By Dave Russell
The N.C. Department of Transportation last week sent out more than 2,300 invitations to residents in the area of R-5600, the construction project that will reshape Sylva’s commercial corridor.
Recipients or other interested parties can attend the 3-7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9 drop-in style meeting at First United Methodist Church primarily intended for those affected by the project’s right-of-way acquisition.
“We’re looking to really focus on those people whose property is adjacent to or being impacted by the project, so potentially, we’d really appreciate to have everybody who owns land or are tenants throughout the project site,” Division 14 senior project engineer Jeanette White said.
“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.”
R-5600 is the DOT’s proposal for Sylva’s commercial corridor, N.C. 107, including 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. DOT’s preliminary estimate lists 39 parcels with 55 businesses facing potential relocation or impact, though that number is fluid.
“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.”
Disclaimers will potentially be in areas where officials think what will be impacted is different from what is represented on the maps, she said.
“We’re planning for all hands on deck,” White said. “At last count, there will be at least 10 DOT personnel there.”
N.C. Department of Transportation Division 14 Engineer Bryan Burch, utility designers, the primary engineering team and right-of-way agents will be in attendance.
“We’ll have them there to answer our questions if we have questions from the concerned citizens we can’t answer,” White said. “They are kind of our subject matter experts.”
Property owners can find out what impacts are currently in the design for their property, she said.
The meeting was prompted by a phone call from Representative Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, Burch said.
“It came about after I attended a meeting with the town of Sylva and some of our local elected officials,” he said. “In particular, Joe Sam Queen contacted my office and we had a collective meeting with the town and county. He called me with concerns that had been expressed with him about the project and at that point I said, ‘Let’s just meet with you and the town of Sylva and Jackson County so you can kind of understand where this project has come from and the history of it, where we’re at, where we’re going.’”
Another reason for the meeting is misinformation about the project making the rounds, Burch said.
“We want everyone to understand the process and be on the same page, because there is a lot of information out there from various sources and some of it is not exactly accurate, based on what I have been told,” he said.