in its place.
Those possibilities drew concern from the owners of Powell Electric.
“Depending on which concept is chosen, it could affect us greatly, some worse than others … Our business could be shut down, which would cause economic hardship to the property owners, we as business owners, our employees and our customers,” read a letter of protest signed by Daniel H. Logan, Michael L. Logan, V. Claudette Logan and Debra M. Logan.
“Ultimately, we want to stay in this location, with no disruptions, for the convenience and needs of our customers,” the Logans wrote.
The Logans’ letter is included in the final plan.
The street plan also proposes a network for bicyclists and pedestrians to “connect all the major pedestrian venues — like schools, parks, the hospital, library — with a system of bike lanes, pathways and sidewalks,” Ruder said.
The preferred roads for the network have lower vehicle traffic and adequate pavement for a bike lane or the rights-of-way for a separate bike path, he said.
Currently, Seventh Street is classified as a collector road, but the master street plan shows it as a higher-traffic arterial road.
“That’s not saying you need to improve the mobility on Seventh Street right now. It’s just saying that in the future … it may make sense for Seventh Street to become an arterial,” Ruder said.
However, he noted that with Northwest College’s campus on either side, “it may never make sense for that stretch of Seventh Street to be a five-lane arterial or have 35 mph traffic.”
He said the city could look at limiting access there or increasing the speed limit one block at a time.
Councilman Floyd Young, who works at Northwest College, said he didn’t see how Seventh Street could work as an arterial road.
“What they’re saying is not for its current use, but as opportunities present themselves to make these changes five, 10, 20 years from now, that this plan gives us a guideline,” Paul said.
With heavy traffic between the college and Powell High School, Councilman John Wetzel said it made sense for the engineers to closely consider that corridor.
Nothing set in stone
Councilman Shorb said he thought the plan looked good and added, “a lot of work went into this, from Planning and Zoning and the engineers. There was a lot of back and forth debate.”
Throughout the year-long process, city leaders have stressed that future development and street proposals still must go through the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and ultimately the Powell City Council.
Further, they’ve stressed a master street plan is a planning document.
“When we keep using that term ‘it’s not set in stone’ — it’s not. It’s a plan; it’s to give some guidance (to developers),” said Scott Kath, assistant city attorney.
Copies of the master street plan will be available at Powell City Hall.