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Village to see revised widening plan on Friday

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FLAT ROCK — The Flat Rock Village Council will see revised Highland Lake Road widening plans that are expected to reduce the footprint of the overall project. The NCDOT will present the revisions during a meeting of the council at 10 a.m. Friday at the Parish Hall at St. John in the Wilderness.

The meeting is a special called meeting of the Village Council, not an NCDOT public hearing with large maps spread out on tables or tacked to walls.

"They're not going to have paper drawings, they're just going to have a PowerPoint," said Village Administrator Judy Boleman. "I think as far as DOT is concerned they've had all the public meetings they plan on having."

Back in the late fall, the council told the DOT, "This is too big. Bring us something back that minimizes the footprint and protects the church," she said.

Residents have mounted an aggressive campaign to stop the widening, saying it takes too many trees at the Park at Flat Rock and would harm Pinecrest Presbyterian Church, potentially encroaching on the church's septic field and parking lot.

After an appearance at Business Morning Update on Wednesday, NCDOT engineer Wanda Austin said the revised plan keeps a greenway through the park and improves the park entrance, protects historic property on the south side of the road and fixes an inadequate turning radius at Greenville Highway.

"We never were impacting their septic system," she said of the church. Engineers have looked at that issue and determined that the project would not encroach on the septic field. "We're confident that their parking lot and their awning where they drop people off will not be impacted," she said.

The project would remove a line of trees along Highland Lake Road that provides a sound and visual barrier. The NCDOT would replant trees once the widening is finished, Austin said.

Anne Coletta, a founder and leader of the Cultural Landscape Group Flat Rock, which formed to oppose the Highland Lake Road project, said she planned to attend and hoped to speak on the revised plans.

"I know they're going to be there to show them to the council," she said. I'm  assuming there may be some plans for public comment. Everyone needs to take some time to look at them and see what they're really doing. As a member of the Cultural Landscape Group, we are opposed to the widening project for a variety of reasons." She doubts the revisions will satisfy opponents "because we think the project is unnecessary and unneeded."

She praised the NCDOT for being transparent and responsive when the activists have asked for information.

The Cultural Landscape Group, which formed last December, has an executive committee of nine, said Coletta, who opposed the widening project when she served on the Village Council. Fifty or 60 people requested "Don't Urbanize Flat Rock" signs the organization made to oppose the Highland Lake widening. Coletta expects a big turnout for Friday's rollout of the revisions.

"This is something that everybody's been interested in because it affects all the village, not just the North Highland Lake Road area," she said. "How this is handled will determine how road projects in the future will be handled. Part of our concern is how did this project get a point where DOT presents a plan? Our concern is the project has not been as transparent as we would like. Based on how this project moved up the line, that could be happening to other road projects in the village."

John Dockendorf, who has been closely involved with the plan revisions as the Village Council's transportation liaison, said he has not seen the final version.

"The truth, they're going to finish that plan Thursday night, probably late," he said. "We have certainly made requests to them. My best guess is that the road is going to stay at 12 feet (instead of 14 feet in the original plans) and that the only impact to the historic district woud be at corner of Highland Lake Drive and Greenville Highway where they're going to round that corner so buses can make that right turn (onto Highland Lake Road from Greenville Highway). It's stupid to have an interseciton that doesn't work, especially an intersection where there's some accidents. We want buses to be able to go to the Playhouse but they have to make that safe corner. We're expecting that would be the only impact and we're hoping Historic Flat Rock and landowner will appreciate that it's not affecting the historic property."


As for the shared park and Highland Golf Villas entrance, the council asked engineers to preserve two majestic oak trees.

"Our request is for the safest park entrance possible and to preserve the two trees and minimize the impact on Dale's (auto repair shop)," he said.

Dockendorf doubts that Pinecrest Church leaders and other project opponents will accept the changes.

"For North Highland Lake Road, this is our window," he said. "We're not going to get another chance. We've asked them to do it as esthetically as possible. I have good faith belief that they're going to give us a plan that won't take too many trees. If if it's not a good plan the council will vote against it."