Miller Brewing Co. says it would consider allowing a street to be built across its property to alleviate an increase in truck traffic expected on Friendly Road if a warehouse in the area is expanded.
That would appease nearby residents, who say that truck traffic going to and from the warehouse already causes safety and noise hazards.``Yes, that would solve our problem,' said Charles Martin of 1062 Friendly Road, who has led neighborhood opposition to the warehouse expansion. ``That's the best news I've heard all day.'
At the center of the controversy is the 60,000-square-foot warehouse off Round House Road, north of Eden, which is owned by Clarence and Nancy Evans. They own about 10 acres, which adjoin Miller Brewing property.
The only access to the warehouse, which stores containers used by Miller Brewing Co., is down Friendly Road. The Evanses are planning a $1.2 million, 100,000-square-foot expansion, which residents say will aggravate the safety and noise problems in their neighborhood.
``I'm afraid that with the school buses and trucks (along our road), something is going to happen, something bad,' Martin said.
Martin and other opponents would like to see a road built to the warehouse from Meadow Road or Summit Road to divert trucks from Friendly Road.
Helen Dennison, Miller's public relations manager, said that although city and county officials at board meetings have discussed working with Miller on the road idea, Miller officials say they haven't been approached about the access road, but "would listen to residents' concerns."
The idea is not a new one. In 1983 when the warehouse was built, Mayor Lawrence Cox, at the request of upset residents, asked Miller to allow a similar access road to be built for truck traffic.
``They said, I think understandably, that they didn't want that across their property,' Cox said, who plans to talk with Miller officials again about a road.
Dennison said that she wasn't in Eden in 1983 and didn't know what Miller's concerns were at that time.
At stake are 25 jobs that would be created by the expansion and the possibility that Rockingham County could receive a $375,000 federal Community Development Block Grant.
The Evanses are petitioning the County Board of Commissioners to allow them to apply for the grant, similar to one recently awarded to Sara Lee Co., which is expanding its Eden textile plant.
If their application is approved, the grant would be channeled through the county's economic development agency and would dictate that a certain percentage of the jobs created be filled by low- and moderate-income people.
The petition by Martin's group asks commissioners not to apply for the grant. The commissioners are scheduled to decide the issue Monday.
Nancy Evans said that if the commissioners decide not to apply for the grant, they plan to build anyway and would arrange for the $375,000 from private sources.
Last week, Martin's group also petitioned Eden City Council to rezone the property, which has been zoned for industrial use for almost 12 years.
Opponents to the expansion are also scheduled to appear before the city Planning and Zoning Board on Tuesday, the first step in obtaining a rezoning.
Although the warehouse property is outside Eden's city limits, Eden does have planning and zoning control of the land.
Lee Burnette, Eden planning director, and Mayor Cox both said they couldn't assess the likelihood of such a request being honored.
Nancy Evans said she and her husband didn't expect such opposition to their plans.
``Of course, we're surprised,' Evans said. ``We can't understand people being so against advancement.'