The three-hour long meeting was different than a public hearing would have been, though, because it was only attended by those in support of constructing the road rather than people on both sides of the issue.
Though the meeting was no longer considered a public hearing in an official capacity, two commissioners — Phillip Carson and David Monteith — came out to listen to the concerns of their constituents. Both Carson and Monteith support the road, while other three commissioners back a cash settlement.
Road supporters cited a variety of factors in support of their stance on the North Shore Road. Many want a new road built because they wish to visit their old homesteads and the estimated 1,100 graves of relatives that rest in the area. More tangible reasons mentioned were the proposed economic benefits the road would bring to the area.
“Anyone with the smallest amount of imagination can visualize what the road at this time will mean to Bryson City,” stated Swain County resident and road advocate Linda Hogue.
Hogue cited the National Park Service’s environmental impact study that claimed construction of a new road would bring an additional $5 million in personal income and $14 million in retail sales to Swain County.
“Commissioners of today, why on earth would you voluntarily suggest you would sign the contract for $52 million?” Hogue asked. “That’s a drop in the bucket.”
Raleigh Grant agreed with Hogue that the economic impacts on Swain County would be vast if a road was built, especially, he said, because the county is currently the poorest in North Carolina.
Others questioned the estimated cost of building a road. Twelve-year-old Dean Triplett, one of the youngest road supporters in attendance, addressed this issue in his speech.
“Now how much will the road really cost? The road will not cost $600 million (the current estimated figure) — that’s ridiculous. A local contractor said he would sign the contract and build the road for half of that,” he said.
Other benefits to constructing a road, according to Hogue, are that elk could be re-introduced to the area, signs could be put up in the vicinity to promote heritage tourism, and overall, promises made to the citizens of Swain County during WWII could finally be fulfilled.
Exactly what impact the Swain County meeting will have on the North Shore Road is unclear. Commissioners Monteith and Carson were supposed to share their notes on the unofficial hearing with the other commissioners at the next county meeting, however, that meeting has been cancelled due to lack of items for the agenda.