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Road request denied

GATESVILLE – A proposal to abandon a portion of Cotton Gin Road has been denied, at least for the immediate future.

Cotton Gin Road is maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The majority of it is unpaved, and only three residences are served by that portion of the road. The paved portion is on the US 158 end of the road.

At the most recent meeting of the Gates County Commissioners, the board, following much discussion, decided, in a split vote, not to petition NCDOT to abandon the road. The majority-approved motion also directed Gates County Manager Natalie Rountree to draft a letter to the Governor, the NC Secretary of Transportation, and the NC DOT Division One Engineer to inquire of their intentions to maintain the road, especially the unpaved portion.

It was at the February meeting of the commissioners where Bundy Lane, who lives and farms along the unpaved portion of Cotton Gin Road, asked the board to consider asking NCDOT to abandon the road. At that meeting, Lane (whose property is closer to the NC 32 end of the road) remarked that DOT was not performing maintenance on the road.

The procedure to abandon the road was explained to Lane at the February meeting. He was told that the measure had to initially be approved, through a resolution, by the Gates County Board of Commissioners. That resolution would then be forwarded to NCDOT, with the final decision left in the hands of the North Carolina Board of Transportation.

The topic came up once again at the March 7 commissioners meeting. There, a resolution was drawn calling for the road to be abandoned. All it was waiting for was the majority approval of the commissioners. However, Commissioner Henry Jordan expressed concern about the possible abandonment.

“What I want us to take a look at are the other landowners that are in that area,” Jordan said. “The petition only addresses Bundy Lane, the Lane Declaration of Trust, and Douglas Freeman Jr. on behalf of themselves to assume maintenance and liability. There are other owners there plus the state of North Carolina.

“I really want the board to consider the fact that once we abandon this road, it could be gated off (to public access). I understand there are others who need access to that road to get to their property. Plus we have public school buses using that road,” Jordan added.

He said he has driven that road, saying it was two miles in length.

“That seems a bit much to abandon,” Jordan noted. “I’m not sure why the state didn’t decide years ago to hard surface that road; maybe the landowners there didn’t agree to the right-of-way.”

Jordan added that the county has previously discussed using that road to install sewer lines in an effort to expand that service to other areas.

“We need to take all this into consideration when discussing this possible road abandonment,” Jordan said. “My take on this is it’s not feasible to move forward with abandoning this road at this time.”

Lane responded by saying that the only landowners impacted by the portion of Cotton Gin Road that he was asking to be abandoned is his family and Mr. Freeman.

“How much of the road are you asking to be abandoned, just up to the Freeman property,” Jordan inquired.

“Yes, that’s right,” Lane answered.

Still, Jordan said he was opposed to the measure.

“Well, can I make a suggestion, get DOT to maintain the road,” Lane stressed. “My point is DOT is saying that maintenance on this road is not in their plans. I can’t live on a road that’s not maintained. I pay my taxes to have this state-owned road maintained. If DOT doesn’t want to maintain it, then let me do it.

“I’m trying to take the burden off the state and the county because it’s clear to me that the state is not capable or not willing to do their job,” Lane continued.

“I went down the road, and, yes, it was a little bumpy, but it seems to be not all that bad for a dirt road,” Jordan said.

“There’s a reason there is not a lot of traffic on that portion of the road….people don’t want to drive there and beat their vehicles all to pieces,” Lane remarked.

“Is it true that school buses go through there,” asked Jordan

“Yes they do, but they don’t have to,” Lane replied.

“I’m certainly in favor of writing to DOT and asking them to try and improve their maintenance on that road,” Jordan said, adding that he was still opposed to the abandonment process.

“That’s where I started, with DOT,” Lane stated. “They told me it wasn’t in their budget and they were not going to put it in their budget to maintain secondary dirt roads. They said if I own the land on both sides of that road then I needed to have the road turned over to me. They told me to start that process with you (county commissioners).”

Commissioner Billy Felton agreed with Jordan’s suggestion of putting in writing a request to state officials to maintain Cotton Gin Road.

“And we need to ask for that maintenance to be properly done,” Felton added. “From where Mr. Lane is asking for the road to be abandoned, the unpaved part of that road, it’s about 1.5 miles back to (NC) 32. If that part is closed to public access, that adds about five miles to the school bus route. That would be a bit of a hardship to the schools.”

“We need to find out what DOT is going to do or not do,” said Commissioner Ray Freeman. “Their answer will help us to decide whether or not we move forward with the petition to abandon that part of the road.”

“Certainly, no one wants to live on a state road that’s not properly maintained,” noted Commission chairwoman Linda Hofler.

Jordan motioned not to approve the resolution/petition for abandonment and submit a letter to the Governor and state transportation officials to inquire of what their intentions are to properly maintain all of Cotton Gin Road.

That motion was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Jordan, Felton and Commissioner Jack Owens voting in favor; while Hofler and Freeman were opposed.

 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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