Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
More Harrison Connector Road discussion
Supervisors last night discussed the Harrison Connector Road again.
Supervisor Vince Onorato said the road appears to be a “back entrance to the mall,” which ignited debate about whether this road proposed to be near the Spotsylvania Towne Center is a public or a private road.
It’s a key distinction to make because the developer of the road, Cafaro Company, may need to condemn property to build this controversial road.
Alfred King, who is running for county treasurer, asked supervisors that very question last night:
“Is it a public road or is it a private road?
The road ends at the rear entrance of the mall, he said.
The proposed alignment of the 1.5 mile road would begin at the back of the mall, connecting with Rt. 710 or what some call Bragg Road Extended. The road would then end at Harrison Road, just west of Hazelwild Farm.
Virginia law prohibits any government from exercising its eminent domain powers on private property for private uses. In other words, you can’t take a home to build a hotel. This decision is connected to the Kelo case, and how the Supreme Court voted that a government can condemn private property for economic development.
King argues that because this road will bring more people to the mall, it really benefits the developer more than the county’s residents.
“Until this is resolved, I think we are going to be spinning our wheels,” King said.
Dale Swanson, who owns six acres off Burgess Lane that are most affected by this proposed alignment of the road, begged supervisors last night to help her.
“Gentlemen, it’s obvious this road won’t solve any of the problems it was intended to,” she said.
What problems was this road to solve? Well, I have heard estimates that once the connector road is built, it could take at least 15,000 cars of State Route 3. The connector road doesn’t have a direct connection to the heavily congested Rt. 3, but people driving from the western part of the county can bypass Rt. 3 and use Harrison Road, which will take them to behind the mall. Bragg Road Extended will take them to Rt. 3.
Supervisor Gary Jackson, appearing perplexed with all of the commotion over this road, said the record indicates this road is to relieve traffic on Rt. 3. That’s the only reason supervisors approved the rezoning for the mall.
“I think we all ought to go back to read the proffers and remind ourselves actually what this deal was,” he said. “It is also my recollection that road connects to Bragg Road, which is a public road.”
Even County Attorney Jacob Stroman chimed in and said the road will be built and VDOT will maintain it, which makes it “unquestionably” a public road.
Supervisor T.C. Waddy never knew that the county government, according to the proffer agreement, will have to begin the condemnation proceedings against any homeowners unwilling to part with property Cafaro Co. needs for the road.
“Something just don’t sound right,” he said. “We’re doing all the dirty work for them and they are doing what they want to do.”
Six of the seven supervisors were on the county board when this proffer agreement was signed. Supervisor Jerry Logan was elected in a special election last year and was not involved in the negotiating of this project. He’s now the main supervisor who is digging into this project. Each layer he uncovers, the more concerns he seems to express. He has called the proffer agreement “flawed.”
The proffer agreement gives the county no control over where the road will go. Supervisors only dictated in the agreement that Cafaro Co. ensure potholes are always fixed on the mall’s private ring road. That’s it. Where it goes and how it’s built is all up to Cafaro Co., and approved by VDOT.
Oddly enough, VDOT’s District Administrator Dave Ogle indicated in a July 10 memo that “the decision as to the location of the Connector road belongs to the County and the Cafaro Company.”
VDOT never signed the proffer agreement.
Pause for a second and digest all of that, and then feel free to comment about all of this. I’d love to hear what anyone has to say. And then prepare for another story on this project in the coming days, maybe even as early as tomorrow.
Gotta get to work now! Adios. Oh wait…English is the official language in the county. Bye-bye.