If it is summer, then watch for some controversial action on the McIntire Road Extended project at city council. On July 16, 2007, city council last considered granting a temporary construction easement of roughly 22 acres to VDOT to construct the McIntire Road Extended project. A public hearing was held, but no council action was taken until October 1, 2007.
On Oct. 1, 2007, a resolution by council was passed 5-0 to grant a temporary construction easement to VDOT (in return for $1 payment). The relevant - and exact- wording included in the resolution passed by city council on October 1, 2007 is as below in italics:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia that this Council hereby authorizes the City Manager to sign the following document, in form approved by the City Attorney, upon (1) certification from the Virginia Department of Transportation that the Commonwealth has acquired title to or a permanent easement over 49.1 acres of real property that will be dedicated for use by the City as replacement park land; (2) review and approval by City Council of the final design of the storm water drainage plan; and (3) written confirmation from the Virginia Department of Transportation that this temporary construction easement will not be used to construct an at-grade intersection at the intersection of U.S. Route 250 Bypass and McIntire Road Extended:
Agreement between the City of Charlottesville, as "Grantor" and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as "Grantee", granting a temporary construction easement across and through McIntire Park for construction of McIntire Road Extended, and related utility and drainage work.
On Aug. 18, 2008, another resolution to grant a slightly modified temporary easement to VDOT is under consideration and a case is to be made that all of the conditions from the previous resolution have been satisfied.
But, some issues are unresolved. Given that council has never approved a final design of a storm water drainage plan (only the concept was approved). And, the official southern terminus of the McIntire Road Extended project was moved from Route 250 Bypass to approx. 775 feet north of Route 250 Bypass. The project was shortened by approximately one-third in distance and the project only connects the roadway network at Melbourne Road. Clearly, McIntire Road Extended is dependent upon the so-called independent Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road project. Yes, the interchange project is considered to be totally independent of the McIntire Road Extended project. I believe that VDOT is required to hold a new design public hearing when such a significant change in project terminus occurs - and when a project connects at only one point in the roadway network. This constitutes a significant change in project design scope. In fact a new design public hearing was held because of a change in design scope for Meadow Creek Parkway (in Albemarle County) when the project alignment changed after the Jones and Jones consultant's design was approved by Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. With all the changes to the McIntire Road Extended project, there hasn't been a VDOT location or design public hearing on this project since 1999.
It is troubling that the city council resolutions only discuss temporary construction easements. On the most recent VDOT plans for McIntire Road Extended, land is clearly identified with proposed permanent easements as part of the storm water management plan. If city council approves the proposed resolution, it appears that only the temporary easements will be granted. Perhaps city council should consider this issue along with the final storm water design before they authorizing granting of any easements.
Charlottesville resident Stratton Salidis has spoken often at city council about the need for council to have a super-majority vote to grant permanent easements as apparently required by the Virginia Constitution. I believe he is correct. This would mean that a 4-1 vote in favor of granting a permanent easement would be required on council.
Lastly, the condition council passed about not using the granted easement to build an at-grade intersection has become moot due to the change in project terminus. McIntire Road Extended might better be called something else in that it no longer even connects to McIntire Road. This is our local equivalent of the Alaska bridge to nowhere project although that proposed bridge actually connected to something. As of now, there is no commitment to build an interchange to bridge the gap. Technical and funding problems are yet to be resolved, and preliminary engineering and interchange designs are not yet complete. The environmental review of the project is still underway and no final action is likely to occur until late spring 2009. Council may well be building a multi-million dollar road to nowhere through McIntire Park.
I expect better attention to detail on project development from the city, and VDOT when so many millions of dollars and over 22 acres of McIntire Park are in jeopardy - plus added community noise, air pollution, and loss of or impact on natural, historical, and cultural resources.
I hope you will consider the details of this and the related projects and share your thoughts on this project with VDOT, and the city council and staff. There will be a public hearing on this matter early on the Aug. 18 council agenda. The resolution being considered on Aug. 18 is as follows:
A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE CONVEYANCE OF A TEMPORARY CONSTRUCTION EASEMENT IN MCINTIRE PARK TO THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
WHEREAS, the City of Charlottesville is the owner of McIntire Park; and,
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Virginia, through its Department of Transportation, has requested a temporary right and easement to use approximately 22.2 acres within McIntire Park for the construction of McIntire Road Extended, also known as the Meadow Creek Parkway, and related utility and drainage work; and,
WHEREAS, by Resolution adopted October 1, 2007 City Council authorized the granting of the easement upon the fulfillment of certain conditions; and,
WHEREAS, in accordance with the prior Resolution the Virginia Department of Transportation (“VDOT”) has certified that it has acquired title to or a permanent easement over 49.1 acres of real property that will be dedicated for use by the City as replacement park land, and that this temporary construction easement will not be used to construct an at-grade intersection at the intersection of U.S. Route 250 Bypass; and,
WHEREAS, the storm water drainage system has been designed in accordance with the concept previously approved by the Council.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council for the City of Charlottesville, Virginia that this Council hereby authorizes the Mayor to sign the following document, in form approved by the City Attorney:
Agreement between the City of Charlottesville, as “Grantor” and the Commonwealth of Virginia, as “Grantee”, granting a temporary construction easement across and through McIntire Park for construction of McIntire Road Extended, and related utility and drainage work. The approximate location of the easement area is shown on a drawing dated June 23, 2008 and entitled “Proposed McIntire Road Extended U000-104-V02, PE-101”.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Resolution is enacted with the expectation that Albemarle County, in response to the granting of this temporary construction easement, will:
1) Commit to a continued and substantial increase in funding for public transit;
2) Commit to making extensive pedestrian and bicycle improvements within the urban ring;
3) Commit to building a transportation connector between Sunset Avenue and Fontaine Research Park/29-250 Bypass that would divert traffic from Old Lynchburg Road; and
4) Commit to continued development of alignment and funding scenarios for the Eastern Connector.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Charlottesville City Council requests that the Virginia Department of Transportation use any means at their disposal to ensure that Albemarle County is capable of meeting the City Council’s expectations as expressed herein.