SUMMERVILLE — Town Council has authorized spending up to $25,000 to begin designing a controversial roundabout at the Five Points intersection at the southern edge of the town's Historic District — with the caveat they still may ultimately vote down the project.
Councilman Walter Bailey, whose district includes the intersection that has seen 60 crashes in a three-year stretch, was hesitant during and after the monthly council meeting Thursday about moving the project forward too quickly.
"You start down that road and it's hard to turn back once you drop that kind of money," he said. "It may turn out to be not as good of an idea as people think it is."
A majority of the meeting's public comments were from residents who live at or near the intersection and ardently oppose a roundabout. Diane Sarrocco told council members that Five Points is the gateway to the Historic District, and the potential roundabout in its current preliminary design would put cars only 38 feet from her front door.
"It's coming right into my front yard," she said.
Earlier in the week, council members Bailey, Christine Czarnik and Kima Garten-Schmidt, along with Public Works Director Russ Cornette, visited the home of Brian Goldsberry, whose property would also be impacted by a roundabout at Five Points.
"I got the sense they wanted to see the impact but their minds were made up that this is something they feel is necessary," Goldsberry said. "But I'm not ready to let my neighborhood be a thruway to let people ease their commute by a few more minutes."
The visit was announced at a previous meeting and did not involve a quorum of council.
Cornette told the council Thursday that designing the roundabout to ease congestion around Carolina Avenue, Main Street and Tupper Lane would take around six to eight months.
After a briefly tense debate over the logic of approving design funds without guaranteeing the roundabout would be built, the six-person council, plus Mayor Wiley Johnson, voted to move ahead with the process.
"We've spent more than that on less important things than this," councilman Bill McIntosh said during the meeting.
Ultimately, Bailey said he wants to see the designs and final property impacts before deciding if he'll vote to support the roundabout. He said he understands the concerns of property owners in the Historic District, and even understands the people who say Five Points should be left as is.
"If the (Berlin G. Myers Parkway) extension gets done four or five years from now, it should take enough pressure off of (Five Points) it won't be a problem," Bailey said. "But there's no guarantee that'll ever happen. And in the meantime we're continuing to grow at a pretty fast rate."
Once a town of around 3,000 residents for nearly a century, Summerville’s population reached 28,000 in 2000 and now is home to more than 56,000 residents. Estimates say the town could top 60,000 people within the next three years, and it was named a top 60 fastest-growing city in the nation in 2017.
Retrofitting a roundabout into the intersection would cost about $813,200. Cornette has previously said the town already has that money in its public works budget for the fiscal year.