05/12/09 — Highway committees to meet this week

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Highway committees to meet this week

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 12, 2009 1:46 PM

The county has, at least for the time being, decided to hold off on scheduling a public meeting devoted to explaining the ins and outs of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization.

County Manager Lee Smith Monday said that any information coming out of such a meeting would, for the most part, be a repeat of a presentation by state Department of Transportation officials last Thursday night at New Hope Friends Church.

"Right now I don't anticipate holding another meeting," he said.

Meanwhile, three of the organizations at the center of last Thursday's meeting plan to meet this week.

The MPO, a transportation planning committee, is comprised of two groups. The Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) is similar to the staff for county commissioners or Goldsboro City Council and the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) is made up of elected officials representing the county, city and Village of Walnut Creek. DOT officials also serve on the MPO.

Both groups will meet on Thursday in the City Hall upstairs anteroom. The TCC will meet at 9 a.m. and the TAC at 10 a.m.

The Wayne County Transportation Committee, a separate group, will meet Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at Wilber's Barbecue on U.S. 70 East.

All three meetings are open to the public.

The local MPO is a federally established committee that has been around since the 1980s. However, several people at last Thursday questioned why they had never heard of it until recently.

MPO member David Quick told the audience of nearly 200 people that meeting schedules for both organizations are advertised well in advance, but that few people attend them.

Discussion was not limited to the MPO. It touched on property rights in general and worries that the county was attempting to infringe on the rights of property owners.

Smith said that he had been pleased with the turnout, the information and the questions and that there was a "good cross section" of the county represented at the meeting.

He also praised Jimmy Herring and other organizers for doing a "wonderful job" in planning and carrying out the meeting.

It was well attended, and while Smith said he was not surprised by some of the questions, some did indicate that people had been given incorrect information or had not received enough information.

As a result of the meeting the county will update its Web site to represent the information that came out of it, he said.

Smith said he had been contacted by a couple of commissioners who are interested in reviewing the Transportation Planning Committee, possibly looking for ways to involve more people.

He added that commissioners and Goldsboro City Council members are concerned by the public not attending board sessions.

"We are concerned people are not getting involved. We were thrilled to see they were concerned. They need to let us know," he said.

The MPO controversy has been brewing for the past several months.

It first surfaced during a county Planning Board session when Chairman Chris Cox and board member Steve Keen, who is also a county commissioner, complained that the MPO was uncommunicative. They said MPO officials had told them the Planning Board had overstepped its authority by granting approval last year of a subdivision in the Mar Mac area. The approval was questioned since the subdivision lies in the path of a possible extension of the Interstate-795 corridor.

The issue has been further complicated by what Smith said appeared could be someone spreading incorrect information that the MPO could zone property. It has no such authority, he said.

Because of questions being raised about the MPO and zoning, the county canceled a meeting last month at Whitley Church to gather public comment on potential zoning of the area along U.S. 70 from Goldsboro to the Johnston County line. The meeting has yet to be rescheduled.

The county was in the process of planning a public information meeting on the MPO when the Eastern Wayne Association of Property Owners announced its meeting at New Hope Friends Church.