New Hill, North Carolina – The development of VinFast is expected to create around 7,500 jobs in the Triangle, but the number of people traveling to Chatham County comes at a cost.
The State Department of Transportation is working on a multi-phase highway project, with modifications to US Highway 1, Old US Highway 1, Elam Church Road and Pea Ridge Road.
Along Pea Ridge Road, Performance Equine Veterinary Clinic has been open for less than a year, but under current DOT Phase 2 plans, it may be forced to close.
Dr. Lynn Gomes and her husband Merv Berkelaar found the 28-acre property in 2019 after three years of searching. They chose the site based on its logistics for large vehicles and its calm and serene outdoor space.
Gomes said it took nearly two years to prepare the property and another year for construction. Now, according to current road plans, it could all be wiped out.
“With the way Phase 2 is currently laid out, it affects us the most. The corner of our property – not the property but the buildings. The highway would encroach on the corner of the property. It would make this place useless,” said Gomes said. .
Just as large manufacturing plants require a large infrastructure of roads leading to a facility, we need the same.”
Performance Equine Veterinary Services provides emergency care, basic exams and performance evaluations for horses on several different surfaces.
Gomes said the security and tranquility of the property would be destroyed by the road project. She asks her clients to write to the DOT and weigh in on the plans before the September 1 deadline.
“The DOT has set a very tight public comment period, and in accordance with that period, we have reached out to the people this will affect the most,” Gomes said. “We would like the DOT to consider an alternate route and not realign Pea Ridge Road. We have no intention of trying to shut down VinFast. We welcome the economic development around us.”
Dr. Lauren Schnabel has worked with horses for over 20 years and is board certified in sports medicine, rehabilitation and equine orthopedic surgery. She has also served on advisory boards for scientific advice and equine welfare, including the Morris Animal Foundation and the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
Schnabel sees the need for the clinic to stay open.
‘”The equine industry and the equine community in this area, in the Triangle area, has grown tremendously. However, we still have a shortage of equine veterinarians, and we have extremely few equine clinics and very few of that caliber ,” Schnabel said. “Losing a clinic like equine performance would be devastating to the community.”
Schnabel often refers clients to Gomes’ practice, and she says every aspect of the facility was designed with horse health in mind.
“It’s a really peaceful environment, which is essential for all horses, but especially those who are sick or recovering or need treatment,” Schnabel said.
Will Faudree is one of Gomes’ clients who lives outside of Pinehurst. A competitive rider for 25 years, he has represented the United States at the Pan American Games, the World Equestrian Games and the Olympics.
Faudree said the clinic is uniquely positioned to serve clients from across the East Coast.
“It’s in a good location. It’s right off US 1, so you’re not doing a lot of turns in a trailer if a horse is injured or sick. You’re coming off US 1, and you’re just there,” Faudree said. “The safety involved in transporting them to and from clinics for treatment is paramount.”
He also believes that peace and quiet are essential to the health of horses.
“Horses are, they’re a fight or flight animal and loud noises, any kind of disturbance could startle the horses,” Faudree explained.
Gomes met with DOT officials Wednesday morning, and she said they were receptive to her comments.
The DOT told WRAL News that the clinic is the only property its staff and representatives have met on-site at this point. A spokesperson said department staff would review each comment and begin the process of modifying and adjusting plans as needed.
At the August 16 public meeting, DOT officials said all timelines were tentative. Right-of-way acquisition for Phase 1 was originally scheduled to begin in September 2022; now it will start in early 2023.
The DOT said the delay is to ensure that all environmental permits are obtained before the right-of-way process begins.
You can find out more about the project here.