Jackson County looking for compromise to appease neighbors - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson County looking for compromise to appease neighbors

Neighbors say the area is very dangerous and scary. (Photo source: WLOX News) Neighbors say the area is very dangerous and scary. (Photo source: WLOX News)

When Polk's Drugs first presented a convenience store proposal for Highway 609 in Jackson County, developers submitted a plan to have two entrances into the complex. One entrance would be on the north side of the property. The other entrance would be on the south side. And both would connect to Highway 609. But, Polk's Drugs general manager Joe Flynt tells WLOX News, "The county told us no." Flynt says Jackson County wanted just one entrance onto the busy highway, and the other entrance to take cars onto Spanish Drive. "We proposed the opposite," said Flynt.

Spanish Drive is a dead end road lined with homes. Neighbors in the area say they aren't happy about the current traffic plan. They already struggle with the traffic congestion that bottlenecks at the entrance to their neighborhood. "Very dangerous right now. Very fearful, scary," said Jennifer Kopszywa, one of the residents who's asked Jackson County to rethink how the store and the homeowners can co-exist.

That's what Flynt and his company want, too. "We're not at fault," he said. "Polk's plan was to always do what the residents want."

Recent emails from Jackson County planners to the residents indicate the entrance issue is on the county's radar. "The county engineer and building official have already had several conversations with the engineer from Polks Drugstore," Jackson County Planning Director Michelle Coats wrote on December 22. In an email 11 days earlier,  Coats asked a staff member to "arrange a meeting with the engineer on this project to make sure they are not creating a hazard. We may need to get them to do a traffic study like we made Wal-Mart do," she wrote.

Several months ago, a car lot opened on one corner of Highway 609 and Spanish Drive. The new convenience store on the opposite corner is expected to add traffic, and congestion on the residential street. Joseph Hopkins lives on that street. "Now that they've added these two businesses here it's really become a hazard," he said, "because the traffic now is going to be coming onto our little dead end street." 

"Before, I knew when I entered onto Spanish Drive, I knew I was safe and I was okay," said Kopszywa. "Now I don't know that. With cars coming in and out, now it's even more big fear." 

Another concern is for the children who stand at the corner to catch the school bus. 

"They already have to stand on a busy highway," said Terri Hanford, mother of two daughters. "To have a new exit and entrance onto the dead end street, it's going to bring on extra traffic and it's just not going to be safe for them."

Flynt says his team would like the original entrance plan to be adopted. So would Hanford. "I would like to see the entrance and exit moved to the main highway instead of on our street," said Hanford.

If that can't be worked out, Flynt says his store is willing to add sidewalks and fencing to alleviate any safety concerns. Polk's general manager emphasizes he wants to be a good neighbor. "We'll even pay to fix the issue. But, we can't do it without permission from the county.," Flynt said.

Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross says he expects some sort of solution to be ironed out soon. “Polk has been pretty good on working with us on things,” the supervisor said.

Ross understands the county is working to find a way to satisfy both the business and the nearby homeowners.

When it comes to the neighbors and their complaints, Ross says the role of the county is to “see if we can ease their concerns.”  He notes, “If we can find a way to make them feel better, I’d rather do that.”

Ross thinks at some point, a traffic light may be necessary. But that request will require assistance from the Mississippi Department of Transportation. 

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