Friday, June 1, 2012

The Meadowcreek Parkway: Next Up, Eminent Domain

Sean Tubbs at Charlottesville Tomorrow reports this morning (here) that construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway/McIntire Road interchange could begin by the end of the year.

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Earlier this week, Judge Moon (at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia) dismissed the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park's lawsuit that claimed the City circumvented appropriate federal review by dividing the Parkway into three separate projects.

According to Tubbs, the interchange's design firm (RK&K) says that the court's action clears the way to put the project out to bid. Peter Kleeman, however, holds out the possibility of an appeal.


Until a year or two ago, I'd have predicted that Judge Moon's decision was just the latest twist in the Parkway's history of stop-and-go. 

Now, however, with the County's portion of the Parkway in full use, I think the City's portion, including the interchange, is actually going to be built.

The reason I think the road is now ineveitable is that a critical mass of public support has been achieved, with last summer's City Council results (in particular, two Parkway supporters winning election) being the crucial turning point. 

That said, I think completion in 2013 (the date mentioned in Tubbs' article) is overly ambitious. Jim Duncan (here) predicts 2015, and I think that's about right. 

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I'm still ambivalent. I empathize with the arguments from proponents and opponents.

When I drive on the County portion of the road, my strongest feeling is that it's so short. Yes, it cuts off a portion of Rio Road (and I am sure that's much appreciated by the property owners), but not by very much. I usually can't decide if it's even worth it to turn left on Melbourne Road -- from a time standpoint, neither route seems consistently faster than the other. I guess that's the point of needing to finish the City's portion road.

I'm curious whether the County will landscape its part of the road. Currently, it's a bit barren, which I assume may have to do with budget constraints.

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The most interesting part of Tubbs' article concerns the status of the City's eminent domain efforts:
Angela Tucker, development services manager for the city, said in a staff report that the city received federal authorization to begin acquiring nine slivers of land along the roadway’s frontage last September.  
The city has been able to come to agreement with five property owners, but was not able to do so with four. “We have not been able to reach agreement… and do not believe a timely compromise can be found through further negotiations,” Tucker wrote ...  
Two of the public hearings will determine whether City Council will approve proceedings to take property from the Covenant and a holding company called Middle Mountain LLC.  
The portion of the property owned by the Covenant School is appraised at $64,463. The city has so far offered $81,463 plus other considerations. The property owned by Middle Mountain LLC is appraised at nearly $230,000. The city had offered $247,122 for easements and permanent right of way.
544. Will any of the holdout property owners make the City take them to Court in order to have a judge approve the price?  The owners certainly have the timing leverage in their favor at this point, so I anticipate one or two of them will compel Court involvement.

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