Illegal transfer? Anti-Parkway plaintiffs make their case

news-meadowcreekparkwaysurveyA Virginia Beach-based surveying crew works the area around the Parkway along Route 250 on Wednesday, May 20.

Kenneth Shirley is not excited about the prospect of returning stockpiled materials for the Meadowcreek Parkway project.  A construction engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation, he told a Charlottesville courtroom that $400,000 has already been spent on supplies.

"You can't return them like a pair of pants to Wal-Mart," Shirley testified Tuesday, May 19, in the trial that pits his Department against a determined band of local citizens who argue that last year's transfer of a nine-acre stretch of land from the city of Charlottesville to VDOT was illegal.

Jennifer McKeever, representing the plaintiffs, argued that the city sold the public land to VDOT illegally by evading a three-fourths supermajority vote required by the Constitution of Virginia for selling public land by settling for a 3-2 vote. The transfer was also approved by a 4-1 vote by the city’s School Board last May. McKeever argued that $43,120 VDOT gave the city represented a sale.

However, according to Spencer Dejarnette, a representative from VDOT and witness for the defense, the funds– intended for landscaping around the project– represent a permanent easement, not a sale.

And Lori Pound, an assistant attorney general defending VDOT, argued that the land was transferred from one public use to another, and no sale occurred.

Judge Jay Swett, presiding over the hearing in Charlottesville Circuit Court, said that the transfer could be problematic and an issue requiring further exploration, citing an Attorney General's opinion from 2004.

The plaintiffs contend that if the Parkway is completed their property values will decrease, and the level of noise, pollution, and traffic in their area will significantly increase.

From the City's point of view, City Attorney Craig Brown and Pound argued that the plaintiffs, which include a citizens group called the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park, had insufficient personal injury to sue.

McKeever countered by saying that the plaintiffs’ residency in the North Downtown area of Charlottesville and their individual participation in the North Downtown Residents Association grants them standing. Association president Collette Hall, for instance, said she had not missed a public hearing on the project.

"I feel like the sixth city counselor," Hall testified.

To expand their case, the plaintiffs introduced eight witnesses, including Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, who testified that he opposed the roadway when Council voted on it last June.

VDOT attorney Pound argued that the state's injury would far exceed that of the plaintiffs' and stopping the project could cost VDOT as much as $20,000 a day. Of the $11.8 million budget for County's stretch of the Parkway, whose construction began in February, $1.4 million has already been spent, including the $400,000 for materials.

(The controversial Meadowcreek Parkway is slated for construction in three separate portions: Albemarle County's 1.4-mile part, the city's one-third mile stretch through McIntire Park, and the interchange at the Route 250 bypass and McIntire Road.)

Following the hearing, which lasted over six hours, Coalition member Stratton Saladis expressed optimism about his side's chances.

"I would bet on us," Saladis said. "But just barely."

Fellow plaintiff and Sierra Club chapter president John Cruickshank seemed pleased with the judge's handling of the hearing.

“He took our case very, very seriously and made a sincere effort to get all the information he needed to make a decision,” Cruickshank said. “Any decision he makes, we’ll accept it.”

To a point. Cruickshank also said there could be more potential legal action, including taking the case to federal court. “This is round one,” Cruickshank said. “Round two will be the main event.”

The judge gave no indication of when he might rule.


Another sign that this city is being ruined.

Agatha, You are correct. Your
view will eventually prevail.
What a selfish and selfserving push these short-sighted people have to move this "monster" through.

What a joke! Very few places in America exhibit such foolishness about development. I'd imagine that the detractors are very narrow-minded, vocal minority.

I agree. Build it. Seems to solve a lot of transportation problems in the urban area. It's too bad its supporters have not been as vocal.

Perhaps we should all drive thru ther North dowtown residents neighborhoods on our way downtown honking our horns every few feet in protest to their protest.

Or perhaps we could simply eminent domain their homes and turn the entire neighborhood into a park.

Perhaps Mr. Mcintire would be pleased that his donation will nused as a parkway to make charlottesville a better place to live and work for thousands.

This road has been on the drawing board for decades. No ones rights are being trampled here.

This is a disgraceful project. And no things are only gonna get worse on Park Street. And in an even bigger slap to locals, they hire a VA-Beach surveying company? Who's great idea was that? Next thing yah know they are gonna turn the Covenant School into a rest stop.

even if they win this the round the federal govt can eminent domain the land and make it a federal rd.

you cannot fight city hall.

All of that said.. the road needs to be built. Get over it.

We have enough development. Keep the PARK a PARK! A YMCA is one thing, but a freakin' highway will destroy the whole area. I agree with Connie above - if you want more "development" move somewhere that has lots of it. We aready have the hideous Wendell Wood stripping as much land as he can and radically removing every living thing on the land he develops. Enough already.

This isn't equivalent to developing Hollymeade, Seminole Square, Albemarle Place, etc. It's being used to alleviate traffic problems that already exist. You won't be shopping at the Home Depot on the MC Parkway.

If you want lots of beautiful land, it's real cheap out in the surrounding counties. Enjoy wasting your money though. It's not like schools, social security, or welfare couldn't use it.


I hoped you'd ask. How about my own 6 year study making that run? I've worked up 29 since late 1998, and commuted from downtown/Belmont (reverse commute, thank goodness) for 6 of those ten years. I have three options for my drive home to Belmont.

If I take Proffit to Route 20, it takes around 35 minutes, god forbid I get caught behind a slow vehicle as there is no place to pass. Also, Proffit is very twisty, and even though I love it, there are plenty of people who are terrified of that and won't use it to commute. This is fine, since, as I noted, it's not able to handle many commuters.

As another option, I can go all the way down 29 to 250 and head east toward Pantops. I don't think I have to tell anyone here how much I hate driving down 29 south. Once on the highway, I get stuck doing 35MPH for no reason whatsoever. I know Covenant is there; why it doesn't get a normal school zone like every other school is far beyond my comprehension.

Lastly, I can take Rio Rd to 250. Most of this drive is wonderful. Until it shortens to two lanes, twists back on itself, and requires me to take a left hand turn onto 29 while traffic stacks up on a bridge that at least one truck has already tried to bring down that is. I'm glad I don't have to keep going downtown anymore, and I can see why folks in that neighborhood would be behind the construction of the Parkway.

So we've established Rio Rd is the best way from north to Downtown, except for one fatal flaw. I just had a great idea though! We could build a road in between where Rio narrows that would terminate at 250 and McIntire, have four lanes to move traffic smoothly, and get traffic out of that neighborhood! Sounds great to me. This is to say nothing for the days when there is an accident on the two lane portion of Rio and traffic absolutely snarls, like that time a guy flipped his Ranger in the twisty part.

But please, tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. After all, I'm not doing a study.

Don't know what the answer is, but this town has a huge traffic issue for how relatively small it is. The problem is that 250 and 29 make an "x" through the town and are really the only ways to get anywhere short of circling the entire city (although a bypass would be a nice thing up 29). There are no back ways since rio, etc. are just as busy and often take longer. I think anyone who travels from the University up 29 or towards Pantops around 5-7 pm knows exactly what I mean. The city grew and so did the numbers of students, but the roads never did out of preserving history, etc. This might not be the best traffic solution, but some alterations need to be made eventually as the area continues to attract more people.

Too funny:

Your last sentence especially piqued my interest. The people screaming that this isn't the best solution are doing it with an ulterior motive. Don't believe them. It's the only solution, if people still want to live in the county and commute into the city.

JR: Perhaps we are on the same side of the issue on this one: I am not sure this is really the solution, at least for long term traffic relief.

Jim: Though I frequently had to drive from Belmont up 29N,by all the means you mention, I am still not convinced this was the answer. I spoke out about it in 2000, for logical reason, and feel no differently today.

Yes, this will alleviate SOME congestion on the RIO section. For now. But ultimately if you create a flow, it will just keep filing until its full. In a few years, traffic will be as bad on this little segment, and we will have sacreficed a very important park for it. The time has come to accept we need another by-pass like 250, and that no commercial development can be done off of it, lest we look like the 'by-pass' around Warrenton. Its also time we accept new life styles.....

It would be nice to have access to an engineering study, but it's hard to doubt that it got done, and was listened to. Just hoping the real world experience gives some weight to my opinion there.

The County should take more responsibility in channeling traffic the county generates.
At this point the County is obviously taking advantage of the city.

Remember the 3 party agreement first the western by-pass, second meadowcreek parkway, third the eastern by-pass. Does anyone think the county will put roads through their neighborhoods ?

Mequa Shore: LOL. Was I measuring the comparative values of Parks as to which would be the best to destroy. I don;t think so, and I would defend Meade, Tonsler, and yes, even Washington Park from such a fate. parents need places to walk their kids so they can throw a baseball, or frisbee with the dog, especially when we look at the amount of noise and business we are assaulting ourselves with.

And Frankly? It seems to me a lot of the people causing the traffic problems are people who thought they were too good to live in the City, and wanted their controlled suburban life in Forest lakes. Why should city residents have to give up their park for that? Move in town if you don't like the commute.

I agree we need to resolve this by getting better elected leadership. Norris stood up in court against this road and now we need to elect Fenwick to support him and get this over. Let the county build their portion of the road.

And how about preserving the park at Ragged Mt. If you've never been there it's the most beautiful place to hike and only 2 miles from town. They plan to destroy the contiguous woods so important to wildlife and build 5 miles of roads, realign the wonderful winding Reservoir Road that leads to Camp Holiday Trails for major dam building equipment and build a 112'dam that will destroy 54,000 trees in this wonderful natural area. If we can't agree to save McIntire
Park let's at least agree to dredge for our water supply and not destroy this.

Y'all may be missing the point. The policy decision whether or not to build belongs to our elected representatives. And they decided already to build it. A bad decision, a wrong and short-sighted decision, a decision which will effectively destroy a park, and as well, saw our city in half with highway traffic like a chain saw running from Route 29 to Route 64 right through our middle. But City Councils of yesteryear made this stupid decision.

If the Coalition to Preserve McIntire had put its limited money but tremendous energy, enthusiam and sincerity into bringing anti-parkway voters to the May Democratic caucus? Only 1,500 Democrats determined who our City Councilors are. There would now be a majority on Council to stop the parkway.

Instead they're in court. All a judge can decide is whether or not the law was followed; he cannot and will not try to decide whether or not the road was a good idea. Does the law require a 3-2 vote or a 4-1 vote for a 40 year easement? A pretty abstruse issue and its questionable whether Parkway opponents who are not City Councillors are even the right parties even to raise it. The judge's decision is likely to be narrow focused, and disappointing for those who hope he'll stop the parkway.

Jeff wants us to dredge Rivanna rather than destroy trees at Ragged Mountain. Personally I'd like to revisit the Buck Mountain reservoir--there are Albemarle County rich landowners leasing for next to nothing land bought us taxpayers for a reservoir. They use but pay no property taxes on hundreds, even thousands of acres. In any event we should focus on the elected representatives, not on judges, in deciding these things.

Jeff,I don't have a study or an exact vote, as a yes/no vote hasn't been put forth on a city ballot. BUT with all of the signs, uproar I'm observing: to SAVE McINTIRE PARK, My bet is more in Charlottesville do agree the project should be stopped. Of course, more in the County want the project to move forward, but that shouldn't matter. McIntire Park isn't county land.
I agree, It is the few who live on or near Park Street,city that go along with the road.
Sadly the city does not have any advocacy from its own representative D. Toscanno, to Save McIntire. This predicament is very telling and also very concerning.

In the Parkway issue, Funny how some current councilors just throw up their hands and cast blame on former boards for the problem. As they are leading now, THEY COULD change course and work to stop the project.
I blame the 3, council who are not open to changing their mind. In fact they will never be forgiven unless they do change their minds. Julian T. is only the first to fall from the pedestal. The other 2, Brown, Huga will be next.

When the traffic gets so bad that there is total gridlock , and the road gets built because the tide turns against you naysayers all that you will have is the ability to say "well it was a gallant fight"

It is too bad that you don't just put all of your time, effort and money into buying property and donating it to churches to be used as private parks for all.

Perhaps there is a compromise... they could put a rest stop on the parkway with a starbucks, a vegan market and an abortion clinic. That should make you happy.

So someone who lives in the county but works in the City makes the road something the county needs but not the city?

I guess the city should just give any tax revenue generated from businesses by county-living, city-working employees to the county, huh?

If businesses can't get their employees downtown, they will relocate. And the city will slowly die... the Federal Government moved their biggest facility out of downtown 8 years ago. What if the head cheeses of SNL, Lexis-nexis, etc decide that rather than expand in the city, it would be easier and more pleasant to move to a new campus out in the county since the traffic stinks.

The George Washington Bridge isn't NJ's problem just because more people commute into the city than vice versa...

These are a few acres on the edge of a park on a golf course that is so busy that the last time I played it, there wasn't an attendant, just an "honor box" for players to pay.

This entire thing should be left up to the majority of the people. In this case, the majority of the city residents.

What is the current breakdown, 50% for, 50% against? If so, this is a problem and worthy of debate.

Otherwise, if it's 80% for and 20% against, the road should be built.

Why is all of this so hard to understand?

solr... it is not majority rules... it is governmental responsibilty. The government created a master plan and people invested in developemnt based on that. They now have a reasonable expectation that government will uphold its end of the bargain. These landowners paid taxes for decades and deserve reasonable accomodations from government. THe people that have owned houses here.. even for 100 years could not have has a reasonable expectaion that all of the vacant lots would remain that way forever.

Developers can sue FOR the road and have done so elsewhere for access to sewer and power.


I don't think you intended to strengthen my argument, but thanks. If you think that all of those spots will be residential units, and that they'll be snapped up just for being in the city and walkable, AND that they're going to be developed anytime soon, well that's a pretty strong assumption. There is an abundance of condos for sale in town that are sitting empty, waiting for someone to move in.

The fact is, if you want to live in the city, and you have a job, you can live in the city. If you want to live in the county, you can move out to the county. All the condos in the world won't make the latter group happy, and we need to get them in from the county to work everyday. I see these people every day waiting to get into town whether I take Rio or 250. When there is a solution (of sorts), it needs to be done. This is why I can't understand the sentiment on reasons other than preservation of green space. I can only speak for myself here; but I don't see how you don't do it.

Just a thought,

Does anyone remember when Rio Road was closed for a few weeks for major repairs a while back?

Traffic was bumper to bumper pretty much from Route 33 and Route 29 to Barracks Road.

Jim, I have to wonder if you ever go out after you get home from work. Your statement above, "there’s nothing more that can be built up downtown really." It's simply so mistaken that it seems you can't possibly be talking about Charlottesville.

There are two large lots on Water Street which are hard to miss. There is a huge parcel which extends from before the old coal tower all the way to Meade Avenue. There are two warehouses on East Market Street that are perfect sites for redevelopment into fairly large mixed use buildings. One of them is even unoccupied.

There are any number of places along West Main where infill projects could easily go, not the least of which is the obvious Amtrack station parking lot. There is the U-Haul lot right up the street, another large vacant lot along 10th Street, an old car dealership which is very underused for its location, and a vacant lot right next to it. Further along there is a very large lot just before JPA. Any of those could be built on today with no loss of anything historic and little or no opposition. There are many many more sites that I could list with little difficulty.

Many of the rabid pro-parkway crowd seem to want to label the opponents of the road as somehow being stuck in the past or necessarily opposed to growth or change. Nothing could be farther than the truth for me and I'm sure many others as well. The city will develop over time. Those lots I listed will be built upon. We will have a much more dense urban core. Building that city as a walkable city, with parkland that is accessible to residents is the smart way to develop it for the future.

The endless sprawl of suburbia is a vision for the past which is simply not going to be workable in the long term. Building roads to encourage that at the expense of unreclaimable parkland is a shockingly short sighted approach to planing that is such a bad idea that it is amazing to me that it is even being considered.

Why don't we just build 50-story buildings that have apartments and offices, with a grocer on the main level, and restaurants at the top? Then, no one would ever have to even go outside, and the parkway would be pointless.

Build up, not out?


I don't see the point in wasting anymore time with this argument for the following reason: we disagree fundamentally over whether the parkway would help. What do you do about that? It's being built anyway, it's beautiful outside, and it's a holiday weekend. I know I've been taking this too seriously, and I suspect I'm not alone.

Go enjoy the nice weather! I know I will the minute the clock turns 7.

The entire road system is crap in the city and county. It was designed to placate the nye sayers and not to make an ideal road system. All you nye sayers have created this problem. Good job you morons.

Jim, I don't recall writing anything to suggest that those places would be developed soon. I do recall your assertion, one of several that I take issue with, that ââ?¬Å?there’s nothing more that can be built up downtown really.” I only chose to address that in what I wrote. Clearly, your statement is far form accurate.

I'm not sure what you meant by "This is why I can’t understand the sentiment on reasons other than preservation of green space." I will just assume that you were trying to get your thoughts down before you lost them and that you had to sacrifice communication in order to achieve that. I and many others who are opposed to the parkway are in fact trying to preserve green space. I thought that had been made pretty clear.

You have actually strengthened one of the main arguments that opponents of the parkway have repeatedly advanced, that it will be a temporary solution at best. If the parkway were to alleviate traffic problems, it would further encourage people to move to the county and commute into town. That is the sprawl many fear will be accelerated. You are suggesting that it be accomodated. I am suggesting that government play a leadership role by considering what is best for the future and discourage it. What's best for the city is to keep its prize parcel of parkland and make it easier for people to live in the city than it is to commute in.

The idea that the parkways is even going to alleviate traffic problems in the fist place is ludicrous. I have spent many afternoons slowly making my way from the intersection at Hydraulic and 29 to the Free Bridge and beyond. Traffic is backed up the whole way almost every day. There is simply nothing the parkway is going to do to change the number of cars on the roads at that time of day. It may make the trip slightly shorter when there is no traffic, but the rest of the time it isn't going to. As soon as it gets slow, and sooner for the one that want to play smarter than the crowds, Park will be the short cut of choice, just the way all the side streets off of Park are now. Those cars will be feeding back in at the on-ramps and clogging things even more as they merge. The slow traffic out of town will be just as slow as before if not worse, but we will have one less park.

Yeah, once UVA moves out to the county it will all be downhill from there.

Cars are here to stay no matter what the greenies would like. This aint Copenhagen folks with bicycles and reliable clean mass transit...Build the damn road! I also noted the other day the WVIR story about economic losses in Cville and Albemarle while Greene, Louisa, and Waynesboro all enjoyed increases even in a down economy. One of the reasons is the absolute lack of foresight for 40 years on PROPER roads for a growing area. NOBODY wants to go into CVille or the county urban ring. I would MUCH rather go to Waynesboro or even Short Pump. Traffic there is a heck of lot better. Go ahead, bankrupt Cville you idiots.

Brian, You just opened conversation on an interesting proposal.
Hire more workers from Charlottesville in the city. Sounds good to me.
Let the county find jobs for its' own workers.
From what many observe, the county is having real problems. Downtown Chville is looking better, and Barracks RD looks vibrant. The county strip malls look sick and cheaper by the minute. Poor planning for sure. The county dug its own grave.
For me, I'm GLAD the SPY agency is gone, and away from Downtown. Let the County have it! Maybe the fed govt will finally revive the buying power in the county!
The city will survive, and without the PARKWAY.

How would you propose to do this? Require city businesses to hire people who only live in the city? Sounds difficult to do, I don't know about the legality, and then what do you do when the employee in a condo downtown gets married and moves to Forrest Lakes? Fire them? What if (gasp) they need to recruit someone from outside the area? Do they then have to move into the city?

Remember that the businesses are the ones who do the hiring and the employees choose where to live. Without changing our form of government, how could your plan be put into place? Also remember that the businesses are always free to relocate.

Brian, Actually I realize there are obstacles, hurdles. I do want the city government to advocate for Charlottesville FIRST and FOREMOST. Just ain't happening so far.
Until there is a merger with the county, I expect more accountability from the city in this regard.

tater salad, your ignorance is staggering. You apparently know nothing about this project or its history. Congratulations.

Google is your friend, hon. Go ask your Mommy how to use it.

Growing up on University Circle near Rugby Road in a gentler time, I was allowed to roam on foot or by bicycle all around the area.

Occasionally I would see Paul Goodloe McIntire leaving his residence on Rugby Road to take the air. He was always cordial to a young neighbor when we met, and we sometimes stopped to chat.

We citizens are very fortunate to have had this generous man for so long in our midst.

I wonder now if he is turning over in his grave at the thought of how his foresighted gift of land, a potentially lovely park, might be raped by a parkway and a YMCA sports facility.

Agatha ââ?¬Å?Gay” Hathaway
Albemarle County

This letter appeared in the Daily Progress
May 7, 2009

"Very few places in America exhibit such foolishness about development" that's why they've become such hellholes. If hideous development is what you want, there are hundreds of places in Northern Virginia alone where you can have that.

The Parkway simply isn't going to do anything about traffic problems on Park Street, which is what it's main supporters hope for. Mr. McIntire would be disgusted at how his gift has been received.

The cool part is that at the end of the day the road will be built and all of your beyyaching whining and wasting of money will have been for naught.


If the Federal Government were to use eminent domain to acquire the land that would guarantee that the road does not get built. Why you ask? Section 4-F. Look it up.


Not a single parkway supporter has offered a traffic study demonstrating that the new facility will alleviate congestion. If anyone out there knows of a study I would love to read it.

I wouldn't bet on it !

TortFeezer: "a very important park"

Is that like a "very important episode" where we learn how to keep Timmy off of drugs? Or maybe Tonsler, Meade, or Darden Towe are just the second-class citizens of the park community?

I'm not sure that this road would really encourage that much more development. I mean, projects are approved up and down and all around 29 without the parkway cast in stone, and there's nothing more that can be built up downtown really. Making Rio easier would probably cut some of the traffic off 29, making 29 to 250 east an easier trip, and 29 to 250 west easier as more cars are getting off at Rio.


I wouldn't dismiss any of your analysis out of hand, but let's face it, its completely anecdotal. Local governments can pay lots of smart engineering type folks to go and run the simulation models and (with some degree of accuracy) figure out whether the road will meet any of its transportation goals. If one of those goals is congestion mitigation on the regional road network it would probably make sense that somewhere along the way somebody got paid to study the project's impact on congestion. If they did I just don't know where that study is at and I've asked.