Monroe, Indian Trail snub bypass opponents
Union County’s largest municipalities do not want presentations about the Monroe Bypass by the Southern Environmental Law Center during meetings.
Attorneys Kym Hunter and Frank Holleman with the SELC, the group representing state environmental groups that successfully stopped work on the bypass, have given presentations to the councils of Marshville, Weddington, Hemby Bridge, Fairview, Unionville, Mineral Springs and Stallings. Most of those towns approved resolutions asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to look at bypass alternatives
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instead of moving forward with the estimated $800 million project.
Monroe officials made preliminary plans for the SELC to give their presentation during a council meeting. But Monroe resident Lance Dunn stated in an Oct. 4 email that Monroe had nixed a proposed SELC presentation.
“(Mayor) Bobby Kilgore just called me and told me the City Council overrode his request, had no need for current information and didn’t want it on the agenda on Oct. 15,” Dunn wrote.
This week, Indian Trail Town Council members had a heated discussion about inviting groups for and against the bypass. Town Manager Joe Fivas suggested the council open its meeting to Union County Chamber of Commerce and NCDOT representatives to give a pro-bypass presentation. Councilman David Waddell suggested the town extend the same invitation to the SELC, in order to give residents a chance to “hear the other side.”
Councilwoman Darlene Luther opposed it. The council supports the bypass and she saw no reason for bringing in the opposing group.
“Everybody supports it for the development and economic vitality it brings,” Luther said.
Towns that took official stances against the bypass want that economic development boom for themselves, Luther said. The bypass’s path through Stallings, Monroe and Indian Trail would take interest away from places like Waxhaw.
“Of course they’re going to want it, but if it’s over in Indian Trail they might feel like oh my gosh, if it goes in Indian Trail, we never have a chance again,” Luther said. “We may have a lot of people on that side who aren’t for it, but they’re not for it because of the money being spent on our side of town and in our very own city for a change. And it will bring economic development. There’s no way that it can’t.”
She said the bypass is necessary for bringing traffic relief to Highway 74, even though NCDOT documents state the bypass is not intended to alleviate traffic on 74. The NCDOT impact study also asserted that the road would cause little development.
Councilman Robert Allen said he had “done his homework” about the SELC and did not want to hear their presentation.
“I don’t want them here,” Councilman Christopher King said.
But Waddell, Mayor Pro Tem David Cohn and Mayor Michael Alvarez said it would be most fair to give residents both points of view. To make people think the same way as the council by restricting what is presented is “just not right,” Cohn said. There have been lots of compelling arguments floated that the bypass will not benefit Indian Trail in the way some believe.
“I think the people should make their own decision,” he said.
Luther countered that the bypass will cost the town nothing, so why should the council take issue with whether the bypass is beneficial or not.
“We’re getting a bypass that can bring economic development and it doesn’t cost the town a penny,” Luther said. “And we’re going to talk about why not to put a road through here. Seriously? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Cohn noted that the cost of the bypass would be shouldered by all taxpayers, Indian Trail residents included.
Alvarez repeated his support for the bypass.
“But I feel that we do a real disservice to the people if we don’t at least show them both sides,” he said.
The council voted to invite the pro-bypass groups to speak at the next town meeting. Waddell voted against.