GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Lowell drivers looking to vote next week will have to work around a newly constructed gate while city leaders work to tell residents about it with signage.

The newly constructed gate, which stretches from a church to a private residence, keeps residents from making a popular cut-through in town. The steel gate reportedly went up last week without much fanfare. Or so, the gate installers thought.

Since Monday, residents have voiced concerns, with a complaint not far behind.

In a Friday afternoon statement, City of Lowell leaders addressed the complaint, citing safety concerns with children crossing the street between Presbyterian Church of Lowell properties. City officials spoke with a landowner who erected a portion of the gate. The city cited 2001 documents establishing the road as a private driveway.

While the church has resided at the property since 1976, the property owner purchased the property in 2009, according to Gaston County tax records.

In the statement, city leaders said they do not foresee issues with voters making their way to the church for voting. The church has another parking lot accessible from First Street and High Street prior to the gate.

They also stated they’ve contacted Gaston County Schools about bus routes. Neighbors in the area said they saw one bus having issues navigating the site with the new gate.

Officials are working to install signs in the area notifying residents and drivers about the gate.

Four-time mayor and current mayoral candidate Larry Simonds sees the gate as both politically motivated and a safety issue, wondering why the gate went up now. He expressed concerns about the gate’s erection and wanted it to come up before the city council.

“I want the street opened immediately,” Simonds, a longtime Lowell resident, told Queen City News. “I want to see the owner go through proper channels.”

Simonds didn’t fault the church over the gate but has been vocal about safety regarding traffic concerns.

Queen City News went to the scene this week and saw the gate. Four to five City of Lowell construction cones protected the entrance on the Second Street side.

Queen City News reached out to the Lowell City Hall with additional questions before Friday’s statement. Queen City News found phone numbers and also attempted to contact the homeowner but could not leave a message. Attempts to reach the church through email and voicemail were not returned.

According to the 2019 census, the Gaston County city’s population hovers around 3,500 residents.