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April 14, 2008

City School Board to consider easement for Meadowcreek Parkway

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At their meeting on Thursday April 17, 2008, the Charlottesville School Board will consider a resolution  to donate the right of way on City-owned land near Charlottesville High School (CHS) to VDOT for the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway.  The land is located in Albemarle County.  The Board was briefed on the item at a work session on April 3, 2008.  If granted, a field currently used by the high school’s junior varsity softball team will be used for the County’s portion of the road.

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VDOT is currently negotiating with property owners over the acquisition of right of way for the Parkway. The agency must purchase land at the fair market value, but is asking for a donation in the case of the City-owned land.  Spencer DeJarnette, who works on right of way issues for VDOT, told the School Board on April 3 that their resolution was needed to convey the easements on City property to VDOT.

DeJarnette presented the Board with maps depicting the easements, as well as the pedestrian bike trail that will run along the route of the parkway. He remarked that this trail will provide a direct connection between CHS and CATEC.

Dejarnette
Spencer DeJarnette
“The area that is needed for the road surface itself is 1.796 acres,” DeJarnette said. Other land is needed for a temporary construction easement, permanent drainage easements and utility easements for a total of just under 9 acres of land. Utility relocation is already occurring near CATEC, and DeJarnette said the project will go to advertisement in September if all of the right-of-way negotiations are complete.

City Attorney Craig Brown told the Board that the purpose for acquiring the property in the 1980’s was to provide athletic fields for CHS. He said that even though the land is owned by the City, it was his legal opinion that the City School Board should formally give consent, given that the land is used for school athletics.

School Board member Kathleen Galvin raised the concern that traffic on the road would be too fast, and perhaps inappropriate given the proximity to the school. “It’s very alluring to see the continuous  parkland going from Melbourne Road to CATEC, however the reality it’s going to be a very fast road and it’s not going to be pedestrian friendly by any means unless there is some conscious effort to provide pedestrian overpasses,” Galvin said.

School Board Chairman Ned Michie shared Galvin’s concerns about pedestrian safety, and also wanted more information on the timing of the construction of the road.   “My concern for the school and traffic is that the County portion… will be completed prior to the other section being completed, and then you’ll have a lot of traffic from Rio Road flowing down this and dead-ending on Melbourne,” Michie said.

Galvin suggested adopting the resolution with conditions, and Michie appeared to agree as well. Board member Juandiego Wade, who is familiar with the work because of his position as the County’s transportation planner, suggested that City staff appear before the Board at the April 17 meeting to fill in the information gaps  left by DeJarnette. But Wade also said further delay will increase the cost of the road.

Sean Tubbs

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