The Transylvania Times -

Advice: Morris Road Or South Broad Best Sites For Courthouse – Transylvania County, NC

 

Last updated 8/26/2020 at 3:14pm

The Morris Rd. location next to the sheriff's office.

Transylvania County commissioners are being advised to build a new courthouse either beside the Public Safety Facility on Morris Road or on South Broad Street, where the park and the New Adventure Learning Center sit.

During their meeting Monday night, commissioners heard a presentation that compared four possible sites for a new courthouse: the Morris Road site; the South Broad Street site; the city-owned property beside the courthouse at French Broad and North Broad streets; and the current courthouse location. Moseley Architects, which conducted the comparison, recommended the county going with either Morris Road or South Broad Street.

After hearing the presentation, commissioners indicated they would gather more input, develop questions on the options and hold a later workshop devoted to the courthouse.

Since 2005, detailed analysis has been done to inform the decision to build a new facility on Morris Road, including a third floor shell for future expansion, according to county staff. As has been reported, local and state officials have repeatedly raised concerns about the current courthouse's condition and its suitability to conduct court functions in a safe and adequate manner. In 2015, Moseley Architects conducted a revised program study in 2015 with courthouse personnel. From that it was recommended that 60,000 square feet was needed, with an optional 30,000 square feet for the third-floor shell. The Morris Road site remained the preferred option for county officials.

In June of 2018, commissioners, after some public opposition against the move and concerns about the possible impact on the passage of the $68 million school bond that November, reversed a previous decision to approve a 2.5-cents property tax increase to help pay for a new $31 million courthouse on Morris Road beside the public safety facility.

In November 2019, commissioners hired Moseley to develop recommendations for meeting space needs, including parking, at the three downtown locations.

The report was to be an apples-to-apples comparison, including cost impacts of storm water issues, soil issues, parking solutions, relocation or other requirements to meet the project needs.

As part of its findings, Moseley came up with cost estimates:

•Existing courthouse site: $45.1 million, including a parking deck.

•North Broad site: $44.3 million, including a parking deck.

•South Broad site: $43.2 million, including a new child development site.

•Morris Road site (updated for current cost): $36.7 million.

Dan Mace, with Moseley, said they recommended the Morris Road site because, for one, its lower cost and the South Broad site because the new courthouse would have a "desirable visually prominent downtown location."

In reply to a question by Commissioner Jason Chappell, Mace said it would take nearly a year for design work and another two years for construction. Commissioner Page Lemel asked whether it would be "wise" to save money and not include a third floor as judiciary needs may have changed because of COVID-19's impact. Mace still backed including space for future needs but said it could be done "horizontally" and not necessarily as a third floor. Commissioner David Guice supported keeping the third-floor option but there are still a "lot of unknowns."

The following is a summary of Moseley's report findings:

Option 1 – Historic Downtown Courthouse Site

•Minimal stormwater improvements needed.

•Site is zoned "downtown mixed use," with a ground floor area of 25,000 square feet, with a maximum building height of 50 feet. The proposed new courthouse would be taller and would require a Board of Adjustment hearing.

•Needed site develop ment would include widening of Probart and Gaston streets, along with improvements to the North Broad /Probart intersection.

•Courthouse functions would need to be displaced for roughly two years for construction to be completed, so that an operational existing court operation can continue unabated.

•No parking for staff. There are only a few basement spaces for judges and key stakeholders. Staff will have to be accommodated in a new parking structure.

•Public parking would need to be provided by a new parking structure.

•Inmates would need to be transported to the facility via vehicles from the Public Safety Facility.

•The three-story scale of the new courthouse visually overwhelms the historic courthouse structure.

•Immediate adjacency to existing commercial buildings on East Main Street to the new courthouse creates significant security/safety issues.

Total project estimated cost is $45,126,778 (second highest cost of the options).

Option 2 – North Broad/city property

•Minimal storm water improvements. The site is mostly already impervious but will require some off-site improvements along street corridors downstream.

•Minimal earthwork needed. Mostly cut and haul-off.

•Site is zoned downtown mixed use, with a ground floor area of 25,000 square feet, with a maximum building height of 50 feet. Any taller would require a Board of Adjustment hearing.

•Site development would include improvements to North Broad Street and Appletree Street widening.

•Public parking would require a new parking structure.

•Staff parking of approximately 65 spaces would be surface parking that can be secured appropriately.

•The new facility on this site would have a prominent location near the downtown area (215 parking spaces in parking lot).

•Inmates will need to be transported to the facility via vehicles from the Public Safety Facility.

•Requires property acquisition by the county. Total project estimated cost is $45,593,013 (highest cost of the options).

Option 3 – South Broad Street

•Minimal earthwork needed since the site is relatively flat.

•Extensive storm water improvements. This site is mostly already pervious with inadequate capacity utility pipes around the site.

•Site is zoned downtown mixed use, with a ground floor area of 25,000 square feet, with a maximum building height of 50 feet. Any taller would require a Board of Adjustment hearing.

•Site development would include improvements to South Broad, Varsity and Gaston streets.

•All parking, per the needs program (150 public spaces and 65 staff spaces), can be developed using surface parking.

•The new facility on the site would have a prominent location near the downtown area and other government buildings.

•Inmates would need to be transported to the facility via vehicles from the Public Safety Facility.

•Requires the demolition and replacement of the existing New Adventure Learning Center included in the budget as a new child care site and perhaps relocation of the public park.

Total project estimated cost is $43,224,804 (third highest cost of the options).

Option 4 – Morris Road

•Storm water improvements will be above ground and off-site work is already completed.

•Heavy earthwork needed. Mostly cut and haul.

•Site is zoned general industrial, with ground floor of 100,000 square feet. No zoning adjustments required.

Maximum building height of 50 feet. Any taller would require a Board of Adjustment hearing.

•Minimal or no improvements to Morris Road is required.

The South Broad location, next to the county library.

•All parking, per the needs program (150 public spaces and 65 staff spaces), can be developed using surface parking.

•Physical adjacency to the Public Safety Facility and the planned ability to make a secure connector corridor to transport inmates eliminates vehicular transport issues.

•The new courthouse would need less inmate holding areas compared to the remote options given proximity to the Public Safety Facility.

•Courthouse has a much less visible presence than other options.

Total project estimated cost is $36,722,824. (lowest cost of the options).

More from the meeting will appear in Monday's paper.

 
 

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