Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
The Harrison Connector Road saga continues
There sure were fireworks during last night’s Planning Commission meeting and I am not talking about the 4th of July kind.
The Cafaro Company’s Harrison Road Project continues to be controversial. People who live near the mall and where the current proposed road alignment is are just not happy about it. A story will appear in tomorrow’s paper about some of the hullabaloo.
But I couldn’t include all of the comments. I can do it here.
First some background:
Supervisors approved a rezoning for the Spotsylvania Towne Centre’s $90 million expansion and upgrade. But they required Cafaro to build the connector road.
“The proffer for the connector road was not the idea of the Cafaro Company or the Spotsylvania Mall Company,” said David DeChristofaro, vice president of engineer and development for Cafaro. “It was the idea of Spotsylvania County.”
Ever since the rezoning approval, Cafaro has run into roadblocks. A few residents wouldn’t allow surveyors onto their land to study the road alignment and how much land Cafaro would need. DeChristofaro said it took county officials a year to send rights of entry letters–legal letters that allow surveyors to enter private property–to those residents.
And at Wednesday’s public hearing, the issue blew up again. Cafaro needs an extension to acquire the rights of way for the road. Commissioners recommended supervisors approve the request.
Dale Swanson has been one of the more vocal opponents of the road. She owns a home on six acres on Burgess Lane. She said the road will destroy her property and that Cafaro already had surveyors illegally enter her property last November. She said they damaged rare trees and plants.
She gave commissioners a letter with these points of argument:
1. Originally, Cafaro said they would pay for the Harrison Connector Road. Now they have set up a Community Development District and as a property owner I am going to have to pay for the destruction of my own property.
Answer: DeChristofaro said Cafaro Company did early on say it would finance the road “and we still intend to finance the road. But those construction costs will be refunded or reimbursed through a CDA. We had said from the beginning that the only properties that will pay for the construction of the road are those properties zoned commercial. It just so happens our property is the only one zoned commercial. [Other property owners] will not pay until they rezone, change use or subdivide. Ms. Swanson will not pay unless she does that.”
Analysis: One point he didn’t state was that if someone sells their property that is in the CDA, they would have to pay the CDA. So, if you sell your land, you have to pay, too.
2. Cafaro has said that my property value will be enhanced. The only way this could happen is if my property is rezoned as Commercial.
Cafaro did not respond to this.
Analysis: Swanson will be reimbursed for any portion of her land that is used or damaged by the road. She currently has her property on the market for $10 million.
3. The Harrison Connector Road was supposed to alleviate traffic on State Route 3. The present layout will not do this, only add more cars in the parking lot.
Answer: DeChristofaro said traffic engineers and VDOT all agreed that the connector road will improve traffic flow for State Route 3. He said about 20,000 cars a day will use the connector road.
Additional Information: But some residents believe because the connector road begins at Bragg Road and State Route 3 and not further east, traffic won’t be improved to much. Most of the gridlock begins right in that area.
4. At a meeting of the Waverly Village residents, Cafaro said they would prefer to build the road closer to I-95 but VDOT prohibited it.
Answer: DeChristofaro has consistently said that Cafaro prefers to build the road closer to I-95 because it’s the least expensive route. However, VDOT cannot prohibit it. Harry Lee, a VDOT representative, did say VDOT would not recommend building the road closer to I-95 because it would affect future expansion. He said the result could mean that some time in the future, the connector road would have to be moved or demolished.
“I don’t believe that alternative is available anymore,” DeChristofaro said.
Plus, moving the road closer to I-95 would affect the placement of a hotel and an agreement with the hotel would most likely end. That’s lost tax revenue, he said.
There you have it.
This is going to be a controversial project until the day it’s built and even then it could still be an issue if residents don’t see traffic improve on State Route 3 as has been stated.