People for and against the state Department of Transportation’s plans to pave and widen a 3.3-mile section of Needmore Road have another opportunity to tell officials what they think this month.
At the request of the Macon County Board of Commissioners, the transportation department will hold a second public hearing Jan. 25 in Macon County. The state agency fulfilled public law by holding one last fall in Swain County — the road connects Macon and Swain — but Macon leaders wanted to ensure their residents had a say, too.
You do not have to live in Macon County to participate in the public hearing.
“Both counties are involved in this matter, and given geography, there is no convenient location for a meeting to serve both counties. In my opinion, Bryson City was chosen because DOT perceived a better chance of turning people out who would be favorable to their agenda,” Bill McLarney, an expert on the Little Tennessee River (which parallels Needmore Road) and biomonitoring director for the Little Tennessee Watershed Association, wrote in an email.
“… I think it is particularly important to reinforce the will of the Macon County Commission by reminding them that their predecessors (and their Swain County counterparts) voted unanimously to support the Needmore acquisition, and that this is something of which we should all be very proud,” McLarney wrote.
Needmore Road cuts through the Needmore Game Lands, located in Macon and Swain counties. The 4,400-acre tract was protected after a coalition of environmentalists, hunters, local residents and others saved it from development after raising $19 million to buy the land from Duke Power.
What’s being decided is whether to pave and widen this gravel section of Needmore Road to a minimum of 18 feet, with construction work on the roadway’s shoulders.
Most of the major environmental groups in the region have given the nod to paving, citing protections to the Little Tennessee River, which is the beneficiary of dust and sedimentation. The groups have stopped short of endorsing the road widening as proposed, however. That would involve cutting into and removing acidic rock, which carries an inherent danger to the environment.
Want to go
When: Pre-hearing from 4:30-6:30 p.m.; open house starts at 7 p.m.
Where: Iotla Valley Elementary/Cowee School, 51 Cowee School Drive, Franklin.