By Richard Sullins |

In a few weeks, Broadway residents may be able to legally own chickens for the first time in years, if a proposed ordinance is adopted when the town board meets again in May.

Town commissioners held a public hearing Monday, April 25, to receive public comments on a draft ordinance that would allow up to six hens to be kept in coops or pens that include areas for them to roam about. The lots must be a minimum of 10,000 square feet and would be required to be located in the rear yard of the home. Roosters would not be allowed.

Gregory McCormick told the board his family moved to Broadway because they wanted the quiet and small town life the town offers. He has a special needs daughter who wants to raise chickens and feels that “taking care of them is her job in life.” A neighbor called the town to report that the McCormicks had a chicken pen, and they were asked to remove them, leaving his daughter heartbroken.

Dusty Phillips also appeared before the board to ask for a change in the existing law to give citizens the right to own chickens.

“Some look at chickens as Sunday dinner or for their eggs,” he said. “Chickens gave Gregory’s daughter a job of collecting eggs and maintaining a coop operation. But now that’s gone.”

Phillips spoke of the farmers and their families who came together a century and a half ago to form the town.

“They would cringe now if they saw the town infringing on the right to own a few chickens. Broadway is not Cary and I hope we never get to that point,” he said. “We like the nostalgia of Broadway and what it has to offer. For families like hers, don’t be chicken – reverse this (existing) ordinance.”

It’s been about 10 years since the town last considered the issue of whether to allow domesticated fowl inside the city limits and for the last decade, Broadway has been the only municipality in the region that has chosen not to allow chickens under any conditions.

The board will take a vote on the issue at its next meeting on Monday, May 23.

Watson Lake dam plan

The commissioners voted to spend $21,000 to develop an emergency action plan for the safety of persons living downriver from the Watson Lake Dam.

In February, the board heard a report from engineers on the need for repairs to the dam and they stressed the urgency of preparing the emergency plan, a document that details what happens downstream in the event of a catastrophic failure that results in a major flooding event. An emergency plan is required before the town can apply for any grant funding to make needed repairs.

“We need to get this done if we are going to try to chase any funding this fall. It’s one of the things on the state’s checklist we’ve got to do,” said Mayor Donald Andrews.

Such a plan is required as part of grant applications to the federal government and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

The costs for preparing the plan will be paid from $9,000 of unspent funds from the Watson engineering study done by the environmental firm of Hazen and Sawyer and the remaining balance of $12,000 will come through an appropriation from the town’s general fund.

Waiting on time capsule report

As summer approaches, the town is looking forward to receiving recommendations from a document preservation company in Greensboro about the future of items recovered last October from a time capsule buried under its water tower in 1970.

As part of Broadway’s 100th anniversary 52 years ago, town leaders buried a small vault containing items from the period that included letters written by students at Broadway Elementary School, recipes, newspaper articles, a book on the town’s history, and a credit card belonging to a prominent dentist. When an unknown person fired a gun into the bottom of the water tank some years ago, the ground beneath it flooded and water seeped into the container.

When the vault was opened on October 16, about an inch and a half of water was observed to have filled the bottom of the vault and the pages were totally saturated because none of them had been preserved inside plastic pages.

The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources referred the Town to the HF Group, the only company in the state that does document restoration on this scale. The company advised the town to separate as many pages as possible and freeze them in Zip Lock bags. These were transported to the company’s offices in Greensboro before the holiday season and the bags were placed into freezer storage for 90 days.

By late February, the documents were removed from storage for the beginning of a freeze-drying process where the completely frozen document is placed under a high-pressure vacuum in order to remove the water, allowing the ice to change from a solid directly to a gas without becoming liquid. The process is slow, but it allows workers to carefully evaluate each of the records and determine how much can be restored. The process is not without risk, however, because it could result in their destruction or disintegration, depending on the condition of the item and the material it was constructed from.

The town is expecting a report with recommendations from HF Group by May or June and even though there remains reason for optimism that at least some of the vault’s comments may be salvageable, there seems to be little reason to bury another time capsule to be opened at Broadway’s 200th anniversary celebration until the lessons from this one can be fully learned.