A Carrabelle resident has appealed to the city for help controlling traffic in his neighborhood.
When Bill Owen decided to retire, he and wife Tammy knew they wanted a place on the Gulf Coast. They toured from Sarasota to Louisiana hoping to find the ideal spot. After several trips, they decided Franklin County would be their new home.
Working with a local realtor, they viewed houses in Lanark Village, Carrabelle and Eastpoint. When they first saw their current home at 915 NE 7th Street in Carrabelle, there was a “sale pending” sign posted.
Owen said they only looked in for five minutes. The house was modern and ready to move in and they liked it but saw no hope of purchasing the cottage.
The Owens left and went to meet relatives in New Orleans. They had just arrived, when they got a call from the realtor. The sign had been a mistake. The house was available.
Bill said the transaction from that point on was basically long distance. They bought the house and disposed of most of their possessions and their New York home. Looking forward to warm winters and a laidback lifestyle, in June 2012, they moved to Carrabelle.
Owen hoped to concentrate on his hobbies, painting and photography. Tammy Owen became the director of rehabilitation at the St. James Rehabilitation Center.
That, said Owen, is when the nightmare began.
The couple discovered that the dirt track that runs behind their new home is a dump site for trash and worse. That the stretch of road is constantly used as a race track by dirt bikes, four-wheelers and even bog trucks. The noise and dust were so bad, the Owens could not sit on the porch or open their windows.
At the end of Seventh Street is a “thrift shop” that buys scrap metal and other goods. The shop last year was granted a special variance to operate in a residential zone. Owen said he believes traffic to the store greatly increases the dust and noise.
In September., Bill Owen appealed to the city to place some stop signs along his road to calm traffic. He received no response.
On Oct. 23, his yellow lab Buddy was struck by a truck and killed. The driver didn’t even stop.
The Owens were devastated and Bill again called city hall begging for help. On Oct. 25, street superintendent William Massey and his crew installed two stop signs and a 20 mph speed limit sign. The signs were ignored.
Owen later contacted the Franklin County Road Department, and his county commissioner, Cheryl Sanders.
Sanders dispatched Hubert Chipman, superintendent of roads to visit 915 NE 7th Street. Owen said Chipman agreed there was a problem and promised to work on a plan to reduce dust.
A third stop sign was installed by the county.
On Feb. 7, Owen addressed the Carrabelle city commission and brought them two video recordings of the traffic at his home. Owen said he only approached the city commission after several conversations with the Carrabelle police.
The first video viewed by commissioners during the meeting showed a teenager on a four-wheeler repeatedly blasting up and down the road behind Owen’s home. The boy ignores the stop signs and creates huge clouds of dust. The noise is unpleasantly loud on a recording Owen said was made inside his home through closed windows.
The second video, not viewed during the meeting, shows a series of vehicles running the stop signs adjacent to the Owen home, apparently at high speed. Among the vehicles pictured are the city’s knuckle boom truck, a school bus and UPS truck as well as numerous pick ups.
At the Feb. 7 meeting, Owen distributed a letter asking for help.
“We love Carrabelle and are totally invested in this community,” he wrote. “We shop here, dine here, get our gas, give to local charities and are trying to get more involved all the time.
“The combination of all these people driving at high speeds is an accident waiting to happen. The wide sweeping corner has limited sight distance. If someone is speeding east on the straightaway, which happens all the time, and someone runs the stop sign from the south, there is little space to avoid an accident.”
The city commissioners thanked Owen for his presentation but offered no immediate solution to his problem.
Commissioner Charlotte Schneider, in a telephone interview, said she plans a field trip to look at the situation. She said it is possible the police need to be more proactive in dealing with traffic violations in the area.
In an interview Monday, Bill Owen said he and his wife almost fulfilled his prediction on Sunday night when their car was narrowly missed by a speeding pick up that never even swerved to avoid hitting the couple when Bill slowed to make the turn into his driveway.