LELAND, NC (WECT) - Good news for some Brunswick County residents is causing anxiety for others. On Monday, Leland Town Council voiced support for a plan that would spare Brunswick Forest and Mallory Creek residents, at the potential expense of Snee Farm and Stoney Creek Plantation.
The more we grow, the trickier it gets to build roads and bridges to accommodate the booming population in Southeastern North Carolina. That's one of the main reasons it's been so difficult for traffic planners to pick a location for the future Cape Fear Crossing. After years and years of planning, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) is expected to make a final decision on the bridge’s location in the coming months.
As a stakeholder in the process, the Town of Leland has been asked for its input on several alternatives still being considered by the DOT. While town leaders seem to agree that none of the alternatives is perfect, the majority of the board felt the need to pick a route for the bridge to support that would be the least destructive to their residents.
Leland Town Councilwoman Pat Battleman, who has been heavily involved in the planning process for the future Cape Fear Crossing, says the way it has been explained to her, residents in Stoney Creek Plantation and Snee Farm will not have to move if “Alternative M Avoidance” or “Alternative N Avoidance” are selected by the DOT. She said the proposed roadway would run right alongside their neighborhood without displacing them.
That’s why Battleman is supporting those plans as the best remaining options. She says years ago, the Town asked for another plan steering the bridge further away from those neighborhoods, and the alternative the DOT gave them in response was a nonstarter. It ran right through the middle of town and would have caused much more destruction.
Some neighbors in the potentially impacted neighborhoods said they were taking it one day at a time, watching and waiting for more information. Stoney Creek Plantation resident Donald Rose, who moved to Brunswick County from West Virginia last year, said he understood the urgent need for another bridge over the Cape Fear River to ease traffic congestion, but likes where he lives and hopes to be able to stay there.
"We didn't intend to move again once we moved here. You know, I'm getting up in age and I just, I moved my last time as far as I'm concerned. And I hope it doesn't come to us having to move again,” Rose told WECT.
Other residents were more anxious. Rose’s neighbor, Don Johnson, Jr., wrote Leland Town Council an email before their meeting asking what Alternatives M & N would mean for more than 250 homes in that corridor.
“Many of us in the Stoney Creek Plantation, myself included, are still in the process of recovering from Hurricane Florence,” Johnson wrote, imploring council not to support a plan for the Cape Fear Crossing that could displace them again. “[We] are not advocating the other proposed routes, we disagree with all of them… There is clearly plenty of land to the south that has yet to be built on…. It’s time to come up with alternative routes that don’t impose on homeowners; regardless of class or wealth.”
That email got the attention of Leland Town Councilman Mike Callahan, the lone vote Monday against drafting a resolution expressing support for the routes that spared Brunswick Forest and Mallory Creek at the expense of others. Callahan wanted to give residents of Snee Farm and Stoney Creek Plantation more time to voice concerns about the proposed route for the bridge.
But fellow council members said they’d already been down that road. They worried they were running out of time to weigh in on the best remaining option, and if they didn’t act soon, the DOT could simply make a decision without their input.
Battleman added that the DOT did not seem willing to consider resident-proposed routes further south, because they were outside of the “study area.” She said millions of dollars and years of study has already gone into getting the proposed bridge this far.
Battleman admits it’s nerve-wracking because there are no guarantees. Once the state starts engineering and construction, they may run into problems that force them to change course.