Dixie Queen, Winterville at odds over sidewalk
By Angela Harne
Monday, September 16, 2019
WINTERVILLE — A local fish house has halted construction of a sidewalk because the owner won’t give the town an easement to make it wide enough for wheelchairs.
Crews halted work Aug. 1 along Mill Street in front of the Dixie Queen when it was determined the right-of-way was too narrow for a ramp.
When town officials asked owner Ronald Hines it they could utilize a strip of his parking lot six to 12 inches wide, Hines said no.
“Mr. Hines stated it would be acceptable for the sidewalk that had already been installed to remain, but that under no circumstance would he grant an easement for the installation of the remaining sidewalk,” Winterville’s public works director Travis Welborn said in an Aug. 2 email to Winterville manager Terri Parker.
The work is the final phase of the town’s 2018 sidewalk project, which included replacing existing sidewalks on Main, Railroad and Mill streets in downtown.
The sidewalk on Mill Street to the Dixie Queen parking lot also was to be extended to Cooper Street and include a ramp. A new sidewalk also was proposed on Railroad to Cooper streets to the sidewalk at the Main & Mill parking lot.
During the design phase, the town’s consulting engineer confirmed all of the improvements were within rights-of-way owned by the town, N.C. Department of Transportation and railroad, Welborn said. Designers determined that no easements were needed.
After construction began, Welborn determined the sidewalk near Dixie Queen encroached on private property. Approximately 6 inches to a foot would be outside of the right-of-way. Part of the sidewalk has been installed.
Work immediately was halted and Hines was contacted and made aware of the situation, Welborn said. Welborn and assistant town manager Ben Williams met with Hines on Aug. 1 requesting the sidewalk easement.
The town now has four options to proceed, Welborn told the Winterville Town Council at the Sept. 9 meeting.
The council can opt to terminate the project; place a narrower sidewalk to stay within the right-of-way — this option eliminates the handicap ramp; continue negotiations with Hines; condemn the easement and continue work as planned.
“I’m all for No. 4,” said Mayor Pro-tem Mark Smith. “He doesn’t care to make (the area) better? I think it is ridiculous.”
Councilwoman Veronica Roberson also did not understand why the owner was against a sidewalk.
“It seems like a convenience for them,” she said, adding the area is always booming with patrons walking in the street trying to navigate a safe way into the restaurant.
Located at the corner of Mill and Church streets, Dixie Queen is situated in one of the busiest areas of downtown.
“I don’t understand why a business wouldn’t aid in the safety of its customers, and it won’t cost them anything,” Councilman Johnny Moye said.
Without this section, the town’s sidewalk plan for connectivity will not be complete, Parker said.
Smith made a motion directing staff to continue negotiations and if they failed to proceed with condemning the easement. Roberson second the motion, which passed 3-0-1.
Councilman Tony Moore abstained from the vote. He is related to the Dixie Queen property owner. Councilman Ricky Hines was not in attendance.