Yes, this upcoming council meeting on July 16, 2007 will apparently have an item asking council to authorize the city manager to provide a 22+ acre temporary construction easement in McIntire Park that "will terminate at such time as the construction of the project is completed." The agreement, if approved will be sealed by payment of "One Dollar."
My July 8 blog noted that I thought this easement request was to allow relocation of utility lines - but it is apparently an easement for the whole McIntire Road Extended project through construction. Who says a dollar can't get you much anymore?
What does this mean?
Exactly what I asked myself and I hustled over to City Hall to get the information - with some minor success. Jeanne Cox, clerk of council, provided me with some of the relevant material that included a draft of the easement agreement "prepared by VDOT under supervision of the Office of the Attorney General." But, the draft agreement states:
"WHEREAS, it is proposed by the Commonwealth to extend or improve City roadway, McIntire Road Extended, Project U000-104-102,R201, from Route 250 Interchange to Melbourne Road in the City of Charlottesville, Virginia."
It appears to me that the Attorney Generals Office believes that Route 250 Interchange is an already approved project, which it is clearly not. In fact, VDOT and the City both state that the interchange and the road are two totally independent projects and are being carried out independently. This is a major contradiction to me. And although you (like me) are probably not an attorney, you likely agree that this wording links these projects together. I question if the Commonwealth Attorney's are simply using casual language here, but in fact making the ending point of the interchange and the starting point of the road somewhat ambiguous.
Under a section called "Additional Consideration" there is the following statement:
"The Grantor [note: this is the City of Charlottesville] by the execution of this instrument acknowledges that the plans for the project as they affect its property have been fully explained to its authorized representative."
I haven't yet figured out who the authorized representative is yet, but I will try to find out and let you know. I am curious to find out if in fact the authorized representative understand how the plans for the project affect McIntire Park. I have been searching for this information for some time, and answers are extremely hard to come by. It is not even clear from the information I could gather today that VDOT has even done an engineering analysis of the stormwater management capacities for the proposed revised plan.
I was unable to find out what is being brought before concil on this matter. The city guideline is that citizens can't get a copy of the staff report or recommendation to city council until it is provided to council. That won't happen until tomorrow at 3:30 at the latest. Given that council may in fact be taking the first action associated with committing right of way for the McIntire Road Extended project. This is the point at which the Virginia Code defines as the city approving the project - and if in fact the project does not happen, that the city can be asked to repay all of VDOT's expenses to date on the entire project. That is several million dollars.
With this project having been clearly identified as unable to meet the traffic demand by the city's own consultant, makes granting this easement a very serious and questionable step. The conditions placed by council that must be met before approving this road have not been met. This looks to me like a set up for disaster.
Although I can't get the description of what is being proposed until tomorrow at 3:30 at the earliest, it appears that the revised design of the stormwater portion of the project development is being used as a front to get council to commit to the construction of an unworkable road.
So, what would I recommend?
As I have been recommending for years now, the only rational solution to our future transportation needs is to combine the McIntire Road Extended and the Route 250 Interchange at McIntire Road projects into one project. This combined project can then be evaluated against other regional transportation alternatives - like an eastern connector road between northern and eastern Albemarle County. Also, the possibility of not building the combined project at all might be the best regional solution where an eastern connector and enhanced public transit (trolley and bus) might be a far superior and efficient choice.
Building a road though McIntire Park is a major project, and I believe some clearer idea of what is going forward is essential. I will ask city council to get the facts before they act. I hope you will do the same.