Charlotte Observer Nov. 16, 2006

Landowners and others disagree with town over issues such as paving

by ERICA BESHEARS - ebeshears@charlotteobserver.com

Town officials and residents of McAuley Road did not come to agreement over the future of the gravel road during a special meeting Monday afternoon.

Some officials say the road should be paved and used more to move traffic in a fast-growing corner of Mecklenburg County. But landowners and conservationists say paving the road would harm wildlife migration and fragment a 580-acre private conservation area.

The road is being discussed as part of the study to plot the future Prosperity Church Road extension from Eastfield Road to N.C. 73. But most of the talk Monday revolved around paving the existing road at town expense, instead of making it a two or four-lane thoroughfare as the future Prosperity Church Road would likely be.

The gravel road itself is eligible for designation on the National Register of Historic Places, town Transportation Planner Bill Coxe said, which could make funding trickier.

"I'm really more of a two-lane person," said commissioner Teri Leonhardt, who has advocated using McAuley as the "cheapest, most cost-effective" route.

Commissioner Brian Sisson said he would like to see McAuley as one of four two-lane roads going north-south in east Huntersville.

The discussion got heated at times.

Landowner Frank Bragg asked why anyone would want to pave the road. "That's the last gravel road in the county with active farmland on it," he said.

Sisson responded: "We've got traffic standing still in Huntersville."

Leonhardt said she appreciated the private sector's efforts to preserve open space but worried the large block of preserved land could tie the town's hands in terms of roads, sewers and greenways. "Granted, what you're doing is great," she said. "But as it grows we're going to be facing some infrastructure problems, i.e. sewer," she said.

The state is talking to property owners in the area about restoring Ramah Creek. If easements are voluntarily granted to the state for the restoration, the creek can't be dug up for sewer lines, said Tad Boggs, spokesman for the Ecosystem Enhancement Program. However, Boggs, said, sewers and greenways can run immediately adjacent to the easements.

Bragg said he will not stand in the way of sewer lines necessary for economic development outside the conservation area. "We will work with you to see that that happens when the time comes," he said.

The group agreed to meet again in December to talk more.
Erica Beshears: 704-987-3670, ext. 11.