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Historic Flat Rock calls for timeout on roadwork

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FLAT ROCK — Residents continue to implore the Village Council not to “urbanize Flat Rock” by widening of Highland Lake Road.

“When we talk about new things going on in Flat Rock, new roads, new sidewalks there’s a long-term effect of that can be negative and not just positive and with this project on Highland Lake Road,” Stephanie Dunn told the Village Council on Thursday. “If it hurts the (Pinecrest) church for starters, it’s wrong. That church reaches a lot of people. … I just hope as a council that you’re really thinking of long term.”

Meanwhile, Historic Flat Rock called on the Village Council to impose a moratorium on road projects, including the Highland Lake Road widening, and instead embark on a comprehensive transportation plan that would include greenways, bike paths and sidewalks. “This study must deal with all aspects of community life and transportation needs including bicycle access, pedestrian trails, preservation of the historical roadways and the landscape,” HFR said in an open letter to the village it released on Tuesday.

At last week’s meeting, the Rev. Rhett Carson, pastor of Pinecrest Presbyterian Church, urged the Village Council to “measure twice and cut once” before endorsing a widening that would harm church property.

“Once you take the land to put in whatever you design, it’s gone and it can’t come back,” he said. “In our opinion it’s going to cause damage.” An encroachment of seven feet on the north side could threaten the church’s septic system, a line of trees that serve as a sight and noise buffer and a memorial garden.

“Ashes are buried there and I don’t think that’s something y’all want to get involved with,” he said. “One thing that has surprised me is as I’ve talked to people, every NCDOT person has said if this is a truly grassroots movement and if the council votes no, they’re going to walk away. I think the power is with you guys.”

John Dockendorf, the council’s representative on the county Transportation Advisory Committee, said the message from the village to the NCDOT has been, “Please make the smallest footprint you can.”

From his seat on the countywide board that recommends highway priorities, Dockendorf sees the almost universal opposition to road projects.

“At least from my perspective, I look at the North Highland Lake project as part of the entire county,” he said. “It is one of seven major projects now descending on Henderson County at once,” including the I-26 widening, Balfour Parkway, N.C. 191 widening, U.S. 64 in Laurel park, Kanuga Road widening and the White Street project.

“Every single one of those projects is meeting as much or more opposition than the Highland Lake Road project,” he said. “There were over 1,000 people that came to the Balfour Parkway meeting. The White Street project has 1,500 letters of opposition to it. If every single one of these projects gets shut down, in 10 years we will have gridlock. Somewhere something’s got to give or no one’s going to want to live here. Flat Rock is a small part of the county but it is part of the bigger picture.”