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Press release from Stop the Balfour organization:

Hendersonville, NC, – The Henderson County Commissioners meeting on April 18 included a workshop with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on the Balfour Parkway project. The purpose of the workshop was to allow the Commissioners to question NCDOT about the Project. As an introduction, Lyuba Zuyeva, a representative of French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Office (FBRMPO) stated that the Balfour Parkway Project is in anticipation of 52,000 residents expected to move to this area in the coming years. Kristina Miller of NCDOT subcontractor RK&K led the NCDOT presentation of the Project status. She said that the Grimesdale neighborhood is being reviewed as a potential Historic District and a reevaluation has been submitted to the State Historic Preservation office. If granted, it would have certain protections in place. She acknowledged the concerns of all the various routes and trying to work with the communities to minimize impact. The NCDOT team looked at community cohesion as well as density and input from the public and eliminated some Alternatives. Corridor 1 Section B, Crossover 1 and 2 are recommended for elimination, which would eliminate directly or indirectly route Alternative numbers 1-12, 14, 15,16, 19, 20 and 22. The remaining Alternatives – 13, 17, 18, 21, 23 and 24 – are recommended to move forward for detailed evaluation. The entry of Balfour Parkway to the Hwy 191 area is being reexamined to minimize impact on neighborhoods there. They may also look to similarly expand their efforts in other project areas.

Commissioner Hawkins questioned whether the data from 2002 and projected through 2040 really demonstrates the need for the Balfour Parkway. FBRMPO stated that the forecast of traffic indicates a need based on locally-collected data in 2010 within 5-10% accuracy as well as standard practice models. Commissioner Hawkins said the Alternatives need to be narrowed down quickly so the Board can evaluate it. Commissioner Hawkins said several NCDOT road projects are keeping the county in a state of turmoil and the Board needs to know what NCDOT is going to do so they can make a judgment.

Commissioner Lapsley requested that NCDOT speed up their selection process and requested an updated map from NCDOT to see exactly where the six options are. NCDOT replied they want to have 6 preferred alternatives confirmed by June with a final route determined by next summer; however, they would not make a definitive commitment on the date.

Commissioner Edney questioned how 40 impacted homes became 120. NCDOT needs the updated design to know where the relocation will occur. He stated they should be looking at people first and he said, for him, Grimesdale is off the map.

Commissioner Edney asked about the process of compensating homeowners more reasonably. NCDOT said they use licensed appraisers and they follow Federal guidelines. Commissioner Edney added that Henderson County has a north-south traffic problem, not an east-west one, which is what the Balfour Parkway will allegedly alleviate.

Commissioner Messer was concerned about the timing for residents in knowing what will become of their properties. NCDOT said that the timetable could be accelerated. Balfour Parkway project sections A and C are in the process of being prioritized by August, 2018, by the Henderson County Transportation Advisory Committee. He asked about improvement of I-26. NCDOT said it is under consideration.

The meeting was then open to public comments.

Lynne Van Bortell spoke of the hardships the residents of Greystone. They will be impacted if relocated since there is not affordable housing for many of these disabled people. She pointed out the relocation program only takes you within 50 miles.

A veteran stated that his home was made handicapped accessible by the V.A. and they only do that one time, plus that at his age (77), he will most likely not be able to finance a mortgage.

Bill Burchill spoke refuting the need for the Parkway to improve east-west mobility according to his analysis as reflected in the NCDOT 2040 model. Lori Jantzi, a realtor, spoke of the impact on homes for sale within a half mile of the proposed route affecting sales and market value.

Bill Erickson spoke of an alternative providing faster access to I-26 from Hwy 191 and Fletcher, which DOT recognizes needs improvement. He urged NCDOT to consider this and not waste money on Hwy 191 widening, widening Butler Bridge Road and building the Balfour Parkway which will not solve the traffic problem. Ken Fitch spoke stating that the project does not fulfill the purpose it is intending, to improve east-west mobility. Nor does the plan affect truck traffic, which heads to downtown Hendersonville. Its primary impact will be the disruption of all that stands in its way. He noted the project will bring more traffic in proximity to 5 schools. Each speaker was well received.

Stop the Balfour Organization REBUTTAL:

The Stop the Balfour Organization is skeptical regarding the elimination of routes. These routes are not yet eliminated; they are RECOMMENDED by NCDOT for elimination and will need approvals from many government partner agencies before they are truly eliminated. In addition, once eliminated, they can always be brought back to the table for review. Eliminating a couple of routes doesn’t resolve the fundamental issue – this expressway is not needed, will not adequately resolve traffic issues for 2040 and will destroy communities and neighborhoods.

The commissioners asked some of the questions previously posed by Stop the Balfour, for which we are grateful. However, we have many more concerns, questions and issues, so we will continue pressing forward with presentations and discussions with the county commissioners.

While NCDOT indicated they would try to speed up the process to get to a final route as quickly as possible, it continues to leave our residents in a constant state of anxiety, the real estate in the proposed boundaries will remain hard if not impossible to sell and the house values will continue to plummet not only for those within the corridors, but for everyone adjacent, impacting the entire county.

We will continue our fight against the expressway and will not give up until the Balfour Parkway is completely eliminated and ALL neighborhoods and homes are no longer in jeopardy from condemnation by the State of North Carolina!

Visit www.stopthebalfour.com for more information.

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