SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners moved forward Monday with plans to close portions of three roads near Mountaire Farms’ Siler City facility, more than two years after the company submitted its initial request.
Mountaire renewed its proposal in May for the town to close and reroute portions of East Third Street, East Fifth Street and all of Johnson Avenue after having approached the board with similar petitions at least eight times prior, as previously reported by the News + Record. A timeline submitted by the company lists more than 40 total interactions between company representatives, the Town of Siler City and the N.C. Dept. of Transportation concerning the potential road closures.
The poultry processor’s original request was submitted in Oct. 2018, before construction of the $170 million, 255,000-square-foot facility was fully completed. For much of that year, East Third Street had already been closed to facilitate construction traffic, and the company hoped Siler City would make it permanent.
“Based on the number of chickens we will be processing, we estimate there will be 1,518 trucks crossing the street every week,” said then-Community Relations Manager Mark Reif, who has since retired. “We think that in the interest of safety and the interest of traffic flow, we believe that it would be best for the city.”
The board hosted a special meeting last Tuesday to discuss Mountaire’s proposal during which the commissioners agreed to advance the process toward road closure. They formalized the decision Monday with a resolution of intent to close each of the three streets. The step is not final authorization to begin road closure, however, and does not preclude the chance that Siler City or NCDOT might yet deny Mountaire’s request.
By law, the town must host a public hearing before work can begin to close the roads. A month in advance of the meeting — which is scheduled for August 2 — the town will publish weekly legal advertisements in the News + Record and with Siler City radio station WNCA, and a copy of the town’s resolutions certifying intent to close the roads will be sent to all affected businesses.
The three streets, East Third especially, serve as an important gateway to downtown Siler City from U.S. Hwy. 64. About 50 businesses operate along the roads. But Mountaire representatives say that closing the roads does not mean cutting off access to downtown or the many small business along the way. Cathy Bassett, director of communications and community relations at Mountaire’s corporate office, emphasized at a commissioners meeting last month that while the company’s on-paper proposal calls for road closures, it’s more accurate to think of the streets shifting and traffic rerouting.
“It may seem like semantics, but it’s important,” Bassett said. “We’re only asking for it to be rerouted, and we’re offering to pay for the total cost of the rerouting project. When it’s built, I think it’s safe to say it’s probably going to be the nicest road in all of Siler City. It will truly be a gateway to downtown.”
A public hearing for town residents and the board of commissioners to discuss the potential road closures is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on August 2 in the Jordan-Matthews High School auditorium. Unless convinced the road closures are contrary to the public’s best interest or the rights of nearby property owners, the commissioners will likely adopt an order to permanently close the streets, after which the decision will be submitted to NCDOT, which can affirm or overturn the board’s decision.
Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @dldolder.
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