Polk supports paving a portion of River Road

Published 1:33 am Tuesday, April 21, 2015


By Leah Justice


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A portion of the now all gravel River Road near Tryon, which is known for equestrian riding, carriages, running and bicycling will be paved after the Polk County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution of support for the state to pave a section. Commissioners met Monday, April 20 and approved a resolution by a majority vote to support of the N.C. Department of Transportation paving an estimated 1,100 feet of River Road. Commissioner Shane Bradley was the sole vote against the resolution.

During public comments, commissioners heard 11 residents speak against the paving and no residents speak in favor, but commissioners and a DOT representative said they have had requests from residents on River Road to pave the section.

The paving of the section of River Road will connect the already paved Morgan Chapel Road and Golden Road.

Kathy Nebel asked commissioners not to pave any of River Road. She said it’s not just an unpaved road, but is for the comfort and safety of horses and carriages. Unpaved roads also slow traffic and are safer, she said.

Cynthia Milligan said she rides on River Road and it is one thing that drew her to this community. She asked commissioners not to support the request.

Faith Jorgenson said she has lived on River Road for the past 12 years and yes, it is bumpy and dusty and her car often needs washing, but unpaved roads have a good side too. They deter travel, she said.

“Unpaved roads represent a rural way of life,” Jorgenson said. “It makes it feel like we’re in the country.”

Jorgenson said the greatest concern she has about pavement on River Road, is there’s pavement on River Road.

Judith Kerns, president of FETA said there’s been some confusion and wanted to clear that up. Kerns said FETA does not take a position either pro or con on the paving of the section of River Road.

David Maxwell said if you ride a horse on a paved road you’re taking dangerous action.

“If you ride in that area where the bridge is,” Maxwell said, you have a horse that can slip and a car that may or may not slow down. It’s dangerous.”

Maxwell also asked if the state department has nothing else to do? He said the biggest majority by a long shot will be against the paving and he can’t imagine why the state would come in and pave a little piece like is proposed when they have far more things to do.

Libbie Johnson said she was a resident of South River Road for several years and sometimes it gets dusty but she moved to Polk County and River Road because she heard it was good for horses. Johnson said her fear is eventually there will be more requests for paving and to pave that section is to increase the speed on River Road, which is something she doesn’t want.

“Please do not pave this section of River Road,” Johnson said. “Please leave this section of River Road as it is.”

Ivey Sumrell said people drive faster on a paved road and that means they have less time to react to horses. The section is on a curve and cars slamming on brakes will cause another danger, Sumrell said.

Dot Moyer said she rides her horse on River Road and sees people yield instead of stop at a stop sign. Moyer said paving the road will increase traffic. She said it is true River Road is bumpy and dusty but she considers it a minor inconvenience for the benefits.

Amy Barrington said she has an equine business on River Road and it would be safer if the road remained gravel.

Lisa Huston, a River Road resident, said she is not a fan of paving the road. She said the area of the road is nice and wide and is a good place for horse trailers to pull over.

Cheryl Every, who also lives on River Road, said her car is always dusty and dirty but it’s a small price to pay for living and enjoying where she lives. Every mentioned cyclists, dog walkers, joggers and lots of equestrian sports that share the road. Every said paving part of River Road is unquestionably going to increase speed and traffic and sometimes improvement is not an improvement.

Philip Burrus, president of the Hunting Country Homeowners’ Association said the association has not taken a stand on either side of the paving issue simply because it has not had time to poll the residents. Burrus said some residents have expressed concern regarding EMS and safety, but he spoke to EMS and found that they frequently travel back roads with no problems.

Burrus said unlike an amendment, this cannot be undone.

Commissioner Keith Holbert said the county has had some for and some against the paving and the county is approaching the issue from the standpoint of health and safety of the county. Holbert read a resolution in support of the paving and motioned to approve the resolution.

The resolution begins by saying the Polk County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on June 2, 1997 requesting that the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) not pave River Road.

The resolution also states that the NCDOT has received requests from the public in the area to pave the section to connect the paved roads of Morgan Chapel Road and Golden Road.

NCDOT District Engineer Steve Cannon attended the meeting and said his department has received calls and requests from other citizens about the road condition, including it being bumpy and having potholes. Cannon said the NCDOT found the resolution from 1997 and wanted to come back and go before residents and commissioners prior to paving the section. Cannon said the section does have rights of way already obtained during recent bridge repair as well as an existing roadbed. Cannon said plans are to leave a wide shoulder on the side so horses and carriages can still ride on the unpaved shoulder, saying the NCDOT does realize that horse riding is an important part of your community. Cannon also said the state is not looking at any other sections in that area to pave. The state has no other rights of way, Cannon said, and without petitions from property owners the state would not consider any other sections.

Holbert said he measured the section of road and said it’s possible it’s shorter than the estimated 1,100 ft. with Cannon agreeing it could be shorter.

Commissioner Michael Gage asked Holbert to change his motion to include a three-way stop sign at the intersection, which was agreed upon. Cannon said a three-way sign is possible.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he has been looking at this trying to find as much common ground as possible. Gasperson said he met with Cannon and said there is easily 10 ft. left that would still be a good area for equestrian use. Gasperson asked that the 1997 resolution be incorporated in the motion to ensure that the current board of commissioners has no intention of being supportive of any further paving.

Polk County Manager Marche Pittman said the paving likely won’t occur until sometime in 2016.