Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Alleghany Agony

Posted August 31, 2005

People are always asking me where to take vacation. What's a cool place? What's the most scenic drive? Where will I find the best fall foliage? Where can I find the best beach? What's a nice restaurant? How about museums and historic landmarks? They ask me because they know my roots run deep in the red Carolina clay. Plus, I used to do a Charles Kuralt type segment on WRAL called "The Tar Heel Traveler" where I roamed the back roads looking for stories about interesting people, places and things. Rarely can someone come up with a town name that I haven’t heard before. I still enjoy the challenge. I look forward to telling you about my favorite spots and answering your questions and learning more about the state from you.

I begin with a little story about Alleghany County where I have a little cottage perched upon a ridge with a beautiful view of Pilot Mountain. This is where I go for solitude and relaxation and to write music. Unfortunately, Alleghany County has no land-use planning or noise ordinance. A neighbor has decided to build a racetrack for souped-up riding lawn mowers with no mufflers and with the capability of going 60 miles an hour. That track is situated just off the Blue Ridge Parkway with more than 50 homes within a half mile. Neighbors have taken the case to court and we hope to find relief this fall. You wouldn't believe the ear-splitting thunder from those grinding, grating and growling machines. Races occur almost every weekend with the noise piercing deep into the night. It was nearly midnight when the last race wrapped up. The typical mountain philosophy is – if it's my land I can do anything I want to with it. Unfortunately, what one man does with his land can have a very detrimental effect on another man’s quality of life and property value. In this particular case the racetrack is situated on land owned by the operator's mother-in-law. We took our case to the county commissioners but with no legal authority to stop the racetrack they could only suggest that we file suit. I feel confident that we will win but I am also saddened that we have had to mount a major fight complete with spiraling legal costs and incredible aggravation.
Alleghany County was one of my father's favorite places. I can still see him up around Doughton Park with his easel working on his latest watercolor painting. As a young boy growing up in western North Carolina never in my wildest dreams did I think that one day the pristine mountain beauty and serenity I so dearly love would shattered by the roar of large and loud lawnmowers circling a dirt track for a chance at a prize. In all the inspiring paintings my dad made of mountain scenes never once did he paint a Briggs & Stratton engine at full throttle. I'll sign off on this for now with a few photographs of my mountain retreat near Roaring Gap.

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Bill Leslie