BOONE — The discussion on possibly renaming a local street after civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. will continue on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the regular Boone Town Council meeting.
“The Boone Town Council would like to invite all property, business owners and tenants of rental properties on New Market Boulevard, Old East King Street, Meadowview Drive, Howard Street and State Farm Road to the Aug. 13 town council meeting to give feedback regarding a potential name change that is being considered,” a public notice from the town of Boone stated.
Although it has been proposed in the past, the idea was first discussed this year at the June 20 meeting by Councilman Sam Furgiuele, focusing specifically on New Market Boulevard. Furgiuele’s proposed resolution noted that King’s message is more important than ever, documenting FBI statistics that show that hate crimes are on the rise.
Other council members have stated that honoring King’s legacy in Boone is something they want to get done this year. As noted by former Boone Council Member Fred Hay on July 16, a similar idea went to a committee several years ago and was never acted on.
The streets proposed for discussion are ones managed by the town of Boone. Roads managed by the N.C. Department of Transportation, such as U.S. 421, U.S. 321, N.C. 194 and N.C. 105, can’t have their names changed to a street that already has the same name in the state, according to a 2004 NCDOT memorandum read at the July 16 town council meeting. The legality of that memorandum was questioned by Boone town attorney Allison Meade. Boone Town Manager John Ward said on July 16 he would report back at a future meeting after having discussions with NCDOT on the possibility of renaming a state-maintained road, specifically mentioning N.C. 105 Extension.
According to Furgiuele’s proposed resolution on June 20, more than 25 cities in North Carolina have a road named after King.
The five streets proposed are five of the most active locally-maintained streets in Boone, as discussed on July 16. Boone Public Works Director Rick Miller noted at that meeting that State Farm Road is the busiest, followed by New Market Boulevard and Meadowview Drive. Howard Street in downtown Boone is on tap to be revitalized by the town in a $10 million project that is currently in development, Ward said on July 16. Old East King Street was suggestd due to serving as a main artery to Watauga High School.
At the June 20 and July 16 meetings, several business owners and tenants on New Market Boulevard protested the idea, citing potential financial strain of a street name change. Other opponents said New Market Boulevard isn’t significant enough to honor King’s legacy. Alternative solutions proposed include naming a park, building or multi-modal path after King.
The proposal did have its supporters, who on July 16 cited “growing white nationalism” as an educational need for renaming a street after King.