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Flat Rock endorses Highland Lake project

FLAT ROCK — The Flat Rock Village Council on Tuesday endorsed an improvement project for Highland Lake Road, turning back an intensive year-long campaign by opponents who described the roadwork as an affront to the character of the village.
The vote was 6-1 with Vice Mayor Nick Weedman, a consistent opponent of the project, voting no.
“Basically everybody voted for the project except for Mr. Weedman who had an eloquent dissent and mentioned where the project had gone from when he vehemently opposed it to now, that while he still oppposed it and had some concerns, it’s far more reasonable," said Councilman John Dockendorf, who as transportation liaison has guided numerous compromises to try to win support for the work.
Mayor Bob Staton read the timeline of the project, starting with a notification from the NCDOT in January 2016 that extra funding had allowed the state to advance the project. Since then, Staton said, the Village Council discussed the project at 23 public meetings. During 2½ years of discussion and negotiation, state engineers made numerous concessions to minimize the impact of the project and address residents’ concerns, council members said.
While the assembly room at St. John in the Wilderness was again filled with opponents, “There was some dissenters that came up and thanked us for voting for future of Flat Rock,” Dockendorf said.
Still undecided is whether the project will include work to allow a wider turning radius for northbound buses and trucks turning from Greenville Highway onto Highland Lake.
“Historic Flat Rock believes that the safety improvement on that corner will not be approved by the state Historic board,” which has authority because it would encroach on the Flat Rock Historic District. “I’m hopeful that between DOT and the council a minimum amout of land will be taken but enough to make the corner a little bit safer.”
Dockendorf and other council members said they feared if they did not act now to endorse the safety improvements, the project would be dropped for at least 20 years.

The Cultural Landscape Group: Flat Rock, which organized to stop the project, issued a statement critical of the council's decision.
“We are terribly disappointed that the Flat Rock Village Council has ignored the voices, via petition signatures and otherwise, of the majority of the homeowners in Flat Rock and approved a plan that is an invasion of our Sense of Place and of the character that qualifies Flat Rock’s being on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Bay Chamberlain, a CLG member and Flat Rock resident with deep family roots in the village. “Citizens and politicians alike have an obligation to treat our Village landscapes, park, byways and private properties in a responsible, custodial manner with our history, heritage and environment in the forefront.”
Over the past few months, CLG had presented nearly 1,700 petition signatures opposing the road project to the Flat Rock village council and spoken out on what they called the "damaging and costly impact the project would have, not only on the properties directly affected, but on the village community as a whole."