BOONE — A proposal by Boone Town Council Member Sam Furgiuele to rename New Market Boulevard for Martin Luther King Jr. was met with opposition from property owners and businesses along the street, who said the change would result in increased costs and customer confusion.
Furgiuele placed a draft resolution renaming the street for action on the June 20 council agenda. The resolution established an effective renaming date of Sept. 2, 2019, with the town manager directed to plan a ceremony for the same date.
“Martin Luther King Jr. is recognized across the United States as a leader in promoting racial harmony and economic justice through non-violence,” the draft resolution stated. “American municipalities have concurred that naming streets after Dr. King is a way to honor both him, his message, and the African-American community in the United States of America, with an estimated 900 streets in 41 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico named after Dr. King as of 2014.”
Several people spoke on the proposal during the meeting’s public comment period, with a couple noting that they had just found out about the agenda item and asking why the affected property owners had not been contacted for input.
Mark Cook, manager of Modern Ford, said that while the business felt that renaming a street was a great way to honor King’s memory, no one had let the owners know about the proposal or discussed it with them. He said the business had estimated the costs of changing its address on documents, marketing materials, etc. to be between $28,000 and $52,000.
Ralph Leonard, who said he owns property on New Market Boulevard, asked why the town did not instead consider the streets proposed by the Transportation Committee in 2016. According to meeting minutes, staff had been directed by the council in December 2015 to investigate possible streets for renaming to an MLK Boulevard. The committee mentioned Rivers Street, Stadium Drive, N.C. 105 Extension, Howard Street and Poplar Grove Road. The committee ultimately voted to recommend Howard Street.
New Market Boulevard is “a short street through a commercial district” and not as visible as other town streets, Leonard said.
Julia Snyder, a dentist with a practice on New Market Boulevard, echoed Leonard’s remark, stating that New Market Boulevard is “mainly used as a cut-through, not a major thoroughfare.”
“This does not do justice to Dr. King’s legacy,” Snyder said.
Snyder and Cook also mentioned the potential delay in the address change being recognized by Google and other web services.
“I moved from Shadowline Drive about seven years ago and am still trying to get Google to get it right,” Snyder said.
Two others, Julie Waldrep of Waldrep Family Dentistry and Graydon Eggers, also spoke against the proposal. Eggers suggested Depot Street.
Lucinda Bowers spoke in favor of the proposal, saying, “I really think this is a great idea.” She said a street renaming would have impacts and cost money no matter where it was, and that people would still be able to find their way to New Market Centre.
Furgiuele said that many of the other streets suggested had historical significance, such as Howard Street, Depot Street and Rivers Street. He also responded to criticism about the manner in which the resolution was presented, saying that placing it on the council agenda was the way to begin the discussion.
“I’m not blindsiding anybody,” he said.
Council Member Connie Ulmer underscored Furgiuele’s point, noting that the council had not previously discussed or agreed on any proposal.
“How many of you here have a business in this town and that’s what you’re thinking about first?” Ulmer said, speaking to the meeting attendees. “How many of you are thinking about children first?”
Council Member Lynne Mason said she was very supportive of renaming a street and making a plan, but that there needs to be more discussion with the community with an awareness of impacts on different organizations.
She and attorney Allison Meade also noted the potential for designating a section of state highway, such as U.S. 421 or the N.C. 105 Extension, as a “Martin Luther King Highway” while property addresses would remain the same.
The council members agreed to table the matter until next month. Council Members Loretta Clawson and Marshall Ashcraft were absent from the meeting.