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Road plan still fueling anger in King George

King George residents and officials gave VDOT another bashing this week over proposed work at State Route 206 and Owens Road.

Property owners were reeling from the latest drawings that showed how much land would be taken along Route 206 for utility easements. Several residents will lose trees that had been a buffer between their homes and the road or give up big chunks of their yards.

A drainage easement is planned on Roy Hoback’s land.

“I feel this is a terrible injustice,” he said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “They’ve ruined my property.”

Since last summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation has taken heat from residents about how much land is needed for the $4.1 million project. The plan would add lanes on Route 206 for motorists turning onto Owens Drive or Windsor Drive.

In response to complaints, VDOT met with county officials several times and scaled back its needed rights-of-way to minimize the impact on homeowners. But complaints resurfaced again earlier this month when residents saw what land utility companies need for the project.

They also complained to supervisors—who have no control over road projects—about negotiators sent to deal with property owners.

Paul Plaschko said he had asked that VDOT leave a few trees in his yard and install ditches, but the negotiator wouldn’t put it in writing. Plaschko said he also heard about shockingly low offers for land along Route 206.

“That must be where the term ‘highway robbery’ came from,” he said.

David Brown, the Northern Neck residency administrator for VDOT, attended Tuesday’s meeting and sat in the audience as people complained. When it was time for him to speak, he responded briefly to points made by residents. He stressed that VDOT hadn’t changed its plans and that easements are needed so utilities can do their work. He also said residents can negotiate on the price they get for rights-of-way, just as they would if they were buying a house.

Supervisor Joe Grzeika wanted more information on that. Yes, people can decide not to accept VDOT’s price, Grzeika said, but then the state condemns their land and “the citizen goes through a process with the court to determine the fair market value. That’s the piece that hasn’t been explained.”

“And that’s at the residents’ cost?” Supervisor Ruby Brabo asked.

“That’s right,” said Eric Gregory, county attorney.

“Nice,” said Plaschko from the audience.

Brown stood in front of the supervisors as they, too, bashed the plan just as residents had done earlier.

Supervisors discovered that VDOT officials aren’t the ones negotiating the land deals. A Maryland company has been hired to do the work, and its representatives are supposed to report any complaints back to VDOT.

“Their job is to get the job done,” said Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr., suggesting all the negotiators cared about was the bottom line. He asked VDOT to “use a little common-sense approach” in realizing what impact the plan has on people.

He and other supervisors asked if a VDOT engineer could go with the negotiators and maintain a “sense of reasonableness,” said Supervisor Chairman Dale Sisson Jr.

“Maybe if your engineers went out there, you wouldn’t need to cut down all the trees in front of their houses,” Brabo said.

Brown said he’d take the concerns back to VDOT. Sisson said he also wanted to meet again with Quintin Elliott, Fredericksburg’s district administrator for VDOT, “to hammer home” the latest points made.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

cdyson@freelancestar.com

BOARD REVERSES DELAY, BUMPS SHILOH PARK BACK UP TO 2013

Shiloh Park is back on the table again. King George supervisors on Tuesday reversed an earlier decision to delay the work until their budget is complete.

They learned the contractor can’t extend his bid for two months—until the board has looked over all its capital projects—so supervisors agreed, in a 4 to 1 vote, to proceed with the planned fields and courts.

“This is a good bid,” said County Administrator Travis Quesenberry. “It’s probably the best price we’re going to get.”

Supervisors had $1.1 million for the park. To that, they’ll add $270,000 from a Hopyard Farm proffer and $80,000 from the capital-projects fund. The $350,000 will cover the cost of irrigation and field equipment, such as bleachers and bases, and fund other construction-related costs.

Supervisor Ruby Brabo voted against the project because she preferred to stick to the original plan and review all the county’s needs. She also pointed out that a new facility brings new costs.

“If we can’t fund all the needs that we currently have, should we really move forward with building another park at this time?” she asked.

Shiloh Park is at the old landfill site, off State Route 205. The big hole on the property, where trash was removed and taken to the current landfill, will become a bowl-shaped park with baseball and soccer fields and a court for tennis, basketball and street hockey.

On Tuesday, the board also:

Applied for grant money for part of the infrastructure at the new free clinic, which is part of the proposed HELP Center. 

Heard a brief update on the proposed noise ordinance. County Attorney Eric Gore plans to bring a draft to the board, perhaps on April 16.

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