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While Johnston County Discusses CSX Eminent Domain Issues, Neighboring County Taking A Look

By Jenny Callison, posted Jan 26, 2016
While grassroots opposition takes shape against CCX, a rail terminal proposed by CSX for Johnston County, at least one neighboring county is eyeing the benefits of attracting the project.

Support for property owners whose land could be forcibly purchased by the freight rail carrier through the process of eminent domain is showing up on Facebook, where a Fight for the Farm page is drawing comments and nearly 8,500 "likes."

“This is simply a page to inform our community on the CSX CCX projecting coming to the Selma/Micro area,” reads a message posted by organizers Jan. 16. “This isn't about a business or a family, this page is dedicated to an entire community that is having to give up their land and move against their will.”

Current North Carolina law allows private developers to use eminent domain to purchase private property when owners don’t want to sell. A news release Tuesday from Americans for Prosperity North Carolina stated that the organization is asking Johnston County state senators Buck Newton and Brent Jackson to “take a stand for their constituents and pledge support for constitutional reform to eminent domain in North Carolina.”

AFP supports proposed legislation in the N.C. House of Representatives that would limit eminent domain authority to public use projects, according to the release.

Meanwhile, officials in Wayne County, to the southeast of Johnston County, are hearing support for locating the rail hub along Interstate 95 within its borders.

Crystal Gettys, president of Wayne County Development Alliance, said she has gotten “numerous calls” from people in the community, saying that the hub would be a “great opportunity and good for all involved."

"We are interested, If all the pieces fall into place and all the stars line up and we can work out a deal that works here,” she said Tuesday. “It would have to be good for all sides: community leaders, community residents, landowners and CSX.

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer (R-7th District), a resident of Johnston County, said Tuesday that the issue in his home county is “complex” and got off to an unfortunate start when CSX officials began showing up on the doorsteps of property owners without warning and before the project announcement had been made.

Rouzer, while pointing to the project’s potential benefits, said he is sympathetic to the position of landowners, some of whose families have held their property for generations. One farm, he said, was a land grant from the English crown during Colonial times. The grantees’ descendents, he said, are “not interested in selling.”

The legislator said he is hopeful that an alternative location can be found that is amenable to everybody.

“I know the county and a number of citizens would like to see [CCX] work if they can find the right spots,” he said, adding that eastern North Carolina and the full 7th District would benefit from having a major rail transport hub along Interstate 95.

The Wilmington area is seeing support for the project.

Monday, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce issued a statement of support for the project, which president and CEO Connie Majure-Rhett described as "an unprecedented project for the State with numerous benefits to our Ports and Southeastern North Carolina. The Carolina Connector will improve rail capabilities by connecting Eastern North Carolina directly to CSX’s extensive rail network, which will have direct positive effects on businesses inside and outside our region that use our Ports."
 
Gettys said Wayne County also sees many benefits from the proposed hub.

“We would like to make every effort we could to make that a good solid project for us,” she continued. “We have a great transportation network here. The rail lines run right through our county.”

Even if the hub does not land in Wayne County, Gettys said, any community and county nearby will benefit. “If it’s not directly here in Wayne County, we want it close by.”
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