C Street closure hits a dead end

By Mo Moore

Seven o' clock in the evening could not come early enough for some C Street residents.

At the March 13 Exeter City Council meeting, a handful of concerned residents squirmed in their seats to hear the fate of their street and their houses.

The purpose of the hearing was to examine the reasons and take public testimony on the issue of vacating a portion of the C Street right-of-way between Chestnut Street and Kaweah Avenue (Highway 65) in Exeter. The City of Exeter was approached by representatives from the Exeter Elementary School District about the potential opportunity to abandon a portion of C Street in hopes to be able to expand Lincoln Elementary School.

The C Street option surfaced when it was discovered that abandoning a portion or all of this street could expand the physical size of the campus, eliminate a difficult intersection and slow down traffic on C Street on the east side of the school. Abandonment could range from simply closing the access of C Street onto Kaweah Avenue with a barrier of some type, to vacating the entire segment from Chestnut to Kaweah.

The council had three options that night, to either abandon the process all together, discontinue until the district has obtained common ownership of the properties located on

C Street or amend the Exeter Circulation Element providing for the vacation of a portion of C Street between Kaweah and Chestnut and prepare the necessary maps and legal descriptions for the vacation of this street.

&#8220We're just looking at closing the southern most section,” said Exeter School District President Dean Sutton. But even closing a portion of the street caused great debate.

&#8220It will not solve a problem, it will create a bigger one,” said resident Melissa Brooks.

To make matters even more complicated, neither the council nor the school district want to make plans until the other makes a decision. After the council denied their request to close Clarence Street in 2005 the school district does not want to spend money on a tentative plan until the city says they will consider abandoning the street in some way, shape or form. And on the other side, the city does not want to make a move unless they see more initiative by the district, such as obtaining common ownership of some of the homes on C Street. If the council again denies the school district's request, plans will have to be made to build a school elsewhere. And that is something the district is hoping to avoid.

&#8220Rather than building a new school, we want to take what presently exists and see what are options are,” said Exeter School District Superintendent Renee Witson.

Building a new elementary school would not only cost an estimated $20 million, but the school would have to be located out of town. Lincoln Elementary Schools Principal, Jane Mitchell has already expressed to the school district that more classrooms are needed and in order to accommodate present needs and future growth, the district will have go expand somehow. Whatever the school district's plans, C Street residents are not happy.

&#8220They never made us an offer and the school has never stated their intentions to us,” said Gary Willis, who has lived on C Street for more than 19 years. &#8220They need to negotiate with us before the city makes a decision.”

The homes on C Street were built between 1913 and 1920. Three of the homes have since then been significantly remodeled. The street consists of residences with multiple family members, rentals and an old church that is currently vacant.

&#8220The school is asking the council to give them the equity of our homes. If the council makes a decision to close this street, it will leave us as homeowners to the school district's mercy,” Willis said. &#8220For us, it's an all or nothing deal.”

The council voted to schedule another hearing to discuss the issue again after they have received more information from the school district and obtained a traffic study from the Exeter Police Department. As of press time, no timeline has been set for the completion of the study. For more information call the City of Exeter at 592-9244.

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