W

hen it comes to the future of Sylva’s commercial corridor, we all have skin in the game.

The dimensions of the project are beginning to come into focus. More than 2,300 invitations were mailed out by the N.C. Board of Transportation last month to those in the footprint of R-5600, the redesign for N.C.107, to attend a meeting Monday, Dec. 9 from 3-7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church.

Plans for 107 include the elimination of the center turn lane with sidewalks replaced and a 5-foot bike lane. Upgrades are slated for the N.C. 107/U.S. 23 Business intersection, and from U.S. 23 Business to Dillardtown Road and Municipal Drive, near the Sylva Fire Department.

While we all have skin in the game – this project could impact a large chunk of the local economy – nobody has more skin in the game than the 39 parcels and 55 businesses facing potential relocation or impact that appear on DOT’s preliminary estimate lists. A caveat: Those numbers remain in flux as design plans move forward.

Nevertheless, Monday’s meeting is designed primarily for those folks. “We’re looking to really focus on those people whose property is adjacent to or being impacted by the project,” said Jeanette White, Division 14 senior project engineer, “so potentially, we’d really appreciate to have everybody who owns land or are tenants throughout the project site.”

You don’t have to be on the list to attend the meeting; other interested parties can also attend.

“There are many people who have concerns about the road, but we would really like to focus on those who will be impacted directly by the project,” White said. “They’re the people we really want to make sure have a thorough understanding of what’s going to happen.”

That statement, in a nutshell, is why this meeting is worth attending. Much of the discussion surrounding the project and its impact has been reminiscent of the tale of the three blind men and the elephant; inspecting it by touch, each drew a different conclusion – the one handling the trunk thought it was a snake, the one approaching a leg thought it was a tree trunk, the one finding the tale thought it was a rope.

In many versions of the story, the men decided the others were lying and came to blows.

That can happen when you’re working with incomplete information, and Monday pieces of that information will start coming together in a more comprehensive manner. Granted, the final plant won’t be completed – there will still be plenty of disclaimers – but the focus should become clearer.

“We’ll definitely have maps at the meeting,” White said.

“They’re going to have a lot of disclaimers on them, primarily that the permanent utility easements are not yet finalized. Although we have had a lot of discussion just to wait until they were finalized, we were asked to have an informational meeting now rather than later.”

Nearly a dozen or perhaps more DOT personnel will be on hand, including Division 14 Engineer Brian Burch, utility designers, the primary engineering team and right-of-way agents.

It’s an important presentation as the blanks start to fill in on the 107 project in a serious way. And R-5600 is, for better or worse, the path to the future of Sylva and Jackson County.

With facts in hand, the public can better address changes to that path for the betterment of us all.