CORNELIUS – Town Manager Anthony Roberts said his staff is going forward with the Torrence Chapel Road widening and sidewalk projects as approved last fall unless told otherwise.

During the Aug. 18 board meeting, more than a dozen people expressed anger regarding a perception the board was going to reopen discussion about the project and perhaps change it.

“The project is not in jeopardy as far as I know,” Roberts said after the meeting, which included more than an hour of public comment about sidewalks. “It was approved by the board in September 2013.  We have a consensus to move forward.”

The N.C. Department of Transportation is handling the Torrence Chapel Road widening project from John Gamble Road to Senlac Lane. The previous town board added the sidewalk component after months of discussion. Those debates among neighboring residents were equally as heated as Aug. 18, but it did get passed.

Torrence Chapel Road has come up again in recent board conversations as staff prioritizes road improvement projects for bond money as well as paving and sidewalk construction needs to be funded through gas tax allotments known as Powell Bill funds. 

At the Aug. 4 meeting, staff presented the board with a list of sidewalk projects, including Torrence Chapel Road and West Catawba Avenue going north and south, paid for by Powell Bill funds, and South Hill/Burton and Pecan sidewalk construction projects, which will be funded by Community Development Block Grants. 

The goal was for the board to discuss the list and direct staff to bid out the projects all at once. 

During the meeting, Roberts reported the Torrence Chapel Road widening project would be started in September, but that there may be an issue with sidewalks and he would give the board more data about placement in upcoming meetings. 

Commissioner David Gilroy, who has been a big proponent of adding sidewalks to his neighborhood along with his wife, was absent at that meeting. One commissioner noted he hoped residents agreed with the sidewalk plans and another asked they postpone discussion until Gilroy returned.

Coverage of that meeting by another media outlet mistakenly led residents to believe the Torrence Chapel Road sidewalks were not guaranteed as previously thought. This opened the floodgates for many residents hoping to prove sidewalks were a necessity, and for others to attempt to show they weren't wanted.

Armed with petitions, signs and videos, residents Diane Gilroy and Ronda Freese led a charge of people of all ages to the podium Aug. 18 to reinforce why commissioners needed to keep the sidewalk project.

Attendees were invited to return to the Sept. 15 board meeting when Roberts is scheduled to present the project design plan. The board gave the consensus for staff to proceed with the bidding process for all sidewalk projects.