Saturday, May 21, 2022

Grassroots group to host ‘public meeting 101’ ahead of Cape Fear Crossing hearings

Characterized as a "public meeting 101" of sorts by one of Cape Fear Crossing Citizen Coalition's principal organizers, the group will host training sessions on Saturday to prepare for public hearings later this month.

Cape Fear Crossing is a North Carolina Department of Transportation project with six proposed routes designed to alleviate traffic on Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in Wilmington. (Port City Daily/File photo)
Cape Fear Crossing is a North Carolina Department of Transportation project with six proposed routes designed to alleviate traffic on Cape Fear Memorial Bridge into and out of Wilmington. (Port City Daily/File photo)

To gear up for NCDOT’s upcoming public hearings, a new group that grew out of Leland is set to host its own meetings

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — At Cape Fear Crossing Citizen Coalition’s first meeting, the group turned interested attendees away at the Leland Cultural Arts Center to avoid violating the town’s fire code.

Formed after fingers began buzzing on the social networking app Nextdoor, the Cape Fear Crossing Citizen Coalition, “CFC3”, represents all neighborhoods impacted by the state’s planned billion dollar bridge.

Related: Five takeaways from the 1,000-page NCDOT Cape Fear Crossing study

On Saturday, CFC3 will be mindful of Leland’s fire code again at a set of three public meetings. (Leland Town Hall can hold 180 people, organizers hope three meetings could fit everyone in).

Public meetings to prep for public hearings

The set of meetings are designed to give people the tools necessary to effectively communicate a message to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). NCDOT will catalog public comments about the proposed new bridge at a pair of planned public hearings later this month.

That cataloging on the recently-released Draft Environmental Impact Statement ends on May 16.

Because the department’s merger team partners will select a “Preferred Alternative” — simply, which route is likely to be chosen — based on those public comments, members of CFC3 said the clock is ticking. And the time to organize is now, according to Joanne Donaghue, one of the group’s principal organizers.

Donaghue, who lives in the Shelmore neighborhood in Brunswick Forest, said she first learned about Cape Fear Crossing in January from a flier in the mail. Her husband, Barry, said he nearly threw it out.

“This group — the citizen coalition — represents everyone affected by the route.”

A majority of residents in the retirement community aren’t originally from North Carolina.

Donaghue said NCDOT’s winter flier, paired with Leland’s crowded Transportation Oversight Committee February meeting, drummed up concerned interest from hundreds of the town’s new residents.

People living in more established neighborhoods in Leland may have already been familiar with the long-planned project, previously called the “Cape Fear Skyway.”

Formal CFC3 representatives from those neighborhoods are getting established now, Donaghue said.

Neighbors in the area’s westernmost communities, including Stoney Creek, The Farms at Snowfield, Snee Farm, will be represented by the group too. In fact, Donaghue said CFC3 represents everyone impacted by Cape Fear Crossing.

“This group — the citizen coalition — represents everyone affected by the route,” she said.

Alicia Murrow, CFC3’s Snee Farm representative, said the westernmost neighborhoods in NCDOT’s study area are working to catch up in the preparation process.

Many families in that area are still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

“We are working class families so our ability to dedicate time towards the efforts to protect our neighborhoods has come second to work, hurricane repairs and kids,” Murrow wrote in an email. “But our passion for the subject runs deep, our anxieties surrounding this project are at the forefront of our thoughts and we will continue to work hard towards making it clear that this area cannot sustain another hit.”

As the project moves forward, Murrow hopes the westernmost area’s voices are heard.

“My hope is the CFC3 will continue their efforts to provide a sense of inclusivity and that transparency is a shared goal so that open dialogue can succeed.”

Meetings to attend

CFC3 is not anti-bridge.

It has not, and will not yet, Donaghue said, endorse one route over another.

Its website hosts a series of “talking points” framed around the project’s human impacts — the group’s number one concern.

NCDOT’s merger team will base its decision on the least environmentally damaging practicable alternative — or LEDPA. The “practical” part calculates the project’s impacts on people.

“We would like [the merger team] to select a route that minimizes the adverse impacts to people,” Donaghue said. “Depending on what route you are near, those impacts could be different.”

All three of CFC3’s meetings will take place on Saturday, April 13, at Leland Town Hall. Each will cover the same topics and run an hour-and-a-half long:

The public hearings hosted by NCDOT will take place over two days in Wilmington and in Leland:

  • Wilmington

NCDOT encourages area residents with public comments and concerns are encouraged to redirect their input to a pair of upcoming hearings in April. If comments cannot be held until the April hearing, NCDOT would prefer comments be sent to capefear@ncdot.gov. Learn more about the project here.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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