Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The trees may be gone, but perhaps we can replant them.

Here is a photo of the trees that are or will soon be removed from the path of the Meadow Creek Parkway. The Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park (CPMP) had its first day in court today in an effort to save the Charlottesville owned land that CPMP believes was provided to VDOT for construction of the parkway but the ordinance of council failed to meet the number of council votes to legally transfer the right of way. Circuit Court Judge J. C. Sweat heard the case at 2:00 pm today on CPMP's filing for a preliminary injunction to preserve the trees and land not yet destroyed on this land. After two and one-half hours of presentations, testimony, and discussion Judge Sweat commented that the significant damages to the trees and land were already done, and that VDOT would lose $20,000 per day if construction was stopped and opted not to grant the request for preliminary injunction. Judge Sweat also stated that our claim had sufficient merit to schedule a hearing on the CPMP request for declaratory judgement on an expedited schedule. A hearing on that issue will be scheduled in late May of 2009.

There is virtually no case law upon which the court could base a decision. I believe that this lack of case law is because this Meadow Creek Parkway project is apparently the first time VDOT is attempting to build a state funded roadway on easements from a local jurisdiction. Typically VDOT purchase right of way, negotiates utility and other easements as necessary on the land they own, build the road, and then grant the land to the local jurisdiction once construction is completed. Being the first project of this type, I believe there are a host of problems that have not yet been brought before the courts - and thus no case law.

I was encouraged that Judge Sweat carefully considered the input from CPMP's Attorney, Ms. McKeever, City Attorney Mr. Brown, and VDOT Attorney Ms. Pound, and had lively interactions with all three attorneys on the merits of their arguments in the limited case before the court.

I am exhausted after being in the courthouse much of the afternoon, and being a witness on behalf of CPMP during the hearing. Much can happen in two and one-half hours of courtroom action. I will have to let my mind rest a bit and then help Ms. McKeever develop the strongest case possible for the upcoming hearing on the land transfer issue in May.

Many members of the media were on hand to cover the hearing. Henry Graff of TV-29 manned a camera in the court room for the entire hearing. I look forward to seeing his coverage of the hearing on tonight's TV-29 news.

This was the first of at least two hearings on this matter. I invite you to learn more about the case by reading my last several postings to this blog. Your comments are always welcome.


Janice said...

I appreciate your fortitude in bringing this action, although I don't hold out much hope for it. I'll continue to follow it with interest, however.

BTW, it's Judge Jay Swett, not J.C. Sweat!

Anonymous said...

You are definitely right