Black Mountain approves next step in greenway expansion

Fred McCormick

A pair of agreements passed by the board of aldermen last week are the next steps in the town’s commitment to expanding the greenway system.

Each of the five members of the board voted to enter a contract with the N.C. Department of Transportation that allows the state agency to design the future expansion of the Riverwalk Greenway. An agreement was also reached that allows Norfolk Southern to perform the preliminary engineering study for the project.

The greenway, which will eventually cross U.S. 70 and connect to the existing trail by Riverwalk Park, according to town manager Matt Settlemyer.

“This contract with the DOT will carry out the design work and future right of way acquisition,” he said. “Running from the existing Flat Creek greenway, basically to the west side of (Highway) number 9.”

Settlemyer told the board that the state department will allocate $120,000 for the design, while the town’s contribution is $30,000.

“The whole idea of this is to get our crossings aligned and worked out with the engineering firm,” he said. “There is the crossing over Highway 70, the crossing with Norfolk Southern at the rail trestle and the crossing at number 9.”

Settlemyer pointed out that language in the contract allows the town flexibility if right of ways cannot be secured or if the cost of the project proves to be a deterrent.

“The DOT is interested in working together to find a viable option,” he said. “We’ve used similar allocations for safe routes to school.”

Alderman Larry Harris said that the financial benefits of the agreement with the DOT were obvious.

“It is also consistent with the comprehensive plan,” he said. “Greenways were one of the highest priorities in the current comprehensive plan and that comes with community input and support.”

The partnership with Norfolk Southern will work similarly to the contract with the DOT, with the railroad company handling engineering services for the crossing of the train trestle.

“The review review to go under the trestle will take at least a year,” Settlemyer said of the agreement. “That’s the time that they allocate. It could in theory be less, but they don’t work out the time-frame like that.”

The town submitted several proposals to Norfolk Southern with plans for how the path could reach the other side of the train tracks in an effort to find the best option for the project, according to Settlemyer.

Unanimous approval of the consent agenda earlier in the meeting ensured a new name for the Lakeview Senior Center. The recreation and parks building at Lake Tomahawk will now be known as the Lakeview Center for Active Aging.

Finally, the board passed an amendment to the chapter of the town’s code of ordinances that focuses on chapter six, which addresses animals.

The amendment requires residents to obtain a permit to use goats for the purpose of ground clearing. The new ordinance requires proper fencing and prohibits the use of un-neutered, male goats.