Local News

Controversial Pinehurst traffic circle uproots trees

Posted July 29, 2008 5:12 p.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2008 6:18 p.m. EDT

— Despite continuing legal challenges, work has begun on a controversial traffic circle in Pinehurst.

State Department of Transportation crews uprooted more than a dozen long-leaf pine trees and several dogwood trees last week to make way for a roundabout at the intersection of Carolina Vista Drive and N.C. Highway 2. Construction on the $750,000 roundabout, which village planners say is needed to alleviate traffic congestion outside Pinehurst Resort, is scheduled to begin at the end of August.

Some of the trees were replanted temporarily across the street, and officials said they would be moved again inside the traffic circle after construction is finished in November. But some residents opposed to the project said some of the trees will be damaged by the moves.

"We're still concerned that a number of them won't make it," said John Marcum, who heads Concerned Citizens of Pinehurst, which sued to block the roundabout. "There are a number of alternatives like (a stop light) that would be far less intrusive and would not require the destruction of 100-year old-growth trees."

A Superior Court judge ruled against the group, so they took their case to the state Court of Appeals in March. Marcum said DOT officials assured him no work would be done on the traffic circle until the appellate court ruled in the case.

"It seemed very unusual for them to effectively break the secretary's promise that this would not happen and effectively preempt the Court of Appeals of North Carolina," he said.

The Concerned Citizens of Pinehurst has filed a complaint in Superior Court demanding that the DOT halt all roadwork until the appeals court rules on its original suit.

DOT spokeswoman Dara Demi said the project would move ahead "until a court tells us not to."

"If there's any delay, the cost of a project goes up," Demi said.

The agency is making every effort to move as many trees as possible, she said.