Local governments’ broken process

From the Hendersonville Times-News Sunday paper (July 1, 2018), an op-ed by Anne Coletta:

If you take away nothing else from reading this, understand that the current countywide protests about road projects are a result of a broken process by our local governments, not by NCDOT.

Road “improvement” or “modernization” projects are identified by NCDOT when roads do not meet current standards from Raleigh. I imagine many roads in Henderson County are not up to current standards — that does not mean these roads are unsafe or in need of construction work. What moves a potential road project up the to-do list is authorization from the local governmental body: county, city, town or village.

And this is where the process breaks down. An example is the North Highland Lake Road project (NCDOT U-5887).

In 2011, NCDOT identified North Highland Lake Road (SR 1783) as not up to current standards. In 2014, the road was submitted for ranking in the NCDOT system. On its ranking summary sheet, the question “Does project [to ‘modernize roadway’] upgrade how the roadway functions?” was answered “No” by NCDOT.

At the August 2015 Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting, a former Village of Flat Rock council member, who served as the council’s liaison on transportation committees, “began the discussion [of the NCDOT SPOT 4.0 database] with suggesting the Village of Flat Rock supported project H090901 [Little River Road] and H111093 [North Highland Lake Road] for reprioritization” (from TAC minutes).

As a Flat Rock village council member at the time (December 2013 to December 2017), I did not know about, discuss or support either of these projects. In researching the history of the North Highland Lake Road project, I reviewed all Flat Rock council agenda meeting and council meeting minutes from Dec. 12, 2013, (when I joined the council) to Dec. 10, 2015, and found no mention of that project being presented to the council for discussion or support.

We as a council did not have the opportunity to debate the merits of this project at an earlier date with the knowledge that it was not required by NCDOT or the French Broad River MPO, but was by village request and could be canceled by the council.

In other words, we did not support the project for “reprioritization” because we did not know about it. Yet one council member, without notifying the rest of the council, was able to allocate $2.7 million in taxpayer dollars for an unnecessary road project, affecting a place of worship, several businesses, historic properties and numerous homes as well as one of the scenic gateways into the village.

Consequently, when NCDOT notified the village council in January 2016 that this project had been approved, most council members thought this was a project coming down from NCDOT and that the village had no authority to cancel it. While some members were concerned and pushed back against the plans presented to the council in June 2017, it wasn’t until October 2017 that all members understood that this project came through our own village council.

This is a broken process.

NCDOT says it is committed to a more bottom-up approach in deciding which road projects to move forward. Unfortunately, that is not happening at the county or local level. The “bottom” are elected officials who have not necessarily taken these projects back to their communities or their governing bodies before “prioritizing” them to move up the list for funding and construction.

Without assurances that potential projects have been publicized (and that means more than just mentioned at a few council or committee meetings), discussed by a broad section of residents as well as elected officials, and scrutinized as to the total impact on the community, Henderson County citizens will continue to protest as they learn about these projects after the projects have been selected and funded, and NCDOT has already spent taxpayer money developing plans with little to no input.

Anne Coletta, former Flat Rock village council member, is a founding member of the Cultural Landscape Group: Flat Rock (CLGflatrock.org), a group dedicated to preserving the cultural landscape of Flat Rock in a way that reflects the character and history of the area.

4 thoughts on “Local governments’ broken process

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  1. Thank you Anne. As I have already stated, anyone who travels in Great Britain knows that their lanes and byways have stood the test of time for centuries. People still manage to get from one place to another. Maybe a bit slower and more politely, but they manage. Trucks deliver. Busses arrive. Taxis get to and from destinations. Ambulances even make it to hospitals!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Sounds like an end run by a few members of the council who want this project for their own reasons. This not what the majority of Flat Rock residents want and it should be resisted by any means necessary.

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  3. A commenter in the Lightning says he FEELS that much of the opposition to the plan is unfounded…

    Thats a good part of the problem. It may FEEL like it, but in fact it is not. The concerns of CLGflatrock.org are real. Based in hard facts.

    Straighten the curves, cars will go faster. Widen the turn radius, big trucks can turn easier. Build BLACKTOP and CONCRETE walkways, 10′ wide with curbs and gutters and the ambiance of Flat Rock will be jeopardized. Take peoples land by eminent domain for others to use, I call theft.

    Sorry if that offends you. I recall reading something somewhere about not coveting thy neighbors property.

    And don’t think for a moment that this is a “sidewalk to nowhere”… the plans to extend it into Flat Rock will be on the table faster than you can say Staton Dockendorf Posey Brown and Jamerson.

    And one more thing; the commenter says that the opponents of this plan are closed minded and refuse to listen? Please. Spare me the nonsense. We have listened and listened and reviewed each and every rendition of this plan for months and months.

    The real criticism, the accurate criticism is that the opponents are still opposed. And the Village Council and the commenter don’t like it.

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  4. This is what happens when Village Council seats are unopposed. This is what happens when special interest lobbyists come before them and ask for what THEY want. This is what happens when the population at large thinks: “All is in good hands. We can trust them…CAN”T WE?”
    Every member of the current Village Council has a special interest they want to promote. If you attend the meetings and listen, you will see what they are and how that member maneuvers to achieve it.
    They have found out how easy it is—especially when you’re writing a check on somebody else’s account. OURS!

    Step up and run for office. Otherwise we will get more of the same

    Ted Etherington

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