Chairman of the board: Fuhgeddaboudit when 29 bypass involved

If tradition had been upheld on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, Duane Snow would be chairman. Instead, at its first meeting of the year, the usually decorous board got testy over election of the chairman– and who would hold the real position of power: a seat on the transportation-controlling Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Supervisor Ken Boyd accused his anti-29-bypass colleagues of "politicizing" the longstanding tradition of rotating the chair every two years and passing it on to the vice-chair. In this case, Snow would have succeeded Ann Mallek in 2012– if the wounds weren't still fresh over the notorious midnight vote that brought the 29 bypass roaring back to life.


"This is pretty much a rerun of last year," said Supervisor Dennis Rooker, who made it clear at the January 9 meeting the only way Snow would get a majority vote for board chair would be if he gave up his seat on the MPO.


Republican supes Boyd, Snow, and Rodney Thomas, who is Albemarle's other rep on the MPO, favor the bypass; independent Rooker and Dems Mallek and Christopher Dumler don't. The Board of Supervisors had long opposed the 6.2-mile road until a former supervisor changed his position in a June 8, 2011, midnight vote and paved the way for the resurrection of the bypass.

"I think there's some hard feelings for Lindsay Dorrier's changed vote," says Snow.

"Being chairman is ceremonial," explains Snow. "You can't make policy. Whereas the MPO has options to get things done in the community that need to be done." And the five-person regional board can greenlight transportation projects like the 29 bypass.

When he ran for election in 2009, says Snow, he was told no new roads had been built in Albemarle in 30 years, including BOS-approved projects like the Hillsdale Connector and widening the bottleneck on U.S. 29 north, where it drops to two lanes.

"We've had these projects, but there was no money," says Snow. "If we supported the bypass, these other things would be funded. That's why being on the MPO is so important. If you have someone on it who wants to kill the bypass, these other projects would die, too."

Snow notes that Rooker served on the MPO for 10 years, and when Snow was elected to the board, they flipped a coin for the position. Rooker won and stayed on the MPO for an additional year, then turned the position over to Snow. At that time, the BOS was split 3-3 on the bypass– until Dorrier changed his vote.

Ann Mallek, who by default becomes the board's longest serving chair in recent history as she enters her fourth year, is unrepentant about tying the chairmanship to an MPO seat. "The MPO decides what's going to be done with federal funds," she says. "That makes it an important position."

As for the custom of serving as chair for two years then stepping aside, she points out another tradition: Supporting the Board of Supervisors' 20 years of opposition to the bypass.

"Dennis was on the MPO for 10 years, but he went along with the board's position," she says. "[Snow and Thomas] went off on their own to talk to the secretary of transportation– the opposite of the board's position."

Mallek says she asked Snow for his preference– the chair or the MPO seat– and he chose the MPO. And with the board's bitter 3-3 split on the bypass spilling over, Snow will remain on the MPO indefinitely, assuming he's reelected to his Samuel Miller District seat in November.

"We work very well on most issues," says Mallek. "We clearly don't find any middle ground on this bypass issue. That's why I've drawn a line in the sand."

"We get along well, we play well together," agrees Snow. "That was different on Wednesday. It was politics at its worst. It was like children."

Despite being twice denied the chairmanship, says Snow, "I don't hold a grudge and I don't feel cheated. I'm not crying."


Thank you Mallek and Rooker. (and to those late night road-building boys: Ain*t paybacks hell?!

Anyone else here feel like we are just pawns on a chessboard while these guys play their games?

Mallek and Rooker are acting like spoiled children. "You don't want to play our way so we aren't going to let you play at all! Nyah! So there!"

The bypass, and other overdue transportation projects, are going to be built, with or without you, so get over it already.

So, downtowner, you think getting a vote at midnight as the public was virtually cleared out and pushing it through with one vote that was questionable at best is playing fair? Serves them right, and it's too bad old geezers have to be underhanded to "win." Maybe their constituents tolerate their behavior because they know how to pander to them - but it stank. It's not something that will be forgotten.

Yes, THank you to Mallek, Rooker, Dumler, and, I'm sure, many others, who for decades didn't sell out their neighbors.

I don't know how any rationale person could imagine that stupid bypass and conclude that it would help Charlottesville or even this mythical "through-traffic," which, is continuously being routed elsewhere.

And also....... to think about forever laying waste to that gorgeous ridge under Woodburn Rd....
THAT is a sin against God.

No its a sin against God to do what you want despite what the majority of your voters want. If only there had been someone running against Ann in her last election........

That dude is a dead ringer for the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Isn't it sad that decent people who serve in politics are treated to schoolyard behavior. I have no dog in the Bypass issue. I don't live in the county and am agnostic as to whether or not it goes forward.

However, I am compelled to say that I have known Duane Snow for many years. They don't come more honest, decent, kind and caring. He is a man who both talks the talk and walks the walk. He's run a first rate business and has honored his promises with rapidity and graciousness. He's reached out to newcomers in the community and made them feel welcomed when others were too important and too self adsorbed to do so.

So, let's not turn every issue in Albemarle County into a personality driven contest.

BTW, the traffic on 29 north and south is out of control. Something needs to be done, but it should be done in the sunshine and not in the dark.

Agree with you matt dolan on all counts and I don't share Snow's political party but I would vote for him anyway if I was in his district. (That is called being a grown up.)

I also have an interest in the bypass, as a county resident. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, our population has grown while the roads have remained the same for the most part. Something needs to be done with 29 North and those opposing the bypass are not coming up with any solutions.

250 needs to major changes too but then here we have always had those who don't want to change or modernize things or add new business because they oppose change. They may site environmental concerns but they don't come up with alternatives either.

Native, you need to start paying attention to the whole conversation before you chastise people for the lack of alternatives that they HAVE submitted. We have 16 lanes of asphalt on 29. The proposed elevated interchanges for the for the major intersections and the lane expansion for the 29/250 ramp are both still on the planning list regardless of the bypass.

The interchange proposed for the bypass at 250 is inaccessible for freight vehicles, the bypass does nothing for the Hollymeade traffic jam, and more effective and less invasive plans are already set for 29 in Charlottesville that will alleviate traffic with out sending passenger traffic away from Charlottesville commerce. Tell me again why the bypass is a good idea?

As a city resident who lives on the southside of town, I'd like to be able to bypass the three dozen or so lights on 29N when trying to get out of town. Unfortunately, the way the bypass is designed it will help with only about two thirds of the lights strung up on the way north out of the county, and won't help at all with the new lights popping up in Greene, Madison, Culpeper, Fauqiuer, and PW counties on the way to I66. The only thing that would solve those problems would be a new interstate running along 29's route, which no one has the money for. So, with or without a bypass we will eventually find it faster to get north by either taking I64 west to connect to I81, or taking the country routes east to connect with I95. Great planning, central Va -- amazing that only Lynchburg and Danville seemed to figure out ways to avoid this mess.

Amen, MT! I have been driving Rt. 29 from Charlottesville to Danville for over twenty years. Danville and Lynchuburg have done their part to clean up the flow of traffic. Why can't Charlottesville? It is not just a geographical issue. This is a town full of NIMBYs!

Will a bypass redirect money from area businesses where profit margins have already become thin? People do say "oh, I'll stop by the other starbucks since it's on the way out of town anyway." (Or, Add "Fashion Square Mall" instead)

MT et al. -- Don't forget Madison, Culpeper, and Warrenton, too. Charlottesville is the only city or town on Rt. 29 without a bypass, except for the new metropolis of Gainesville. But Gainesville at least has the Rt. 15 cut through up to I-66.

Observer, Native etc., you do realize this proposed bypass won't really bypass anything at all don't you? Even if it were to end a little father North, the constant addition of new driveways, stops lights, and traffic between Ruckersville and I-66 will undo any gain in just a few years. Charlottesville doesn't have anything to do with that. Wasting many millions on a pointless bypass won't help anyone but a few contractors and their elected friends.

Rooker and Mallek are hypocrites of the highest order. Two years running, they have hijacked the chairman's seat for an unprecedented, phantom "requirement" that the share power on the MPO.

First of all, this our-side-of-the-aisle nonsense out of Rooker for once and for all blows his label of "Independent" out of the water. There should be no such thing if he's really an independent and no alignment with declared Democrats Mallek and Dumler. All one needs to do is look at the entirety of Rooker's votes since he got on the BOS to determine he is CLEARLY a liberal Democrat, despite his ridiculous self-label of "Independent".

Second, let's clear up the fallacy that the public was denied imput because Dorrier chose to change his vote at midnight, 4:00 a.m., 1:45 p.m., or any other time. Public comment sessions and hearings about the bypass project have been going on for decades as the tree-hugging, Prius-driving crowd has sought to keep Albemarle County from progressing (it seems "progressives" cease being just that when it comes to us doing anything but living in sardine can communities with only a bike to get around). Dorrier was within his right to change his vote and the boo-hooing (egged on by Rooker and Mallek) really needs to stop.

Like Rooker, I live in the Jack Jouett District. But unlike he - trying to save his own property with his NIMBY zeal - I say bring the bypass on. Break ground tomorrow and get it built. Quit holding up PROGRESS, Mr. Rooker. Better yet, why don't you just not run for re-election this year? Give us all a break. And if he runs, the local GOP needs to quit handing unconstested seats to Rooker and Mallek, and find SOMEONE TO RUN.

Amanda - it was ignorant people crying such that got us a useless million dollar fence on the 5th st bridge. There is no reason to waste millions of dollars on a project that accomplishes little to nothing.

I've observed many commenters (an Observer is the most recent) repeat the false mantra that "Charlottesville is the only city on US-29 without a bypass"?

The 29 Bypass runs from I-64 to Best Buy. It bypasses the original (now business) 29, which runs along Fontaine Avenue, JPA, and Emmet Street. This is a very simple fact.

Now, if we were debating which cities have built a second bypass, it would be a shorter list: Lynchburg and Danville. Charlottesville would not be on that list. But neither would Culpeper, Madison, and many other towns further south.

@Still Living, I said as a county resident I have an interest in the bypass, I didn't say I approved of it, now did I? Perhaps you should truly read what is written.

As I see it this is something that has been discussed for going on thirty years here with no real solutions on either side of the issue. This area has the short-sightedness and/or people rally against things to create the mess of the roads here. Example: Forrest Lakes, I knew when that subdivision was being built and the entrance off 29 North in that area it would be a death trap. So did many others. It still is, even with the speed of traffic lowered, folks still zoom through doing 60 or more.

We build here and then look around and say, "Oh, we need a road to go there." and then, "Oh, we need parking." I don't know who does the planning but they do it poorly. Examples: Target - that parking lot is poor, if you have an SUV driving down one way and a car the other, neither can pass without stopping and pulling over to the parking area to let the other go. Stonefield? That is a mess now, with all the shops opening it will be a cluster you-know-what. Fashion Square, with all the exits going through apartment complexes and such - easy way for a shoplifter to get lost - or any other criminal. Downtown - true idiocy for parking and traffic. UVA - a downright total mess that guarantees if the slightest thing is going on, backups for hours. Whole Foods new location - worst place ever. I can list more and more but you get the picture. IMO - we should level the whole thing and start all over again.

Compare with other cities and areas out there - we have no grid and no real planning. Then you get into the whole UVA vs. County vs. City pi##ing contests of who is more of a victim.

Sad. And I speak the truth, which will anger many but it is the truth.

@ C'ville Native

All I can say is "AMEN BROTHER". I've been around here since 1972 and it has gone from nice to OK to bad to worse!

I am not sure who to blame, but there is a long list of people who have profited from all the development. Start with A in the alphabet and go to Z and you will find all of the players who have contributed to and profited from this mess. Money, greed and power are the ingredients in this stew.

All of your observations are dead on. And there is plenty of blame to go around. Maybe the time has come to stop all major development until it is completely scoped out as to traffic parking and environmental damage.

Native - I made no comment as to what you approve or not. First you complain about the people who have been fighting the thoughtless construction in Charlottesville, now you complain about the thoughtless construction. And your comment that no one has proposed alternatives is simply ignorant. If you are not interested enough to follow the discussion and the proposals, don't waste your time trying to gab on who is doing what.

@Still Living - this article is about the insane politics in our community - not really about the construction but because of the strange politics here we get insane development. My first comment was to agree with someone about Mr. Snow, whose family has built a very good business in this area and continues to prosper and satisfy their customers. He has a vested interest in this community also being a native. All I stated is that I had a vested interest because I live here and sited that there does need to be improvements but I have no idea what would improve it because it already a complete mess!

I learned long ago, ultimately none of us have a say in what happens to our roads to anything because of the politics in the state, county, city and with UVA - money does. Has there been any thoughtful construction in this area? You are delusional if you think that the alternatives that have been proposed will be accepted in this community if money is behind the original and/or money objects to any alternative. And how would any proposed plan fix the insanity of the roadways here? It is a complete catch 22 everywhere. You do A - then W has issues, you do B then V has issues.

You can throw a coat of paint on the wall but if it wasn't prepared right, it will still look like crap.

It's plain and simple; a 6.2 mile stretch of road with a 55 mile an hour speed limit with no stop lights, bypassing at least 15 or more stop lights. Like it or not, it is an alternate North/South route and although not perfect, as no road in the area is, it WILL help traffic, as people passing through the area would not need to drive through the business section of town. Of course there are better ways to doing anything but this is what is on the table and any improvement will be a nice addition to the terrible traffic in the 29 corridor. You can't add 4 new lanes north and south adjacent to 29 and tell me this will do nothing for traffic. Just as 4 lanes move more traffic than 2, a separate road adjacent to 29 will have a larger traffic volume that can be handled. I know there will always be whiners, no matter what is done, but this will be a road that will improve the driving experience for many people who rely on this congested section of 29 to get to and from work and home. This may not help congestion for Hollymead and it may not bypass every light but as long as the area grows, you will never be able to bypass all growth, it's impossible. That being said, this bypass makes sense, I'm glad it's happening, and the whiners can whine while I enjoy getting north of town in 10 minutes instead of 30 to 40.

What would you demand of someone who spends $240,000,000.00 of your money? Its not perfect and I don't care about the half dozen submitted alternatives, so lets buy a quarter billion dollar bucket with holes in it. What could you accomplish in Charlottesville with a quarter of a billion dollars?