Road widening sparks controversy: Greensboro NC News-Record, 10/30/06

By Sue Schultz

They've already given it over to a higher power in prayer.

But this morning, a Greensboro congregation will voice concerns to state leaders about the relocation of their church to make way for the widening of High Point Road in 2011.

"We don't like it that we are going to have to move. There are many memories here," said the Rev. Daryl Holliday of Sedgefield Baptist Church's 30-year history at 6007 High Point Road. "And we don't like it that we aren't getting enough money to rebuild."

The small church with a sanctuary and a secondary building sits on 5 acres along High Point Road in the path of a major state road project.

Known best to the community as the future "Jamestown Bypass," the project would widen and reroute High Point Road in Greensboro from Hilltop Road to the U.S. 311 Bypass in High Point. The same street in High Point is known as Greensboro Road.

The project, expected to start by 2011, could take seven years to build. At a cost of an estimated $105 million, it would turn a two-lane road into a multilane thoroughfare stretching 7.8 miles.

Last year, the congregation learned of the state's plans to take their property and buildings to make way for the new road. The state first offered the church roughly $988,000 for the property and buildings and then increased its offer to $1.2 million about six months ago.

But church leaders say it won't be enough to rebuild their church in another location. The church estimates it would cost roughly $2.5 million to replace the property and buildings in a similar location on a major thoroughfare.

"We're a small church and we don't have the funds," said Holliday.

"We don't have the extra $1 million to rebuild."

The congregation has petitioned Gov. Mike Easley, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, and U.S. Rep. Howard Coble with little response.

But this morning, the church will meet with state Rep. Laura Wiley of High Point and state Sen. Katie Dorsett of Greensboro about a possible compromise between the church and state transportation officials.

Holliday said the congregation may even encourage state leaders to seek new legislation regarding eminent domain for North Carolina - the right of government to take private property for public use.

He said other states give property owners the replacement value instead of the appraised value of their property when the government takes it as eminent domain.

Residents and businesses in the area have opposed the road project stating that it was unnecessary and that rerouting the road could draw business away from Main Street in Jamestown.

"We're not opposing the widening," said Holliday. "With eminent domain, we know they are going to come through the property and we will relocate."

He said the congregation hasn't yet found a new site for the church.

Greensboro NC News-Record: http://www.news-record.com