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Smithfield renames road for Gardner

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SMITHFIELD — After spirited debate, the Smithfield Town Council voted 4-3 last week to rename Booker Dairy Road Extension to Ava Gardner Avenue.

Councilman Marlon Lee did not vote and Mayor Andy Moore said his inaction should be considered a yes vote, breaking a possible tie. When asked, Lee didn’t give a specific reason as to why he didn’t vote during the Oct. 1 town meeting.

Lee, Councilmen David Barbour, David Stevens and Mayor Pro-tem Travis Scott voting in favor of the name change. Councilmen Emery Ashley, John Dunn and Stephen Rabil opposed it.

Ava Gardner Avenue will now run from Buffalo Road to North Brightleaf Boulevard. The north-south section of Booker Dairy Road will keep its name and a short curved section that connects Booker Dairy Road to Ava Gardner Avenue will be remained Old Booker Dairy Road.

Gardner (1922-90) was an Oscar-nominated motion picture actress who was born in Grabbtown, an unincorporated community nine miles southeast of Smithfield. She attended Rock Ridge High School in Wilson County and lived at the school’s teacherage from 1938-39. She completed her studies at Wilson’s Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, before beginning her movie career.

Smithfield is home to Gardner’s gravesite and the Ava Gardner Museum at 325 E. Market St.

The name change to Old Booker Dairy Road will affect seven property owners.

Renaming the Booker Dairy Road Extension will affect 12 property owners, including the State Employees Credit Union, Neuse Charter School, Smithfield-Selma High and the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center and Community Park.

Renaming the north-south Booker Dairy Road would have affected 23 properties.

“I’ve talked to citizens who have lots of ideas,” said Mayor Pro-tem Travis Scott. “It’s hard to satisfy everyone.”

An earlier motion to rename the road Ava Gardner Parkway failed by a 4-3 vote. Then the council approved Ava Gardner Avenue by a 4-3 vote.

“No matter what you do, people are still affected,” said Councilman David Barbour said. “Changes of addresses are horrible. Keep it the same.”

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