Residents and alumni oppose road through A&T State University FarmBy Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer
Published: February 14, 2013
“We’re not going to give away our farm,” said N.C. A&T chancellor Harold Martin to a crowd of A&T alumni, students and faculty and Greensboro residents on Monday night. The university held a town hall meeting on a city proposed road which will cut through the university’s farm.
The 492 acre farm is included in a plan that is supposed to add a half a mile long connecting road from E. Lee Street to McConnell Road in East Greensboro. The plan first appeared on city books in 1960, as part of the Greensboro Throughfare Plan and was deemed unfeasible over the years. The proposed Florida Street Extension Plan was also included in a city of Greensboro voter approved transportation bond in 2000 and in 2008. City officials say once completed it will strategically enhance north-south connectivity and mobility in this section of Greensboro.
The road would possibly begin from behind the Gateway University Research Park and cross over E. Lee Street. Opponents say they are concerned that the city is trying to take land away from the historically Black university.
Greensboro resident Taryn J. Mitchell-Muhammad said that voters were not aware that A&T’s farm was going to be used in the plan. “The bond did not specify taking land away from A&T. Full disclosure should have been given in 2008.”
Charles Gist, a resident who has lived off of McConnell Road for 19 years, is opposed to the road and says there are at least six other roads nearby plus I-85 that provide connectivity. “There are already roads that connect. On East Greensboro we are economically deprived but that road will not serve the purpose of economic development for us. Its not needed.”
Martin showed the audience 5 alternative routes across the farm drawn by city officials allegedly without knowledge of A&T stakeholders and staff. Those in attendance gave the A&T Administration a resounding “No” to the proposed road.
According to Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins, “the most least intrusive route will be used.” City plans show a half mile long, four lane road with a median, bike lanes and sidewalks, impacting 2.7 acres of A&T’s farm.
Perkins noted that an East Greensboro parity study conducted last year cited connectivity as one of the areas that needed to be addressed. “There are no major thoroughfares east of Greensboro. We’re hoping to engage this plan for growth. The farm is staying where it is and there are no plans to do anything on the behalf of the city,” said Perkins.
According to Chancellor Martin, the decision to allow the city to use the land is left in the hands of the college’s Board of Trustees. “For me, staff and Board of Trustees, the intense focus is on our farm as it continues to grow. We’re not going to give away our farm. It’s too important to us.” Martin felt it important to note the plan was not initiated by the university.
Many of those in attendance believe the city is only going after A&T’s farmland so they do not have to go through the state to use other available land in that area.
The A&T Farm is the university’s largest classroom and laboratory, receiving more than $20 million in research funding in 2012. With 33 buildings, it has the heaviest concentration of diverse animal species among peer 1890 institutions nationally, including North Carolina State University. The Cooperative Extension Program has helped aid many N.C. farmers delivering research-based educational programs and technology to improve the lives of traditionally undeserved individuals, families and communities throughout the state.
A&T agriculture specialists stated that there may be potential impacts to animal and pasture based programs such as a reduction in herd, loss of research, teaching and outreach and potential loss of capacity with this road.
Dr. Elon Kulii, coordinator for teacher education in English at A&T and a nearby resident, said the road would bring unnecessary noise and traffic into the surrounding neighborhoods.
A&T alumnus Lewis Brandon said, “I don’t see any logical reason for the road running through the farm.”
N.C. A&T is a land-grant institution established by federal legislation of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 which granted federally owned land to several U.S. universities. The universities were created to teach and train individuals in the fields of agriculture, mechanics and technology in order to contribute to a growing and changing workforce.
District 1 City Councilmember T. Dianne Bellamy-Small says she supports the road because if the infrastructure is in place, it is a start for economic development to occur in the area. “The parity study states that the best direction for Greensboro to grow is east.”
For more on the North Carolina A&T State University Farm, see commentary by Afrique I. Kilimanjaro.