13 bypass #110; let the battle begin

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 19, 2007

The planning process of the proposed US 13 bypass around Ahoskie is only in its infant stages, but the battle lines are already developing.

On one side are the proponents…town of Ahoskie officials and the Rural Planning Organization. They have allies in Windsor, namely Windsor town officials and perhaps the majority of the Bertie Board of Commissioners.

Another possible ally, the Hertford County Commissioners, has yet to show their hand. There was earlier discussion among those board members to back a proposal to four-lane NC 11 and let that become the Ahoskie bypass. However, after learning that the pot of DOT gold couldn’t be swapped between the US 13 bypass project and the NC 11 dream, I haven’t heard much from the Hertford County bunch lately.

The opponents are the usual suspects n landowners who are upset over losing their homes, their property, their farms, their way of life.

Now the DOT, in conjunction with local officials, has broke out the maps, charts and graphs. Those cold aerial photographs bear colorful markings of the seven proposed bypass routes. But underneath those colors lie living souls who have worked hard and made numerous sacrifices to carve out a little piece of land they can call their own.

Upon that land, many have reared families, some for several generations. Many of those families till the soil on a daily basis, scratching the Earth to plant and harvest crops that help to clothe and feed millions while also adding to the local tax base.

Many of those families are church-going people, putting their faith in God that he will be there to protect them from the evils of the world.

None of those families want to trade their little piece of heaven on Earth for a four-lane strip of asphalt.

So, the biggest question here is who’s right and who’s wrong? Should those who built homes, farms and families sacrifice what they own in the name of transportation progress? If so, will their sacrifice benefit the masses by bringing in the “golden goose” (aka economic development)?

But there are several flaws in the bypass proposal. For starters it makes no sense to start and end a four-lane bypass at a two-lane road. Even if the projected four-laning of US 13 from Tarheel Barbecue in Gates County all the way to Windsor does become a reality years down the road, has anybody given any thought to the fact that all this progress “bypasses” Ahoskie….the retail giant of the Roanoke-Chowan area?

Even the promise of potential economic growth is on shaky ground. To date, nobody has shown me a list of shopping malls, car dealerships or industries who are beating down our door to build here.

Adding to that previous paragraph, the town of Ahoskie has voted to borrow $11 million to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant. That major undertaking will allow the town to grow in regards to population and economic gains. To help prepare for that growth, Ahoskie officials, in July, listened to a pitch from The Buxton Group, a Fort Worth, Texas company that has experienced enormous success in attracting retail businesses to its client towns/cities.

Am I missing something here? Ahoskie officials want to spend in excess of $11 million to expand the wastewater plant in order to attract more people and more businesses. Ahoskie officials are considering hiring a retail business “lobbyist” to add to the growth sparked by wastewater improvements. Ahoskie officials want to reroute the traveling public around all this future growth by supporting a US 13 bypass. Confusing, isn’t it?

Not only should those lying in the path of the bypass routes be up in arms over this issue, but those living within Ahoskie’s borders should join this battle as well.

Contact the members of the Hertford County Board of Commissioners; phone NCDOT (919-733-3141); call NC House Representative Annie Mobley (919-733-5780), State Senator Ed Jones (919-715-3032) and State Senator Marc Basnight (919-733-6854). Tell them all that spending over $111 million to build a senseless road is a waste of taxpayer’s dollars. Call 332-9127 to find out how to get your name on a petition against the Ahoskie bypass.

Join the battle before it’s too late.