Legion Post gets 30-day extension on leaving property
SALISBURY — John Taylor and the other veterans of the Samuel C. Hart American Legion Post are grateful for the next 30 days. The men had been grappling with the N.C. Department of Transportation for months after receiving notice of a road project that would cut right through the property on U.S. 29.
Post Commander John Taylor said a construction crew began drilling on the Legion property at 4385 S. Main St. about a year ago before the veterans found out about NCDOT’s desire to take the property for an ongoing rail project. The project includes a bridge over the Legion property to Peeler and Cedar Springs roads. Cedar Springs Road is just around the corner from the Legion Post. The bridge will replace the Peach Orchard Road and Peeler railroad crossings.
When Taylor contacted DOT, he said officials told him they were under the impression the property was vacant. The Legion has been at this location for 35 years.
The Legion Post was given a May 8 deadline to vacate, which they said was not enough time. The men say they wouldn’t fight the eviction, but wanted more time.
When they made attempts to request more time, their calls and emails to DOT representatives were not returned. On Wednesday, the veterans were given a reprieve. The Legion’s attorney, Benjamin Bridges of Salisbury, notified Taylor that they would be getting a 30-day extension.
“It gives us more breathing room than what we had a month ago. It’s a little light at the end of the tunnel,” Taylor said.
NCDOT made an offer to the Legion for the property that members say was too low. An appraiser who looked at the property in October valued the land at 60 cents per square foot. Vice Commander Chuck Morefield said the property has a value closer to $6 to $12 per square foot.
The veterans’ attorney sent a letter in March to Right-of-Way Agent Carol Greene, who had been handling the negotiations. The attorney requested state officials take another look at estimates for relocating expenses. The veterans made a counter offer, but Taylor said the Legion had not signed any paperwork and had not agreed to any preliminary estimates.
“We are working and talking through an offer with the Legion,” said Sondra Artis, a communications officer in the NCDOT Rail Division.
She said this situation has caught the attention of everyone, even those at the “secretary level on down.”
“We are doing our best by them and to that end, we are granting a 30-day extension,” Artis said.
Taylor said Wednesday afternoon the Legion is now in contact with someone who is “willing to negotiate with us.”
He said he realizes dealing with the state is “much like the military — hurry up and wait.”
Taylor and other veterans are grateful to be able to work with someone from the DOT.
“It’s a shame we had to go through so much to get their attention, but I guess that’s what you have to do. We are glad things are moving forward and progressing,” Taylor said.
The veterans are now looking to purchase the former Kiwanis Club property on Bringle Ferry Road. Taylor said they are in negotiations with the Kiwanis Club to obtain the property and will find out Friday if the Kiwanis Club agrees to the sale. The Kiwanis Club building was recently vandalized, causing more than $75,000 in damages. Taylor said the veterans began making repairs soon after the first act of vandalism. The extra 30 days will give the veterans time to make more repairs to the Kiwanis building.
“They’ve been extremely gracious, letting us come onto the property. They’ve been wonderful,” Taylor said of the Kiwanians.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost