VDOT likely to sell bypass land to residents

Final decision not yet made, Spokesperson Hatter says


Picture of traffic on Route 29 from the McCormick Road Bridge.

“To hold onto that property means that they don’t have that money for another project,” Sheffield said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has taken plans to build a Western Bypass over Route 29 out of consideration. The decision poses questions surrounding the use of land purchased for the project. Many area residents hope VDOT will sell back the right-of-way for the land to members of the community.

VDOT spokesperson Lou Hatter said an advisory panel is currently reviewing other methods to ease congestion on Route 29 now that the bypass is out of the question. The panel will also decide what to do with the land set aside for the bypass project.

“At this point, the decision has not been made yet,” Hatter said.

Brad Sheffield, representative for the Rio District on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, said he expects VDOT to ultimately sell back the right-of-way for the bypass land back to local citizens.

“What we’ve been trying to do is actually two phases,” Sheffield said. “The first is really to try to get VDOT to demolish some of the homes that have been purchased. After that we want to push to have the return of the properties done by May 14.”

Sheffield said the bypass land on the whole cost the state more than $30 million.

“To hold onto that property means that they don’t have that money for another project,” Sheffield said.

Hatter said VDOT will not hold onto the land without developing a specific plan for it.

“State law requires that any property that the Virginia Department of Transportation owns be used for a transportation purpose,” Hatter said.

Morgan Butler, senior attorney in the Virginia office for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the original bypass plan posed many environmental concerns for the region.

“It is an extremely damaging proposal in terms of the impact it would have on the community,” Butler said. “The road would come within a third of a mile of six different schools around its roughly six-mile route.”

Butler also said the bypass road would come within 500 feet of the main drinking water reservoir for the Charlottesville community. Butler said that the proposed road would actually be uphill of the reservoir, exacerbating environmental concerns.

Ann Mallek, representative for the White Hall district on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, said the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has communicated concerns to VDOT’s advisory panel, as the department’s ownership of the land is causing issues for local residents who want to buy and sell nearby property.

“We have already spoken with representatives about the burden and concerns on the residents,” Mallek said.

Sheffield said residents’ direct communication with VDOT may help in favor of selling back the right-of-way to citizens in the short term.

“I’m hoping they take a more proactive role,” Sheffield said.

Regardless of the advisory panel’s ultimate suggestions, it will take some time for VDOT to make any concrete plans.

Though the general consensus has been that VDOT is likely to sell back the right-of-way to the community, there have been some recent suggestions to use the land for a biking trail or a local transit route.

Published April 11, 2014 in FP test, News

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