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April 24, 2010

Parkway opponents denied a hearing by Virginia Supreme Court

Reader comments (2) DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, April 24, 2010

The opponents of the Meadowcreek Parkway learned Friday that their appeal to stop the use of city-owned land in Albemarle for the county’s portion of the parkway has been dismissed by the Virginia Supreme Court.

The court determined that the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park had failed to file its appeal in a timely matter. The coalition is continuing to prepare for a potential federal lawsuit against the portions of the parkway located within the city of Charlottesville.

“We raised a number of grounds for the court not to take the case,” said Craig Brown, the Charlottesville city attorney. “The fact it was not filed in a timely matter was one of those grounds. This round seems to be over, and it was concluded in favor of the city and the department of transportation.”

The coalition’s Peter Kleeman in an interview said the group’s “original appeal was submitted within the time required for an appeal, but the clerk notified us that it did not include some of the required material.”

“The supplemental material was provided, but not considered timely,” he said.

The case of Peter Kleeman, et al. v. City of Charlottesville was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court after a June ruling from Charlottesville Circuit Judge Jay Swett. Swett denied the coalition’s claim that a City Council vote needed to be a supermajority - four of five members - to lawfully convey property to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

In February, city resident Kleeman made oral arguments over the telephone with a three-judge panel of the Virginia Supreme Court, which reviewed whether to hear his group’s legal appeal.

Kleeman argued that the City Council’s granting of a permanent easement allowing construction of the road was inconsistent with the Virginia Constitution and should be voided.

The coalition has recently met with Brown, at the direction of the City Council, to review procedural matters so that opponents of the parkway can challenge the project in federal court before ground is broken in McIntire Park.

The coalition has prepared a resolution for the council’s consideration that, if approved, would prevent construction of the parkway south of Melbourne Road until the Federal Highway Administration has made its “final determination” on the plans for a grade-separated interchange at the U.S. 250 Bypass.

The coalition has long insisted that the parkway should be viewed as one federal project and that its segmentation is designed to avoid a more extensive environmental review.

“We believe that if the parkway were viewed as one project, other alternatives beyond going through McIntire Park would be considered,” Kleeman said. “It would conceivably change the alignment of the project and our primary goal of preserving McIntire Park might be achieved.”

Local attorney Robert P. Hodous, a parkway supporter who works with the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview that any other alignment of the parkway didn’t make sense.

“When you look at what has been done to satisfy the city, they have gotten everything they have asked for,” Hodous said. “They got the replacement park land, they got it as a two-lane road, and they got the separate grade-separated interchange.”

Meanwhile, VDOT has negotiated a 60-day extension for the low bid to construct the city’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, making it possible to still award a contract for more than $2 million less than the original estimate. The lowest bid, for $3.37 million, came from Key Construction Co. Inc., based in Clarksville. The project’s original construction estimate was for $5.58 million.

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