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Neighbors hit snag in quest to rename road

fr streetsignsHate the name of your street? In Haywood County, changing it shouldn’t be that hard.

Come up with a new name, make sure the name isn’t already taken by another street and get at least 65 percent of your neighbors to agree.


But, the process can get sticky when someone’s name is involved. Often, the developer or first homeowner on a new road gets to pick the road name, and if they pick the name of their daughter, grandfather — or even themselves — be prepared for some pushback if you try to get it changed.

“Personal names get a lot of controversy no matter what,” said Kathy Hoglen, Haywood County’s addressing coordinator.

Property owners in Campbell Woods subdivision have been working since May trying to change the name of a street from Henry Dingus Way to Ridgeway Trail  — something that better describes the neighborhood, according to a letter from Thomas Benoit, president of the Campbell Woods Property Owner’s Association, to the Haywood County commissioners.

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The street was originally named after the subdivision developer’s father. But today’s residents don’t particularly like living on a street named Henry Dingus Way.

According to the county’s ordinance, 65 percent of property owners on the road or on connecting streets must sign a request indicating their support for the change, then county commissioners will entertain the request.

If 100 percent agree, the change is automatically approved, and the matter is not required to go before the county commissioners for final approval.

“We very, very seldom take it to the county commissioners,” Hoglen said.

However, those requests that do find their way onto the county commissioners’ agenda must be advertised for at least 10 days. This allows for any dissenters to a road name change to step forward before the board votes ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’

In the case of Henry Dingus Way, the process has been stalled at its final step — approval from the county commissioners — for months. After some confusion that delayed the request, the commissioners decided this week to table the measure once again because they had additional questions.

During the meeting, Maggie Valley Mayor Ron DeSimone who came before commissioners to speak about the name change told the county board that the road name could be considered historically significant.

Historical significance is one reason why county or town officials may deny a road name change. The county ordinance does not specifically prohibit changing street names with historical relevance, but it could outweigh a group’s desire to alter it, particularly if not all property owners are in agreeance.

“I think there is good reason to honor the history,” said Waynesville Town Manager Marcy Onieal, who commented generally about road name changing. “There is generally some reason why things were named what they were.”

A more common reason for denial, however, is if the new name is already taken by another street in the county or sounds too similar to another road name. Names also cannot contain numbers or be more than 15 characters.

In the grand scheme of things, road name changes are uncommon. The county addressing office dealt with only four or five last year, Hoglen said, adding that a couple of those could have been new roads altogether and not a change to a previously existing road. When there are two or more houses on a drive, it is logged as a new road and must be named.

The same is true for Waynesville, Onieal said. “I think it comes up fairly rarely.”

The towns of Maggie Valley, Clyde and Canton don’t have road naming rules of their own, but instead funnel all requests to the county to rule up or down under its ordinance.

But, Waynesville has its own road name changing policy. It is almost identical to the county procedure. However, the town Board of Aldermen reviews and approves all changes.

Onieal said that such requests can be “an inconvenience and expense.” The town has to go through the process of vetting the name, informing the public about the change and if it is approved, install a new street sign.


Henry Dingus Way scuttle

Although it is unclear what will happen to Henry Dingus Way, the request by the property owner’s association has prompted change in Maggie Valley.

In 1994, the town passed an ordinance relinquishing decisions over road name changes to the county to administer under its own ordinance. But now, members of Maggie Valley’s planning board hope to take back some of that power and have crafted their own ordinance, which would grant the town board final say over road name changes.

Town Planning Director Nathan Clark presented the planning board, an advisory committee to the aldermen, with a draft ordinance similar to the county and Waynesville’s.

The main difference: clarification that explicitly requires property owners to be consulted before a street is renamed and a new clause about the consideration of a name’s possible historical significance.

“It doesn’t set up a lot of confines,” Clark said of the draft.

When the planning board met last week, Clark anticipated that some discussion would be had about the ordinance, but he said he did not expect anything to be approved.

But, planning board chair Connie Davis surprised Clark and her fellow board members with her own version of the policy she had written.

Davis’ version is considerably more stringent than the county’s ordinance. Although the procedure is similar, it states that the Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen must approve a road name change “by a 4/5 supermajority” and then must still be OK’d by the Haywood County commissioners.

According to the ordinance, residents must pay a filing fee when submitting a petition for a road name change. The policy does not state a specific amount but does say that the money will be used to cover advertising of the possible change.

The people petitioning for the change would also have to foot the bill for purchasing new signs, erecting them and the costs of the public hearing.

While the county and Waynesville only require 65 percent of property owners’ signatures, if approved, Maggie Valley would demand 90 percent. And, road names “that have a historical significance or are family names that have been part of our history and/or heritage” would be prohibited from being altered.

Davis’ stricter criteria for road name changes were unanimously approved at the planning board meeting and will now go to the Board of Aldermen for final approval.

“There was not a whole lot of discussion,” Clark said of the new policy language that was presented, later adding that he was surprised that it had not been sent out to board members and town leaders prior to the meeting.

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