Nearly all improvement projects face opposition from people who want things to stay the same. Hoover Dam, which provides power to three Western states, had its detractors when construction began in the early 1930s. The dam is now considered one of the greatest assets for the Nevada, Arizona and Southern California region.
Likewise, there was fierce opposition in McMinnville in 1975 when plans were being discussed to widen North Chancery Street from two lanes to four.
Concerned citizens came to a McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Aug. 18, 1975 with a petition containing 863 signatures of residents who did not want the road widened.
The residents in opposition claimed the widening project would harm the cozy look of the road, while also creating a hazard for motorists because of an increased speed limit.
Tennessee transportation officials contended widening the road was necessary due to the large volume of traffic on the major north-south artery through town. A larger road would help nurture more business development, they noted.
The petition brought to the city board, which was led by Mayor Franklin Blue, read as follows:
“We, the undersigned, are citizens, residents and taxpayers of Warren County and by affixing our signatures below express our joint and individual opposition to the proposed Chancery Street project.”
The petition continued, “We feel that a workable alternate to the Chancery Street project can be designed that will not only improve the traffic flow throughout the city of McMinnville, but will preserve the scenic beauty of the city. We feel that the proposed project will not only be detrimental to the city but will be highly detrimental to the residents of Chancery Street in that many will be required to relinquish property that is irreplaceable. The undersigned also realize that a problem does exist but, in addition, feel that an alternate plan can be designed or adopted that will be far less expensive to the state and county and achieve the desired goal.”
One citizen addressed the board and proposed making Chancery Street one way, but it wasn’t clear which direction traffic would flow on Chancery under that plan and what street would be used for traffic going in the other direction.
Bill Slusher, manager of Ben Lomand Rural Telephone Cooperative, addressed the city board and said the wider road would destroy the year-round beauty of the street and would be a menace to the safety of motorists and pedestrians.
It was pointed out by many concerned residents that they had childhood memories of playing on the street and didn’t want to see it widened.
Opposition to widening the road was so widespread, the Standard reported, “City officials have been cautious about giving public expression to their views on the North Chancery project.”
The newspaper noted, should city government decide to oppose the project to the state, “It is not altogether clear whether municipal government would be able to make the final decision in the controversial issue since the affected street is actually part of a state highway.”
However, the newspaper also pointed out that several city officials were privately in support of the project because it would alleviate traffic congestion and help lead to community growth.
Later that year, when the project appeared to lose some steam, residents who supported road expansion began to speak up. In the Nov. 17, 1975 edition of the Southern Standard, a group led by realtors Jewell Petty and James Austin said they were circulating a petition to push for the road to be widened and had already gained 75 signatures. Petty told the Standard he didn’t see any other way to ease traffic congestion other than to widen the street.