A $13.5 million road project in Crozet is coming under increased scrutiny from neighbors just as the road’s closure has been pushed from summer to the fall.
Virginia Department of Transportation officials met last week with about 20 residents from Old Trail Village to discuss plans for a stormwater runoff pond being built at the intersection of Old Trail Drive and Jarmans Gap Road.
“Our concerns are that this is one of two entrances to a beautiful community,” said John Rotherham, president of the Old Trail Community Association. “And before this meeting it appeared that one could conclude that VDOT was stonewalling us.”
VDOT is required by state law to build a retention pond while expanding Jarmans Gap Road. The road will be expanded from Route 240 to Old Trail Drive, and include 4-foot-wide bike lanes on either side of the road, as well as a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the northern side of the road. Each car lane will be a total of 12 feet, and include some turn lanes.
Last week, Rotherham wrote transportation Commissioner Gregory Whirley a letter on behalf of the community association, explaining why residents are opposed to the current pond designs.
“Our strong concerns center on how this pond, with minimal landscaping and a chain link fence, will create an eyesore in place of the current welcoming appearance at this entrance to our community,” Rotherham wrote.
The pond is currently designed to hold water running down from the construction site on Jarmans Gap, as well as from a housing development on the opposite side of the road. After heavy rainfall, the water will be held in the pond for about a day, before traveling through a pipe into Old Trail’s stormwater retention system. The deepest part of the pond is planned to be 10 feet.
At the meeting, Albemarle Supervisor Ann H. Mallek suggested that VDOT redesign the pond to act as a bio-filter, similar to one that is built off McIntire Road. A bio-filter would include mostly vegetation to absorb the water, but would still be linked to Old Trail’s existing infrastructure.
“You’re not building something monstrous,” Mallek said, “and you’re not building something that would stop construction of the roadway.”
“I’m not sure we will be able to redesign the pond,” explained Karen Kilby, program management director for VDOT in the Culpeper District.
Kilby said that a redesign could take time and would have to go through another approval process. Likewise, Kilby explained that VDOT may have to purchase additional right-of-way, depending on the details of the plan.
In his letter to Whirley, Rotherham explained that the cost of a bio-filter would be around $50,000, according to Collins Engineering Company, the planning contractor for Old Trail Village.
Rotherham wrote that they have “been seeking a more environmentally sound and aesthetically pleasing substitute — a bio-filter with landscaping compatible with our community’s standards.”
Kilby told Charlottesville Tomorrow that she was not prepared to discuss costs or designs.
“VDOT will be working with a group of homeowners in order to provide the best design that meets Virginia stormwater regulations, VDOT’s design criteria, the homeowners’ expectations, as well as make the best use of public funds,” Kilby wrote in an email.
Costs for the retention pond are included in the total cost for expansion of Jarmans Gap. Currently, the cost of construction is estimated to be $13,555,319.
Kilby said that VDOT would be willing to work with community members to re-assess the landscaping plan that will surround the pond. The details for a landscaping plan have not been finalized, but currently include a chain-link fence, along with various plants surrounding the pond.
“We don’t have to have a chain-link fence,” Kilby said.
Rotherham, along with other residents, indicated that the community association would elect a committee at a scheduled meeting to collaborate with VDOT going forward.
“Ideally, we would like the retention pond option to be rejected, and to substitute this new concept that Ann Mallek was describing,” Rotherham said. “That’s the idea. And we obviously want adequate landscaping, We found it reassuring that the VDOT spokesperson seems willing to work with us on that.”
On Wednesday, Kilby notified the Board of Supervisors that Jarmans Gap would be closed from Aug. 15 to Oct. 15 to install a box culvert over Powell’s Creek. The board had previously authorized the road to be closed from June to August. But Kilby explained that plans were delayed due to “unforeseen circumstances.”