DOBSON — There is no local law on the books to stop homeowners from blowing mowed grass on roadways, but there is a law that interferes with farmers irrigating crops.
Those were two of the issues that came up at Monday night’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners.
During the open forum at the start of the night, Joe Davis, president of Southern Cross Motor Vehicle Club, addressed the board over safe road conditions.
He said that he and his fellow members are upset over motorcycle riders having to cross loose grass blown on roadways by lawnmowers.
Davis said that Forsyth County has a local law with a $250 fine and the state of Virginia has one across the whole state. He urged the local commissioners to pass their own ordinance to help protect citizens here.
Chairman Eddie Harris admitted he wasn’t sure what laws were on the books regarding this matter. He suggested that County Manager Chris Knopf and county attorney Ed Woltz look into this and have Knopf give the board some information on where the N.C. Department of Transportation and other agencies stand on this topic.
It is possible the N.C. Highway Patrol could enforce cleaning up after mowing under an existing law, but it doesn’t specifically mention grass.
General Statute 14-399, Littering:
(a) No person … shall intentionally or recklessly throw, scatter, spill or place or intentionally or recklessly cause to be blown, scattered, spilled, thrown or placed or otherwise dispose of any litter upon any public property or private property not owned by the person within this State or in the waters of this State including any public highway, public park, lake, river, ocean, beach, campground, forestland, recreational area, trailer park, highway, road, street or alley.
This isn’t the first time Southern Cross has urged safer roads.
Last year the group was circulating petitions urging road improvements in the county and even reached out to Sen. Shirley Randleman, of the N.C. General Assembly.
“Our roads have places that are so narrow, certain vehicles take up an entire lane and cause unsafe conditions for other travelers. Also, during rainstorms we have certain roads that can hold almost an inch of standing water with no drainage trench, or storm drains. Our roads need guardrails, notifications for dangerous turns and proper maintenance,” said the petition.
Of particular concern to Southern Cross is road crews using the tar-and-gravel method of road repair and maintenance.
“Spreading tar does nothing to fix ruts, cracks and broken pavement; it only contours to the surface that is already there. There are much better methods to fix the roads, and we are petitioning the state to begin using methods that properly maintain them, like repaving and widening.”
Accumulations of loose gravel on road surfaces are especially hazardous for motorcyclists, and Davis cited a major accident in 2016 caused by that. “People who drive it every day know it doesn’t work.”
Attorney Ed Woltz said that a local farmer brought to the board’s attention that he recently found out he was in trouble with the county’s noise ordinance for doing his job at night.
In the summer, watering plants during the heat of the day can actually harm crops, so farmers like to irrigate after dark. However, the noise ordinance prohibits loud sounds after 9 p.m.
During frost in the spring, strawberry plants need to be misted overnight as well, noted Commissioner Van Tucker. These things have to be done when they need to be done and not on bankers’ hours.
There’s got to be some kind of compromise, said Tucker.
According to the figures he heard for 2017, added Harris, agriculture was a $301 million industry. Nothing else in the county came close.
Where he lives, said Tucker, there can sometimes be some chicken farm noise and smell, truck traffic to and from the properties. But that is necessary to support the local economy.
If folks are running a legitimate farm and doing legitimate farming practices, then they need some exemptions, he said.
Tucker said he would be willing to hold a public hearing to let folks talk about this issue and possible changes to the language. The rest of the board agreed, and a hearing will be scheduled for a future meeting.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.