Although not everyone agreed on what the best option was for the new highway, everyone at Thursday's meeting seemed to agree that they were very concerned about the effects of the changes.
"I've been a businessman here for 40 years, and if it's re-routed (away from downtown) it will be detrimental to Green Forest," said Bob Tanner. "I think the new highway should go right through town; if not, it will kill our livelihood and it will look like Omaha does."
AHTD officials not only unveiled a map showing the four proposed routes on Thursday -- which was published in Tuesday's Midweek edition of Carroll County News -- they also introduced at the hearing results of their impact study comparing how each route would affect homes, businesses and other structures.
If the new highway is routed north or south of town, the study says that 12 residences will be impacted -- but the study does account for the impact on the 1,391 "important farmland acres" that surround the residences that would be impacted.
Residents at the meeting appeared very divided over what they thought was the best option for the expanded highway, with several telling Carroll County News as well as highway officials that they did not want the current route expanded.
"I think (the expansion project) is good as long as they don't go down Main Street," said Dena Cooper, who lives on the road. "It's been 30 years since half of my side-yard was taken to widen Tyson Road, and now they're going to take my front yard; I just might as well move."
But most residents who attended the meeting -- including a number of rural landowners and downtown business owners -- appeared to be in favor of keeping the highway in its current route and expanding it through downtown.
The Smith-Molder family, which own 50 acres, a cattle and hay farm, and five homes, would see their property split across its center if the highway is re-routed along the proposed northern route, they noted.
Joy Smith, whose seven grandchildren live alongside her and her husband's home on those acres, opposes this, for obvious reasons.
"I want the highway to go through the center of town because if they move it to the northern route, it's going to go through our property and separate us from our sons and grandchildren," she said with an apparent heavy heart. "If it went the southern route, I'd feel the same way since I am sure they don't want to give up their land either," she added.
"Business-wise, it should go through town. Rather than bypass the businesses altogether, I'd rather see it divided into two routes through downtown," said Smith's husband, Sam Molder.
Green Forest resident and downtown business owner Rob Kerby has suggested that the new highway stay downtown, but be routed through a one-way couplet in the center of town, dividing the highway into two one-way streets, the westbound of which would traverse one block north of Main Street.
At Thursday's meeting, he argued his case before AHTD Environmental Assessment Division chief Don Nichols.
"The updated highway could breathe new life into the 100-year-old historic square; going around us could kill us and turn us into Hindsville and Omaha," said Kerby.
Nichols replied that the one-way couplet would still cut the Main Street businesses' traffic flow in half; Kerby replied that he owns a business there and half the traffic would be better than no traffic at all.
"The one-way couplet does not appear to be a solution that's feasible for the project," Nichols responded.
Residents at Thursday's hearing only had opportunity to comment through written forms that would be turned in to highway officials to be read later. This made several people feel as though the process was a farce, and that the decision had already been made, they said.
"I'd rather it stay in town, but we know they won't. I just think this is the process they have to go through, but I think they've already decided," said Steve Smith, son of Joy Smith and Sam Molder. "If they take our land it will leave several areas without water on it and that is not good for cattle farming or anything else. The Highway Department ain't gonna buy it, I guarantee you!"