SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) – The Johnston County Commissioners decided Wednesday night that they did not support the location of a CSX rail hub in the county.
The commission met behind closed doors during part of their special meeting and came out against the current site for the new rail yard. They are also opposed to eminent domain — a plan that had angered some property owners in the area.
The Johnston County Commissioners said that they “don’t want to see communities uprooted.”
People unhappy with the plan began arriving for the meeting early Wednesday evening to express frustration with the preliminary plans.
CSX wants to build a huge new rail yard in Selma that would include 450 acres of land. To make room for that cargo hub — in an original plan — several people would have to sell their homes through eminent domain.
Harold Pittman, a farmer in danger of losing land, said, “It’s heritage. I’ve sweated on that farm. I’ve walked behind a mule on that farm. I’m willing to fight till the end and I told them they didn’t have enough money to buy it.”
CSX would still have to pay for the homes and land it takes.
Pittman is a fifth generation Johnston County farmer.
“It’s been there in our family for many, many, many years and they’re going to try to take it,” Pittman said.
He said he planned to pass that land down to his grandson, then a knock on the door came last week.
“They said ‘We’re here to acquire your property. Cause we’re going to build a CSX terminal here’.” Pittman said.
Pittman said nearly two dozen other homeowners in Selma had similar experiences. So where was the notice? The chance for the public to weigh in?
The scant details of that project came via email, in a press release from the governor’s office.
The project is called the Carolina Connector. CSX is looking to create a transfer hub and shipping facility.
According to the release, it would bring 1,500 jobs to the state. Homeowners like Pittman packed Wednesday evening’s county board of commissioners meeting.
But some people in the county believe the hub would ruin their community and their quality of life. One, Trent Lassiter, said his land has been in his family for centuries.
In a statement before the meeting, CSX vowed that it would “listen” to community concerns.
The statement said, “CSX has learned that the Johnston County Board of Commissioners is having a closed meeting today to address concerns about the proposed Carolina Connector (CCX) intermodal terminal. CSX urges the Commissioners to continue an open dialogue about this economic development opportunity. The project is in day seven of a multi-year process. And, there is much room for continued discussions, refinement and feedback.
“We encourage the Commissioners to meet with us and to not walk away from jobs for the people of Selma, Micro and Johnston County – including 300 short-term construction jobs and 300 more permanent jobs with annual CSX salaries averaging more than $60,000 – as well as critical infrastructure that will expand the reach of existing NC businesses to national and global markets.”