COVER SIDEBAR- Historical recourse: A last-ditch effort to stop Meadowcreek Parkway

Rich Collins, center, wants to stop the Meadowcreek Parkway and believes the city is skirting federal regulations to build it, while Charlottesville development services manager Angela Tucker's job is to get the parkway built. Bob Hodous, left, was at the Route 250 interchange November 1 public forum representing the Chamber of Commerce. He likes Alternative C1, which features a roundabout.

Charlottesville is full of historic jewels, but who ever imagined a golf course would be one of them? But that's the case– and admirers of the nine holes along the Rt. 250 bypass hope the designation has come just in time to stop federal funding of the Meadowcreek Parkway interchange at McIntire Road.

The McIntire Park golf course has been judged eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, according to Rich Collins, founder of the group Sensible Alternatives to the Meadowcreek Parkway (STAMP). That means that before the $27 million that Senator John Warner earmarked for the parkway's interchange can go forward, it has to be reviewed by state and federal historic resource agencies– and the state is now saying it wasn't properly advised of the scope of the project.

"The golf course is considered an important example of a pastoral course found at the turn of the century," explains Collins, who alerted the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation– the federal agency charged with making sure historic resources aren't bulldozed by federally funded road projects– just days before the city's November 1 public forum on the two alternatives for the interchange.

Collins' October 26 letter to the feds, co-signed by Preservation Piedmont and APVA/Preservation reps, elicited an October 30 response– from Virginia's Department of Historic Resources to the City of Charlottesville. 

"[The city] failed to tell us there was a 40-foot flyover," says Department of Historic Resources director Kathleen Kilpatrick. She says there's a "substantial difference" in noise and visibility between an at-grade interchange and an overpass. City Council has ruled the road will not be at-grade.

The Department of Historic Resources is required to review the impact of projects like the interchange on "cultural resources."  

"I have no idea whether it was an omission," says Kilpatrick of the omitted detail that the interchange is an overpass. "We concurred based on information provided us."

"I'm not sure where the 40 feet is coming from, because we haven't decided on a design," says Angela Tucker, development manager for Charlottesville. But she adds, "I respect their concerns," and she says the city is evaluating the letter.

Meanwhile in his letter to the Advisory Council, Collins, a UVA professor of environmental negotiation, refers to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 that requires federally funded projects to consider the impact on significant resources. 

"Historic property is the lever that will open up and possibly stop the Meadowcreek Parkway, " says Collins– at least the interchange.

Historic agency intervention "doesn't mean the project will be stopped," says Kilpatrick. But the agencies "have an interest in public projects and the integrity of public projects. In this, there's a question of whether matters have been handled properly." 

That includes public consideration of how, for instance, a historic golf course would be affected, and how adverse effects can be mitigated.

STAMP also accuses the city of "segmentation" in funding the parkway to skirt federal regulations that protect parks and require investigation of alternatives. For funding purposes, the city considers the Meadowcreek Parkway as two separate projects, a common practice. Thus, the interchange is the "Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road," and the proposed road cutting through the park is "McIntire Extended"– and the state pays for that.

"This is a blatant evasion of the law," says STAMPer Stratton Salidis. "They tried to get federal money for the Meadowcreek Parkway and found they couldn't get it, so they used state funds." 

Salidis showed up at the November 1 public forum with a protest sign taped to his back. 

At the forum, citizens checked out the two alternatives for the interchange– one of which includes a roundabout– and city staffers and engineers were on hand to answer questions. Tucker stressed that people could still comment on the interchange until November 13.  

Former mayors Nancy O'Brien and Francis Fife were among those inspecting the proposed interchanges, and O'Brien didn't hesitate to comment on the Meadowcreek Parkway: "Just because it's been around 30 years doesn't mean that it's time has come," she says. "It might just mean it's a bad idea."  

Alternative C1 for the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road, the federally funded portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway, uses a roundabout.

Alternative G1 uses a more traditional diamond-shaped interchange.