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Business Owners and Town Council Members Weigh In on Highway 105 Superstreet Debate

By Nathan Ham

The superstreet proposal for Highway 105 in Boone has been a popular item of discussion around the High Country since the original draft was revealed in September of 2018.

Last Thursday, North Carolina Department of Transportation officials along with county and town staff and elected officials met to discuss potential changes to the original draft. Some of the changes included additional U-turn bulbs and keeping a left turn lane at the intersection of N.C. Highway 105 and the 105 Bypass so drivers do not have to turn right and then make a U-turn to go back towards Boone.

One of the biggest changes was keeping Casa Rustica in its current location. The previous draft would have forced the restaurant out of the spot it has called home for decades.

“It meant a lot to myself, my family and my staff to know that people cared enough to write letters and do the things they did to help us,” said Rick Pedroni, the owner of Casa Rustica. “We want to see the big picture going forward. With that, I’m still questioning what the right move is. I don’t know. I think that’s the way a lot of people feel. Nobody wants to live through the torment of construction, but if it’s for the greater better of things, we’re all willing to make sacrifices.”

Pedroni’s questions are similar to those from a lot of other residents and business owners. Everyone seems to acknowledge something needs to be done with Highway 105, but no one is really sure what the project should look like.

“It’s hard to know without seeing the whole thing put together, from Foscoe all the way up, what exactly we are signing on here for. I think that would be the question everybody wants to know and I think those are the questions the town council is trying to extract,” Pedroni said.

Another local business that will be impacted by the road construction would be Peabody’s Wine & Beer. Owner Jeff Collins was one of the first business owners along Highway 105 to express concern about the project. He said he does feel a little better about the redesign that was presented last week.

“With the modifications they have made from the original design, I like the project a lot better. It is not ideal, but I think it may be more ideal than doing nothing for 15 years, which is probably about the timeline if the town and county decide not to move forward with the design,” Collins said. “Doing nothing may be a worse decision than going forward with the modified superstreet plan. This is really a multi-decade decision, it’s time to decide what is best for Boone.”

Collins is still concerned about how businesses will handle the upcoming construction if the project gets the official go-ahead.

“If they go with this design, the construction period of three to four years is going to be hard on businesses so I really hope the DOT and the town really work on putting up good signage and provide good information and work on keeping businesses accessible and visible during construction,” he said.

The Boone Town Council will take up discussion of the Highway 105 Superstreet project at Thursday’s council meeting. Three town councilmembers were willing to share a few of their thoughts prior to Thursday’s meeting.

“There are some improvements from the prior plan and some desirable features, but it still raises many questions and concerns,” said Sam Furgiuele. “Until I have had an opportunity to hear the reactions of the business owners on 105 and the many town residents who use the road for ingress and egress from their homes, I am not ready to support the revised plan. I hope that those most significantly affected, for better or for worse, will come to the town council meeting to let their views be known.”

Councilwoman Loretta Clawson shared a similar view, as she will also be waiting to hear what town residents think about the project.

“I appreciate DOT working to make changes that the public requested. I look forward to the public comment period that we will have. I certainly want to hear from those that will be affected by these changes. I am waiting to hear these comments before I will be able to make a decision on the project,” she said.

Councilman Marshall Ashcraft also responded to request from the High Country Press for comment.

“I think the plan is improved and I appreciate that the NCDOT has addressed some of the concerns expressed by local businesses and residents, the county commissioners, and the town council,” said Ashcraft. “No one would claim it is a perfect design, or even that a perfect design is possible. Our primary challenge will be to weigh the safety improvements of this project against the potential impact on local businesses and possible stormwater and water quality issues.”

Watauga County Commissioners will be having their meeting today at 5:30 p.m. Discussion of the Highway 105 project is listed on the agenda for this evening.