SELMA (WTVD) --A major battle is shaping up in Johnston County over a new rail yard CSX is building. To make room for the cargo hub, homes will have to be taken through eminent domain. And the owners of those homes are fuming.
"I feel powerless," Jennifer Edwards said. She lives on Brown-Wall Road in Selma and owns one of the houses slated for demolition. "I never envisioned that someone would knock on my door and say, 'We need to talk; we want your property.' My property wasn't for sale."
Edwards says last Thursday, a CSX employee told her she had six months to move.
"I've lived here 58 years," Edwards told ABC11. "There's no price on my property. This is my life."
For Edwards and others in this community, more is on the line than their houses - their family history is threatened. Edwards' mother's name was Brown. (Remember the name of the road?)
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Folks who live in the area will tell you the Browns and the Walls have owned the land around Brown-Wall Road for 150 to 200 years.
"This farmland is precious to me," Edwards said. "It's been passed down from hundreds of years ago. My grandparents and my mother entrusted me to care for this property and they always wanted it to remain as an agricultural farm. They wanted it to remain in the family and on their dying beds I promised them that would be done. And now, it appears, I have no choice."
Just down from Edwards, lives Randy Wall. CSX isn't taking his property but Wall is concerned about the rail yard nonetheless.
"There's a big two-story house over there; that's where my grandmother was raised," said Wall, recalling his family's history in the area. "All this neighborhood was related. Everyone in here was related. My great great grandfather was buried right there. It's gonna ruin this community, as far as I'm concerned."
Even though he'll get to stay in his home, Wall says the rail yard will change everything about the area.
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"I don't know what life is going to look like once they get it in here you know," he said. "
Wall is worried his bucolic view of agricultural fields, forest, and wildlife will be lost to CSX's new rail yard. "I'm not happy about it, but I don't know if there's anything I can do about it."
Edwards says she worries about light and noise pollution but says she won't be around to be bothered by it.
"We will never see darkness again. Or someone won't. I won't be here. I will never come back. There will never be darkness. We will never see a piece of that earth again. It will all be asphalt. I've just been blessed all my life and didn't even realize how blessed I was to have the perfect place. And they want it."
Edwards says her life has been lost to worry since that CSX rep told her about the project last Thursday.
"I am not well. I am devastated. I'm not sleeping. My husband isn't sleeping. We're not eating. We're just ... alive. I told the representative I had no doubt he had killed my husband. I said, 'You've taken his life.' "
Eminent domain is reserved for projects of public interest and historically, public utilities and railways have been lumped under that umbrella.
CSX will have to pay for the homes and land it takes, but Edwards and others say no price will cover their loss. "Of course they will give me some compensation," she said. "It's not going to be what I want because it's not for sale. You can't replace your life's history. You cannot replace the heritage of these farms."
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