Following Wednesday nights decision by the Johnston County Board of Commissioners who unanimously agreed to pull support for a CSX terminal at its present location, CSX released a statement Thursday saying they were still committing to pursuing infrastructure development opportunities in Johnston County.
Emerging from a closed session, commissioners went on record saying they are opposed to the railroads transportation hub between Selma and Micro. While saying the $272 million project and the hundreds of jobs it would create would be beneficial to Johnston County, the board said they could not support the project if it forced landowners from their homes and businesses.
Commissioner Chairman Tony Braswell said the Board does not support imminent domain and the taking of private property by CSX. He said he was “disappointed and appalled” by reports of how CSX representatives had approached property owners.
Opposition to the terminal began to mount as soon as property owners, including Trent Lassiter, general manager of The Farm, an entertainment venue near Micro, learned his family farm and his business could be taken involuntarily. Lassiter said property owners were told they could willingly sell their land or be taken to court and their property taken by railroad officials.
Lassiter, his family, and neighbors were among over 60 people who attended the special meeting at the Johnston County Courthouse.
After the commissioners announcement Lassiter said, “It’s not enough but it’s a good first step. By them not supporting the project it sends out a loud message but it doesn’t mean that it’s enough to stop it, but it’s a move in the right direction.”
While county leaders said they did not support the CSX terminal at the site selected, Chairman Braswell said the Board believes a site could still be identified where property owners would be willing to sell their land, but added the Board does not want communities to be uprooted.
“We work hard for economic development but not for citizens and communities where they do not want it,” Braswell said. “We are not going to do it at the expense of citizens we represent.”
In a statement Thursday from CSX officials said, “We are grateful to the Commissioners and Johnston County for continuing a collaboration between CSX, local officials and the community. We look forward to further conversations with community members to gather constructive feedback, answer questions and build a path forward for this project.
We remain confident that the Carolina Connector (CCX) intermodal terminal will result in hundreds of job opportunities, competitive advantages for local businesses and economic growth for the State and County. At the same time, we understand the various perspectives of project supporters, concerned landowners and local residents. CSX is here to listen and will be responsive to questions and concerns. We welcome these conversations and the constructive feedback that will follow.
CSX looks forward to partnering with local officials and citizens to build a terminal that honors Johnston County’s values, creates economic growth and brings tangible benefits to the community.”
Mark Otto, a Republican candidate for the US House Seventh Congressional District said Thursday, ”I have stood against the CSX land grab from the very moment it came to light, and so I commend the Johnston County Commissioners for taking a stand against the CSX land grab as well. Eminent Domain abuse must end.”