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N.C. historic panel clears way for Highland Lake Road work

A Highland Lake Road project would make a wider turning radius from Greenville Highway onto Highland Lake Road. A Highland Lake Road project would make a wider turning radius from Greenville Highway onto Highland Lake Road.

FLAT ROCK — The state Historic Preservation Office has ruled that an NCDOT project can encroach on the corner of Greenville Highway and North Highland Lake Road, removing one of the last hurdles before the work can start.

Jonathan L. Woodard, Division 14 project engineer with the transportation agency, notified Flat Rock Mayor Bob Staton and the Village Council of the decision after a meeting last week with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We received a favorable decision from SHPO that the project will have no adverse effect to the historic district if we honor some commitments,” Woodard said. “I expect to receive official word on the commitments soon.”
The Cultural Landscape Group and Historic Flat Rock had opposed encroaching on the south side of Highland Lake Road, which is in the village-wide historic district.

The NCDOT said it would:
• Minimize tree clearing at the corner of Greenville Highway to the greatest extent possible.
• Plant rhododendron back on the slope.
• Replace the existing traffic signal on wires with two metal mast arm poles, colored brown to match the proposed brown guardrail.
• Site the traffic signal masts on the church corner and on the west side of Greenville Highway, avoiding the historic property on the southeast corner.
• Install a stamped and stained headwall on the King Creek culvert to simulate natural rock.
• Widen the road on the south side through the historic district, except at the corner of Greenville Highway.
• Add a darker grey tinting to the concrete for the proposed curb and gutter around the intersection of Greenville Highway where it is improving the turn radius.
• Replace the existing historic marker at the corner of Greenville Highway.

Dennis Flanagan, who heads a Historic Flat Rock committee monitoring the Highland Lake Road project, said the revisions have minimized the impact on the historic property.
“It’s important to understand that SHPO can’t stop anything,” said Flanagan, who participated in the Raleigh meeting via conference call. “All they can do is try to mitigate it.”
The main encroachment is for the wider turning radius from Greenville Highway onto Highland Lake Road, requiring the acquisition of a triangle of land totaling 1,800 square feet.
“The triangle of land impacted will be gently sloped to a new road edge allowing better line of sight and a wider turning radius when turning right on to North Highland Lake Road from Greenville Highway,” Flanagan said in a report to Historic Flat Rock members. “At this corner a small section of concrete curb stained brown will be installed at the road edge to control erosion.”
Aside from the corner, the roadwork will have minimal impact on the historic district.
“Essentially all the activity will be on north side of the road as it relates to expansion of the road, softening of the curve and the new entrance to the park so at this point we don’t have anything else we can do,” Flanagan said. “From our standpoint we’ve exhausted everything that’s within our authority.”
Anne Coletta, president of Cultural Landscape Group: Flat Rock, was not happy with the state’s decision. The group formed to oppose the widening project, saying it was unnecessary and would adversely affect the village character.
“We are extremely disappointed that the SHPO said it would have no adverse effect or negative impact,” Coletta said. “All options are on the table” in terms of next steps, though the organization has “nothing specific at this point.”

Flat Rock Mayor Bob Staton praised the ruling.
“The bottom line is that the SHPO folks found no adverse effect of the proposed North Highland Lake Road improvement project on the Flat Rock Historic District,” he said. “In other words, the SHPO did not agree with those local historic preservationists who deemed the implementation of the project as ‘the end of Flat Rock as we know it.’
“We are particularly pleased that the proposed treatment of the intersection of North Highland Lake Road and Greenville Highway will remain in the plan and the turn for northbound traffic from Greenville Highway onto North Highland Lake Road will be made safer,” he added. “That turn has been a problem for tour buses leaving the Flat Rock Playhouse and the Sandburg home, school buses, emergency vehicles, delivery trucks and others.  The improvement of the storage lane for left turns onto Greenville Highway will also be a great improvement at that intersection.”