|Updated Jun 15, 2000||[an error occurred while processing this directive]|
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Group at Meeting Hopes to Help Find Lost City
By Tim Wilkins
At a special Tuesday night meeting, concerned Southern Pines residents took the first steps toward cleaning up Lost City — and maybe someday even annexing it.
Lost City is a nickname given to a no-man’s-land surrounding Eastman Road at the edge of West Southern Pines. A recent news feature in The Pilot detailed problems including illegal dumping and drug use in the poorly patrolled area. Follow-up stories appeared in other media.
Last night’s public meeting was held in the heart of the area known as Lost City: Pentecostal Assembly of Jesus Christ on New York Avenue. The keynote speaker was Voit Gilmore, former state senator and former mayor of Southern Pines.
Gilmore led a successful movement at the meeting to collect the names of residents from Lost City — as well as other local Southern Pines neighborhoods — who would volunteer to make up a steering committee to represent the interests of Lost City to Moore County and Southern Pines government officials.
Gilmore said the steering committee would show that local residents have the "initiative" to clean up the trash and refuse that dominates the Lost City landscape and to move the area forward toward possible future annexation by Southern Pines.
"It is a paradox to me that two of the most beautiful towns that the world has got are Southern Pines and Pinehurst; but located right next to these two beautiful cities is just a little less than a square mile called Lost City — because neither town has annexed it," said Gilmore.
"Southern Pines actually owns property in Lost City, so it’s incorrect to say Lost City is lost. The people out here have not stepped up and said they’d like to be annexed. But still, here’s this little lost pocket. And if the towns don’t want anything to do with it, then the county does."
Gilmore has met with Moore County Manager David McNeill. Gilmore told the group that McNeill said he wants to see some "local initiative begin" before committing equipment or manpower to cleaning up Lost City.
Gov. Jim Hunt has told the city and government officials and law-enforcement agencies that he "will bring extra weight wherever appropriate to get the mess cleaned up and keep it cleaned up" under the governor’s Clean N.C. 2000 program, Gilmore said.
"In that respect, the county knows and has told us that they have the equipment to come out here and get all the heavy stuff, the junk that’s piled up here, out of the way," said Gilmore, who is chairman of the Clean N.C. 2000 program. "However, the most important ingredient is for the community itself to show the people of the town of Southern Pines — which has extraterritorial rights to go out a mile if they want to — and the county manager that there is an initiative that is going to begin at the grass roots, that we hope will start tonight."
One resident complained that she shouldn’t have to show "initiative" to get the county to send equipment out to help clean up Lost City.
"I do not pay my taxes just so the county can say, ‘If you have good intentions we’ll take care of it.’" she said. "What is the county going to do? I don’t have to have good intentions to have something done."
Civic activist John Sledge of Southern Pines told the assembly that a coalition of property owners previously met "some time ago" with the county commissioners to try and convince them to take legal action against people who dump garbage illegally in Lost City, but that their attempts were rebuffed.
"We wanted them to pass a law that would have people go into the dumps on occasion and find the addresses of people from mail that was dumped there and punish these folks," said Sledge. "We can sit on Pennsylvania Avenue and hear the dump trucks rolling by and we know exactly where they are heading. But the Southern Pines Police Department says it is out of their jurisdiction. And by the time the Moore County Sheriff’s Department gets here, they’re gone."
The Rev. Roy McCoy added that he and another man put up $500 out of their own pockets to establish a fund to punish suspected illegal dumpers and litterbugs but that "we could never get the police out here in time to do anything."
A number of other residents agreed that the cleanup of Lost City should be a priority but added that officials should give equal priority to finding a way to provide some of the essential services lacking in the area.
Doc Kelly said that he knows of a church located within 25 feet of the Southern Pines Elementary School that is unable to get connected to city water. He also said that he is personally aware of a young lady who lives within 10 feet of a city water line who is not allowed to tap into the city’s water supply.
Gilmore "promised" the assembly that he would talk to the governor about calling Southern Pines and Moore County officials and requesting that they do something about the problems facing Lost City.
But he added that the governor’s power only goes so far.
"The governor can’t call the mayor of Southern Pines and tell him what to do," said Gilmore. "But he can call the mayor and city manager and tell them he’d like to see something done. But it’s also going to take a follow-through by the citizenry.
"Implicit in all this is the fact that Lost City needs services such as power lines and water. You’re living underneath the biggest water tower in Moore County and people don’t have water for their homes."