Lighting project for Downtown Jefferson on hold

Wil Petty

March 3, 2014

The discussion of lighting U.S. 221 Business through downtown Jefferson has come to a standstill.

“It looks like we are going to have a lot of problems trying to get this done,” said Cathy Howell, town manager for the town of Jefferson.

Howell said in order to complete the project, the town would have to hire an engineer and try to get right-of-way clearance from all property owners along that stretch of road.

“One thing (the planners) didn’t realize before, we have gas lines out there,” Howell said. “That could also cause problems.”

The plans for lighting the area were created with town beautification in mind, similar to how West Jefferson changed its downtown. Howell said the difference for West Jefferson was the town owned all of the property it needed and the sidewalks are wider.

Howell said the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a four-to-five foot separation from the post to the road, which could not be accomplished with what the town has now.

“Since this is on the DOT’s street, we still have to follow their rules,” she said.

Aldermen Charles Caudill and Mark Johnston voiced ideas of seeing if the landowners would be interested in allowing the town to install the light posts on their property.

“Would it be worthwhile to just call the property owners and see what they think,” Caudill asked.

Johnston suggested that Howell see if the town could get the easements to place the lighting on people’s property.

Howell voiced concerns about how much the lighting would help the town with beautification, mentioning the speed limit in downtown West Jefferson was 20, while it is 35 in downtown Jefferson.

“To me, honestly, the lights give off more lighting and provide better security,” Howell said. “We’re not really beautifying the town by taking the poles down.”

The board then discussed if there was anywhere along the proposed route, which runs from the intersection with N.C. 88 to Ashe Memorial Hospital, where the lights could be put up without a problem.

One area that was brought up and everybody agreed on was the Foster-Tyson Park located on East Main Street.

“We could see if people like the lighting in the park and see how that goes,” Caudill said.

Caudill also mentioned they could talk to the Olde Towne Jefferson Business Association for their opinions about the potential project.

“I’m not saying they have to spend their money for that,” he said. “I think it’s something that’s definitely worth looking into.”

Johnston also voiced his support of installing lights at the park.

“That should not take any engineering and there should not be any gas lines going through there,” he said.

The board unanimously approved looking into installing lights for Foster-Tyson Park.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.