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May 09, 2012

Effort to pave rural road fails; supervisors adopt secondary-road priorities

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The owner of a 4,000-acre farm in southern Albemarle County failed in an effort Wednesday to pave a quarter-mile stretch of Blenheim Road using his own funds.
 
RoadPave2
Location of the portion of Blenheim Road that was requested to be paved. 
The Virginia Department of Transportation will allow private interests to pay for rural rustic road paving projects, but will only issue a permit if the project has the support of elected officials.
 
Albemarle supervisors deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to indicate that support because several property owners along the road were opposed.
 
“It’s hard for me to ignore the people who spoke out against the road,” said Supervisor Christopher Dumler.
In 2003, Tom Sullivan of Murcielago LLC paid to pave a 3.5-acre stretch of the road from Secretarys Road to Mount Pleasant Farm Road.
 
The section was not paved at the time because VDOT regulations did not allow paving if there was not at least 50 feet of right of way. Landowners opposed to the project declined to give an easement.
 
Since then, VDOT has created a “rural rustic” paving classification, which has lower standards. Rural rustic projects can only be done on roads with fewer than 1,500 vehicles per day, must be primarily for local traffic and must have the minimal potential for traffic growth.
 The county sent out letters to property owners in the vicinity to inform them of Sullivan’s request.
 
“I have heard from eight people with three in support and five opposed,” said David Benish, the county’s chief of planning.
 
One of the opponents is Laura Dollard, who owns property on both sides of the unpaved portion of the road. She said she moved to her farm in 1988 and has been a careful steward of the land.
 
“I want to keep it the way it is,” Dollard said. “There is nothing wrong with the road.”
 
Dollard said she was concerned that paving the road would cause vehicles to drive too fast. She suggested keeping a stretch of it unpaved would preserve history because Thomas Jefferson used to take Blenheim Road to get to Scottsville from Monticello.
 
However, Sullivan said none of Dollard’s land would be affected by the project.
 
“If we do it as a rural rustic we’re not touching anything on either side of the road,” Sullivan said.
 
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd voted in favor of the project.
 
“I don’t think we can pass up the opportunity when a citizen comes forward and is willing to pay for it,” Boyd said.
 
Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker said there were merits on both sides, but he voted against approval.
 
“When you have a situation when people who live on the road frontage don’t want it paved, we don’t allow paving to take place,” Rooker said. “I don’t know how you overcome that.”
 
In other news, the county adopted a priority list for secondary road funding that will mostly go toward paying for several bridge replacement projects.
 
Projects will include replacements of bridges on Dry Bridge Road, Broomley Road, Black Cat Road and Dick Woods Road.
 
The county is only expected to receive $350,000 a year for secondary road funds through fiscal year 2018.
 
“Due to the limited amount of state funding available over the next six years, major construction projects identified on the county’s strategic priority list do not appear to be viable projects to include at this time,” Benish said.
 
Three of the top four priorities for major projects are a $38 million extension of Berkmar Drive Extended, $10 million to widen the western portion of Proffitt Road, and the Sunset-Fontaine Connector. The fourth county priority is the extension of Hillsdale Drive, which is actually located in the city of Charlottesville.
 
“We used to get close to $6 million a year,” Rooker said. “Therefore, there’s no money for any of these projects for the next six years.”
 

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