No plow zone: The street that may never get scraped
What if you lived in Charlottesville, paid your taxes, but still found yourself living where public snowplows won't go? Residents of one city neighborhood say that's the situation they're facing because of a dispute between the developer and the city.
After two feet of snow fell in December, residents of the 16-house subdivision known as Roy's Place eagerly awaited snowplows. They heard one scraping on nearby Hartman's Mill Road and Rougemont Avenue. And then it moved on.
And that's when they learned of their legal limbo. According to residents, Roy's Place has never been plowed, and according to the city, it won't be until the dispute ends.
Residents ultimately had to dig themselves out from the two-foot blanket and from all the subsequent snowstorms. But with snow on the roads and more in the forecast, they're growing concerned about health and safety, especially the family with a baby on the way.
"My wife is in her third trimester," says resident Michael Lichtenstein. "I don't have four-wheel drive.
Lichtenstein says he called the Charlottesville Public Works Department during the December snowstorm. "A gentleman told me Roy's Place is on a do-not-plow list."
Indeed, Roy's has not been "accepted" by the city for street maintenance, according to city planning manager Missy Creasy, and that means it really does lie in a no-plow-zone.
"A letter has been sent to the developer for the work that needs to be completed," says Creasy "The developer has been put on notice."
Typically with new subdivisions, when a developer thinks a roadway is ready, he requests a final inspection, says Creasy. If that's okayed by the city engineer, the road goes before City Council, which accepts it and agrees to maintain it.
That hasn't happened with Roy's Place, which was carved into 18 lots in 2005 and now serves as home to 16 houses (including one owned by a Hook staffer).
"We're in a tough position because there are residents there," says Creasy, "but we're not in a position to do the work until the street has been accepted."
She says that it is a risk to buy into a subdivision when roads haven't been accepted, and she suggests the residents take up the matter with the developer.
But the developer, Bobby Banks, claims he's received no notice from the city. "Ask them what address they sent it to," he instructs.
Subsequent phone calls to Creasy requesting a copy of the notice were not returned.
Banks says all the work at Roy's Place was completed in good condition by reputable contractors. Any damage, he says, occurred after residents moved– particularly an incident he alleges of a high-speed police chase that sent both a perp and a police vehicle into a curb.
"And they want me to pay for that," he says. "Why am I responsible for the sidewalks?"
Banks says that he posted a bond–- $250,000 according to the city–- to ensure completion of the neighborhood, and he hasn't gotten it back.
One good bit of news for Roy's Place residents needing emergency services: "Typically we don't have too much trouble getting through snow until it's two feet deep," says city Fire Chief Charles Werner.
Uh-oh. That's what happened in December.
It could be worse. Lichtenstein says he was told the city wasn't supposed to be picking up trash on Roy's Place, either, and that residents should be hauling it to an adjacent street themselves.
"It's frustrating and it's disconcerting," says Lichtenstein, "especially when we pay taxes."
The city doesn't seem to think that the situation is affecting property values. While overall city residential assessments fell this year, Lichtenstein said his went up $2,400.
One spot of good news for the small subdivision: Roy's Place has underground electrical wires, so while it may not get plowed this winter, so far the lights have remained on.