On December 14, 2015, a new representative from the NCDOT, Jacob Bryant from the Wilkesboro right-of-way division, called the farm and told us that the DOT plans to widen the road within the next six months.
On Dec. 21, 2015, Jacob Bryant came to the farm. In a meeting that lasted over 2 hours, he presented essentially the same plan as 1998: 45-foot R/W leaving road a few feet from front porch; wood shed torn down; road directly in front of Cottage (inches); one foot from front of barn, hillside next to both sides of cottage clear cut and graded up to deck and above the steps on the other side.
Notably, this plan seems to fall under a new budget item for “secondary road improvement,” and the bridges/turning the bridges into culverts is no longer the budgetary focus.
This plan would destroy the heart of the farm, so we will not be able to sign the right-of-way as it currently stands.
We very much want the road improved, and for the last 3 years have been working very closely and cooperatively with DOT engineers to develop alternate routes around the farm. Our family offered to cede to the DOT two acres of right-of-way to build a road along a ridgetop on our property that would not affect farm fields. After numerous meetings through 2013-2014, the alternate roadway was designed and approved by the DOT, and agreed upon by the neighbors whose property would have been affected. Unfortunately, at the final moment, one of the neighbors withdrew his approval.
We have now proposed another alternate route on our land, on the other side of the road behind the barn and wash house, which among other advantages would straighten the road, keep it away from creek, allow us full use of our farm buildings, and not affect traffic during construction. The adjacent landowners are in preliminary agreement (and the landowner who withdrew his support last time is not affected in this proposal).
With great frustration over the many thousands of hours that have already been spent on this project, we now approach 2016 with hope that an acceptable compromise to this problem can be reached once and for all.
The first step is to communicate with the other property owners on the road. Below is a letter sent by Bill Wilson and Maverick Farms on December 28, 2015 to property owners on Justus Road concerning the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation plans for the improvement of Justus Road.
December 28, 2015
Dear Neighbor and fellow property owner on Justus Road;
The NC Dept. of Transportation has released plans for the widening of Justus Road which affect the historic farm our family owns, specifically where the road bottlenecks in front of our barn, goat pen (license plate shed), wash/packing house, and the farmhouse.
We very much want the road improved and over the last 3 years have worked closely and cooperatively with the DOT as they developed and approved a new road on 2 acres of land that we offered to cede to DOT. Unfortunately, that plan fell through at the last minute, due to factors beyond the control of the DOT.
We cannot sign a Right of Way to the plans currently drawn up because they would destroy our historic family farmstead and drastically impede our ability to generate income from our farm products, agri-tourism,educational/ cultural programs, and provide for the safety of our workers, guests and visitors.
We have proposed an alternative route on the land behind our barn and wash/packing house which, among other advantages, would straighten the road out, keep it away from the creek, allow full use of farm buildings, not affect traffic during construction, and avoid threat of bonding and condemnation.
Our farm is part of the Watauga County Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program, the Clark’s Creek Rural Historic District, and on March 4, 2013, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution noting “Maverick Farms is a vital asset to the community as an engine for sustainable agriculture, job training, and providing access to healthy, locally grown food” and urged the DOT to “consider any and all (road) options and alternatives to limit the impact on Maverick Farms.” The farm has been a continuously working farm for over 120 years, and in our family for almost 40 years. We have been selling our produce to local and regional restaurants and markets since 1975, and over the years Maverick Farms’ community partners have included: Appalachian Health District; Watauga County Children’s Council; The FARM Cafe; Western Youth Network; Valle Crucis Elementary School; The Hunger and Health Coalition; A.S.U., U.N.C- Chapel Hill, and Warren Wilson College. Maverick Farms launched the High Country CSA in Watauga County and the Farm Incubator and Growers program at the Valle Crucis Mission Center.
We would very much appreciate it, if you could consider temporarily holding off on signing a Right of Way and help us in our effort to try to persuade the DOT Right of Way Office (Jacob Bryand) and the District Engineer (Doug Eller) and the Division Engineer (Mike Pettyjohn) to pursue our proposal, or any other proposal, that would not have such a catastrophic effect on our farm.
The improvement and up-grading of the road is very important to all of us and every option has to be explored so the new road can be a means to preserve and enhance the farms along the road, not destroy them.
If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact me- Bill Wilson- at the farm.
The Wilson Family and Maverick Farms