LELAND, NC (WECT) - Residents and elected leaders in Leland are hoping to make an impression on the North Carolina Department of Transportation and others on the committee in charge of the Cape Fear Crossing project, either through a stack of letters or a packed public hearing.
Next week, NCDOT is hosting two open-houses to present the six options for the new bridge over the Cape Fear River, and after a formal presentation, the public will be able to ask questions and give comments.
After the meetings, Leland officials plan to send NCDOT and others a stack of letters from concerned citizens, expressing their desire for the committee to find a route that would not disrupt the communities of Malory Plantation, Brunswick Forest, Stoney Creek and several others.
Leland Town Council member Bob Campbell said he and others with the town have been inundated with emails from their constituents, but he realized that over time he was seeing the same letter over and over again — and he thinks that causes fatigue.
“When you read the same letter over and over and over, the effect goes away,” he said.
To keep that from happening and try to make sure NCDOT and the committee pay attention to residents’ concerns, Campbell said he wants the town council to gather all of the emails and letters they’ve received and send them en-mass to the powers that be.
“If we can combine that, into an effective cover letter that says, ‘Here are the many folks that you’re impacting, and this is what we’d like to see done, and we need your help,’ I think that’s where we need to head,” he said.
Campbell said he is particularly concerned for the residents of Stoney Creek and Snee Farms, who saw devastating flooding during Hurricane Florence.
“They’ve dealt with enough,” he said.
Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman said by email town leaders understand the need for the additional crossing, but don’t want it to diminish the quality of life for residents.
“We appreciate the needs for this project and others to control traffic growth in the future, but we believe if we all work together, we can make that happen without taking so many homes and businesses,” she said.
So far, Campbell said he and the rest of the council have amassed upwards of 100 letters and emails, but they hope to gather more in the coming weeks.
Several of the Leland residents who would be affected by one or more of the alternatives have created the Cape Fear Crossing Citizens Coalition in an effort to bring all of the concerned residents under one umbrella and try to persuade the NCDOT and committee to consider the effect of the project.
One of those involved with that group, Brayton Willis, even designed an alternative route.
Willis’ plan which he submitted on April 16 to the local division of NCDOT, would build a new, higher-capacity bridge right next to where the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge stands now.
The new bridge would allow both additional vehicular traffic and cargo trucks to cross the river, without the need to disrupt homes in Brunswick County.
His plan would build a tunnel-like structure that traffic would go through that could have a park or even commercial businesses as its shell, which Willis’ says would solve not only the transportation problem, but the need for additional revitalization on South Front Street as well.
However, Willis’ plan never made it past the local office, and the committee in charge of the Cape Fear Crossing project hasn’t seen it.
Willis says he was told his option is outside the study area NCDOT has been working under, but he says that isn’t true, and that the study area needs to be revisited anyway. He plans to present the alternative during his comments at the public hearing.
Coalition leader Joanne Donaghue said the group hopes the committee will take a step back to consider the option, rather than pushing forward at the current pace.
“We want to be heard on the issue, and we’re hoping for some flexibility to slow this down," she said. "If it’s been in development all these years, we think taking a few months to get it right is something that we should do.”
Donaghue would be personally affected, she says, because the route would go nearly through her backyard.
Citizens will have two opportunities to learn about the Cape Fear Crossing project and speak their minds.
The first will take place in Wilmington at Hoggard High School, and the second will occur across the river at North Brunswick High School.
Both meetings will begin with an open house at 5 p.m. and there will be a presentation of the plans followed by the public hearing at 7 p.m.