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Cattle farmer, landowners want to close Middleton Road segment

Map shows part of Middleton Road that would be closed if the Board of Commissioners OKs property owners’ request. The segment going east from Crail Farm Road to Little River Road would remain open. Map shows part of Middleton Road that would be closed if the Board of Commissioners OKs property owners’ request. The segment going east from Crail Farm Road to Little River Road would remain open.

FLAT ROCK — A lightly used dirt road would be closed from Crail Farm Road to Old Town Way if the Henderson County Board of Commissioners goes along with a petition of property owners who support the closure.

Middleton Road runs a mile and a half from Little River Road to Old Town Way at the Pleasant Hill neighborhood. The petition would close the western-most seven-tenths of a mile, from a house near Crail Farm Road to Old Town Way.
The issue comes down to a proposed $2 million bridge replacement that a cattle farmer says would put him out of business. Residents also say they don’t want the bridge replaced and don’t think it’s needed. Nine property owners whose land touches the affected segment signed a petition agreeing to the state’s abandonment of the road.
Wells Shealy, who runs Three Arrows Farm & Cattle Co., said the bridge project threatened his beef cattle operation. He grazes Black Angus cows on pastures on either side of the road.
NCDOT wants to replace Middleton Road bridge.NCDOT wants to replace Middleton Road bridge.“The whole it reason it came up is the DOT told us a couple of years ago that they wanted replace the bridge on Middleton Road, not the one they already replaced on Crail Farm Road,” Shealy said. “Finally this spring they gave us their plan of attack. They came out to buy the right of way. They wanted to buy a temporary right of way and easement through there to prevent me from using it during the course of their project, which they said was going to take one to two years.”
As a result, he said, he would have lost access to 40 acres of his 120-acre farm.
“We store winter feed there, we have almost a half mile road,” he said. “They were going to have all their equipment staged in there and we weren’t going to be able to get in and out with our cows and our equipment.”
When he appealed to local DOT officials, a right-of-way engineer told him if all the landowners along that stretch agreed, the state would abandon Middleton Road and let it go private.
“If you can get a few other folks to sign off, the best thing you can do is close the road and we’ll forget the project,” he said. “If we didn’t get that done they were going to go ahead and we’d probably go out of business. … In the world of cattle essentially you run one cow per acre. If you lose 40 acres you’re going to lose 40 cows.”

Dumping, joyriding

Although the road would be closed to vehicles, the property owners say they plan to keep it open for walkers, dog walkers and joggers, who use it now. Two things neighbors said they won’t miss are the illegal garbage dumping and the midnight joyriding by teenagers fishtailing their way up and down the road.
Shealy said he’s not worried about the structural integrity of the bridge.
“The actual last inspection was done 10 or 15 years ago and they deemed it safe,” he said. “But now they say it doesn’t meet the federal requirements. They really wouldn’t give an exact reason why they wanted to replace it. The only thing they really told us is they’re budgeting at least $2 million to do it, on a road that gets maybe 10 or 15 cars a day.” Property owners also feared that once DOT invested in a new bridge, it would want to pave the road. If Middleton were paved from the end of the asphalt on the east end to Old Town Way on the west, it would become a major cut-through. It’s used more as a shortcut from Kanuga Road along Crail Farm Road to the east end of Middleton leading to Little River Road. That segment would remain open.

Flat Rock OKs closing

The Flat Rock Village Council adopted a resolution on Oct. 8 supporting the road closure.
“The road would be abandoned for state maintenance and closed for public purposes and it would become private property,” Mayor Robert Staton said. “Property owners on each side get ownership of the road to the center line.”
There was no reason not to agree to the request, he said, since property owners were in favor of it, no one expressed opposition and the county and NCDOT had agreed. “The county’s only condition for closing it is that EMS would have access to that residential property, which is occupied,” he said.
The tenant, Travis Gale, said his landlord, Daniel Ravenal, had told him about the closing. Gale said he had heard the DOT wanted to pave it.
“I’d prefer they’d leave it dirt,” he said. “Paving it would be a colossal waste of money. There’s only 10 to 15 cars a day here.”