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Village Council formally asks DOT to drop road project

FLAT ROCK — Acting on what they described as an inviolable promise to voters, the new Flat Rock Village Council majority adopted a resolution on Monday that formally asks the NCDOT to drop the Highland Lake Road project.

The council had voted during its organizational meeting last month to do the same thing but without a resolution. The resolution says that the Village Council opposes the project because it “does not upgrade how the roadway functions, negatively impacts a scenic entrance into Flat Rock’s historic district, cuts down a significant number of mature trees, removes property from the Park at Flat Rock, and takes private property for a non-essential purpose.”
Council members debated several “whereas” paragraphs, including one that said in the Nov. 5 election “all three candidates who ran opposed to the North Highland Lake Road project and in favor of its cancellation were elected by a record turnout of voters.”
Council members Paige Posey and Sheryl Jamerson argued that the resolution’s statements were a matter of opinion.
“I think that it is untrue that the project does not upgrade how the roadway functions,” Jamerson said.
Council member Anne Coletta said the statement came directly from the NCDOT’s answer to a question on whether the project would upgrade how the road functions.
Posey and Jamerson objected to the paragraph about the election, arguing that it’s speculative to argue that the road widening was the decisive factor in the election. David Dethero, one of the three new anti-road project members, disagreed.
“It’s important for the MPO to know that the majority voted against this project, however it’s worded,” he said. “Despite all these other things, the people spoke, the people should be listened to.”
Dethero, Coletta and Tom Carpenter agreed to delete the paragraph after Mayor Nick Weedman said his cover letter would mention the election results. Coletta, Dethero, Carpenter and Weedman voted yes on the resolution while Jamerson, Posey and Albert Gooch voted no.
“I think we’re being a whole lot shortsighted not to consider what comes after us,” Posey said.
The resolution will go to the French Broad MPO, which is expected to take up the request on Jan. 23. The request would go next to the N.C. Board of Transportation. Coletta said she has talked to the French Broad MPO’s executive director, Tristan Winkler, about the procedure for an appeal if the MPO does not agree to cancel the project and has talked to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who lives in Flat Rock, about an appeal if the state board denies the request.
“We fully expect the MPO to honor the wishes of the Village of Flat Rock,” she said, adding that the proposed job was “a very local project.”