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July 19, 2009

Council candidate holds forum highlighting opposition to Meadowcreek Parkway; Blames Albemarle for its growth and lack of road building

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By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, July 19, 2009

On July 18, 2009, in front of the First Amendment Monument on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, Independent City Council candidate Bob Fenwick held a forum to share his views on the Meadowcreek Parkway project.  Fenwick plans to hold these weekly forums, between now and the general election in November, to engage voters in his campaign and to take questions from local media.

20090718-fenwick2

In this first of what the candidate calls, “Fenwick’s Forums,” about six people listened to Fenwick discuss why he is opposed to the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, a road he said is already obsolete before it has been built.  Other parkway opponents present at the forum included Rich Collins, Peter Kleeman, and Stratton Salidas. Fenwick illustrated his remarks with drawings on the First Amendment Monument.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090718-Fenwick

“I oppose the Meadowcreek Parkway,” said Fenwick.  “I will join any lawsuit against it, and I demonstrate against it because I believe it is wrong.”  Fenwick said the parkway, which has already begun construction in Albemarle County between Rio Road and Melbourne Road, is a project that reflects 1950s era thinking about cities and transportation.  

“Well we’ve changed a lot since then,” said Fenwick. “The environmental regulations have come along.  People want their cities to be healthful, they want to be able to bring their children and family into the city and enjoy it, and that is the basis, probably, for my opposition to the Meadowcreek Parkway.”

Fenwick holds forum highlighting opposition to Meadowcreek Parkway
from Charlottesville Tomorrow on Vimeo.

Fenwick pointed to decisions in neighboring Albemarle County where he said leaders were forcing the parkway into the “heart of Charlottesville” at McIntire Park, with the tacit approval of the current City Council.

“The County has walked away from their responsibility for their road building. The Western Bypass will never be built, the Eastern Connector will never be built as it stands right now,” said Fenwick.

Fenwick said the County had not improved roads to support new development in the Pantops area and that this traffic was creating a chokepoint on the Route 250 bypass.  He said the funds dedicated for the Meadowcreek Parkway should be redirected to other projects.  

“They don’t have to lose that money, it’s an earmark, it’s political pork.  They can arrange to have that money designated for all the other scores of road improvements that we need in our area,” said Fenwick.

20090718-fenwick1 Fenwick was asked by Charlottesville Tomorrow if he supported the Western Bypass and whether he thought the County also had the right to walk away from an “obsolete” road project.

“The route of the Western bypass is no longer feasible,” said Fenwick.  “The Eastern Connector, I don’t think was feasible from the beginning….The County knew very well the opposition the City residents had [to the] Meadowcreek Parkway, and yet they went ahead and tried to force the City’s hand by doing the county portion…”

Fenwick said that if the Board of Supervisors was smart, they would make plans to convert the portion of the parkway being built today into a walkway.

Fenwick was also asked about the 1991 Three Party Agreement between the City, County, and University of Virginia which calls for the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway before a Western Bypass of Route 29 is built.  Fenwick said, if elected to City Council, he would not be bound by past Council decisions.

“I start from scratch, I would not be bound…I would not say, ‘I have to vote for a bad idea because somebody in the past voted for a bad idea.’”

Fenwick’s position puts him more in line with the views of incumbent City Council candidate Dave Norris (D) who is also opposed to the Meadowcreek Parkway.  Kristin Szakos (D), the other nominee of the Charlottesville Democratic Party, has said that while she is opposed to the Meadowcreek Parkway, she will note vote to stop, it if it comes before Council, unless a court determines it to be illegal.

On her campaign website, Szakos outlines her position as follows:

“Although I do not like the parkway’s route, I will not vote to overturn that approval.  The decision has been made by a duly elected body and should stand unless a court determines that it is illegal.  I plan to work to encourage completion of a bypass that would carry through traffic around the city, rather than onto the Meadowcreek Parkway.”

One audience member asked Fenwick if there could be a public referendum on the Meadowcreek Parkway.  Fenwick said he thought City Council would have to approve that, but that there would be a de facto referendum on the City’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway on election day in November.  

“The city can speak loudly and clearly [on] what they want done about the Meadowcreek Parkway and several other issues that I will be speaking about in the weeks to come,” said Fenwick.  “There will be no doubt in anybody’s mind in City Hall, if I’m elected, what the citizens of Charlottesville want, and that the citizens of Charlottesville reject several of the polices that the current City Council is following.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

01:25 – Bob Fenwick (I) describes his plan to hold weekly public forums.
01:53 – Fenwick says he is opposed to the Meadowcreek Parkway project.
04:23 – Fenwick explains reasons he is opposed to the Meadowcreek Parkway.
05:34 – Fenwick outlines what he views as Albemarle County’s responsibilities for building the Route 29 Western Bypass and the Eastern Connector.
07:07 – Fenwick describes his view of letter from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on their evaluation of McIntire Road Extended, the City’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway.
07:38 – Fenwick describes three areas in City where he thinks road improvements are needed (Free Bridge, McIntire Road at US 250 bypass, and Hydraulic Road at Route 29).
10:59 – Fenwick discusses Chamber of Commerce’s support for the Meadowcreek Parkway.
15:28 – Fenwick describes projects like the Pavilion as a good alternative to roads like the Meadowcreek Parkway, attractions that bring people into Downtown Charlottesville.
18:25 – Fenwick answers questions

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