Abe Mayes Road is a secondary road like so many others in Surry County that simply does not see a lot of traffic. It was thought to be so underutilized, that in 2020 the Surry County Board of Commissioners decided to close 0.21 miles of the road and sent notification to the North Carolina Department of Transportation of that decision.
Paul Reynolds had petitioned that the portion of Abe Mayes Road that crosses his land and connects to Oscar Calloway Road be closed to through traffic and the board was under the impression this had been done.
County Attorney Ed Woltz explained this week to the board of commissioners that, “There was some misunderstanding as to what the action was going to be. A petition was filed with DOT and the county and what the county did was… remove the road from public upkeep, not to close the road.”
He said that in addition to passing a resolution the board should have conducted a public hearing, advertised the hearing, posted signage indicating the hearing so the neighborhood would know this was underway, “and we should have sent certified mailing to those that would be effected,” Woltz explained.
According to the residents who spoke to the board this week, that did not occur. Now the road is not being maintained and it is still open to traffic.
Woltz advised the board that the county has sent the mailings, advertised, and were holding an open hearing “to obtain comment from the citizens as to whether this closure would be adverse to access and egress of their property, or otherwise not in the public interest.”
At Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, resident Davia Sweat and Priscilla Bhati both spoke to the board and expressed concerns to the point of access and egress.
Bhati said that a newly paved portion of Abe Mayes Road gets little direct sunlight and has proved dangerous during winter weather. Sweat said there would be no other safe option during those times than to use the small length of the roadway that is set to be closed.
Sweat also told the board unequivocally that she uses that length of road daily. “They are saying no one accesses that road, yes we do we use that road every day. That road is also the EMS way; when you call them, that’s the way they come in. When you put in GPS, that’s the way it brings you in,” she said.
Both she and her mother have had serious health issues and she is concerned about adding extra time to emergency response. “If you come in the other way (via Wolfe Road), that’s adding minutes to that… and minutes count.”
Roland Jones owns a large tract of land along either side of Abe Mayes Road, and he expressed a concern that closing the road to through traffic would have an adverse impact to his property values. Chairman Eddie Harris said he thought the opposite may prove to be the case as some landowners would prefer to not have a through road – much as the petitioner was hoping to do.
“What I’m hearing is that these people would be inconvenienced by the change,” Commissioner Mark Marion said. Based on his survey of those who made the effort to turn out for the public hearing, “The people say they don’t want it closed.”
“I have been here for twelve years, and this is the first time this type of issue has come up,” Harris said, noting that often in these situations the road closure is a dead end. “These are exceptional circumstances.”
Harris asked Woltz if there was a mechanism for the board to undo what had been done in 2020, and was told, “You would have to reapply to the state of NC to put that piece of road under state maintenance and there is a bridge set to be replaced, I think for a couple million bucks, that was deferred and then canceled as a result (of the action) taken in 2020.”
“Typically, I defer to the commissioner whose district this is,” Commissioner Van Tucker said but, in this instance, he wanted to weigh in given the nature of the matter and that it was a mistake on the part of the execution of the county that was “maybe of our own doing.”
Woltz offered a suggestion that the county make contact with the department of transportation to see what the process may be to get the state to again maintain Abe Mayes Road and to revisit the issue with a whole new hearing in March.
Tucker thought that a good idea. “We can have a public hearing and the original presenters can present why they think it ought be closed, and the folks that think it ought not to be closed can present another argument, and I think that would be a good way to solve this problem.”
“The citizens deserve no less,” Harris said before the board agreed unanimously to table the issue until the second board meeting in the month of March.
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