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DOT plows ahead despite outcry from residents

Despite overwhelming opposition from residents, the N.C. Department of Transportation is moving forward with plans to widen Plott Creek Road outside Waynesville.

A public hearing on the road widening will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, at Hazelwood Elementary School. An information session will begin at 6:30 p.m. The proposal calls for widening the road from two to three lanes from Hazelwood Avenue in downtown Hazelwood out to Hazelwood Elementary School on Plott Creek.

Congestion in front of the school for 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon was cited as the need for the $715,000 project by Joel Setzer, DOT division engineer for 10 western counties, at a public meeting on the proposal last April.

The school only has one entrance, creating a bottleneck. Adding a third lane would allow parents to sit in the middle lane while waiting to turn into the parking lot. Residents advocate adding a second entrance to the school to get parents out of the road and into the parking lot instead of backing up in a middle turn lane.

About 75 residents attended a public meeting last April and challenged the DOT’s plan. They said a wider three-lane road would alter the character of their neighborhood, encourage speeding, ruin their front yards and defy the smart growth principles in the town’s land-use plan. Only one resident spoke in favor of the idea.

At the time, Setzer said the DOT has not collected traffic counts nor conducted traffic observations on Plott Creek Road or Hazelwood Avenue. He said the DOT developed the road-widening plans based on anecdotal information.

The DOT said the road widening on Hazelwood Avenue on the outskirts of downtown was needed because it is difficult to pull out into the roadway from businesses and sidestreets. Business owners and residents on those side streets who came to the meeting said they had no trouble pulling out.

For information on the meeting, call DOT at 828.488.2131 or Chuck Dixon, a neighbor organizing opposition to the widening, at 828.456.8082.

— By Becky Johnson

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