Franklin Garland is a truffle farmer who is not afraid to be a thorn in the side.
“This is the third time I’ve had to do this,” he said as he drives his Gator ATV around his 57 acres of rolling land and hazelnut trees. “I fought a waste transfer facility. I fought Settler’s Point. And now I’m fighting this.”
What ‘this’ is is the Research Triangle Logistics Park that has been proposed for 160 acres in Hillsborough between I-40, Davis Road and Old N.C. 86. Garland’s property butts right against the development. He points to a line of trees past a pond on his property. “That’s where I’ll see warehouses,” he said.
For the record, it’s not yet known what will be built on the site, if anything at all. Hillsborough and the county has been presented with a proposal that has not been approved.
But Garland and a group of his neighbors and others who will be affected by the development have wasted little time in mounting an effort to show their concerns, questions and anger at the RTLP plan.
After receiving a letter for the Aug. 5 planning board meeting, Garland made several thousand flyers and distributed them throughout the area around the 160-acre site.
Since then, others have created a website, email campaigns, a petition, signs, door hangers, reached out to local media, and staged a protest. Regular meetings have been held at Garland’s residence, outside with masks and socially distanced. Prior to the next planning board meeting, some of the residents are planning to meet by Zoom to discuss strategy and efficient methods to make sure there’s enough time for their concerns to be raised.
“I feel like we have a 50-50 chance that we can make a difference,” Garland said.
“We have somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 petition signatures so far, and more than 250 people have signed up for the Planning Board Zoom meeting on Aug. 19,” he added.
A group of residents gathered at the old courthouse in downtown Hillsborough to protest the RTLP. Nearly 100 people held signs, handed out information about the plan and waved to cars that honked as they passed.
Matt Mitchell, who lives on Davis Road and is an organizer of the Save Hillsborough group, was at the protest, and spoke to the media and other locals.
“The community should pay attention because when you’re talking about adding 3,600 large trucks per day, those trucks are going to be going in all directions,” he said. “They have to exit Davis Road, then they’re going to hop onto (Old N.C.) 86 going north, south, east, and west. They’re going to be clogging I-40 and I-85. We all know we already have traffic problems on Churton Street and throughout Hillsborough, and this is just going to massively compound those issues. I also think it sets a dangerous precedent for rezoning residential neighborhoods into industrial warehouses. Nobody in Orange County would expect something like that to happen, but if they start doing it here, the next project that comes up, they’re just going to say ‘well, we did it on Davis Road, let’s do it here, too.’ It just sets a dangerous precedent, I think.”