HAMLET — Usually when you move, you don’t take your house with you.
Lella Oates Jones on Wednesday walked alongside her house as it was guided two-and-a-half miles down the road by remote control to her and her husband, Billy Jones’, new address on Ghio Road where they will be next-door neighbors with much of their extended family.
Though things ended well for the Jones’, this move wasn’t their decision. Their house was in the path of a new 30-mile Piedmont Natural Gas pipeline that will run from the intersection of Prospect Road and N.C. 710 in Prospect (Robeson County) to the Smith Energy Complex at 198 Energy Way, south of Hamlet.
When the Jones’ were told earlier this year that they would have to move, they didn’t know if it was real. Their family had previously been told they were in the path of a future highway but it never materialized. Once it became clear, they began looking for a new home.
Piedmont covers the costs incurred in moving, and Lella Jones said they had been treated fairly throughout the process. With housing prices having gone up so much since they built their house 43 years ago, they decided the best option would be to move to land their family already owned where they could all live along the same strip of road.
“We had no say-so over it so we made the best of it,” she said. “It was a surprise to live somewhere 43 years and be told you have to move, but that’s life.”
Four other residences have been asked to move to make way for the pipeline, according to Jennifer Sharpe, communications consultant for Piedmont. Sharpe said none of the other residents have been unhappy with Piedmont’s handling of the relocations.
“We negotiate and buy their (land), we don’t just condemn them,” Sharpe said. “Our goal is to put (the pipeline) as close as we can to the existing rights of way but we do have to deviate sometimes…and when that happens, that’s when the land management team approaches the homeowners.”
Construction on the pipeline will begin in March 2018 and is projected to be completed later in the year.
Della Murphy, Lella Jones’ sister, said of her new neighbors, “We love it.”
“We’ve been paying taxes on this land all these years so we took advantage of it,” Murphy said.
Billy Jones said he will miss the old location where the couple raised their family, but “we’re okay,” adding that they were “using what we got.”
“It was challenging at first, but we said we know God is not going to allow anything to happen that’s not in his plan,” Lella Jones said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.