Literally: Not in my backyard
Paul Minnerly is used to developments springing up around his Crozet home. What he isn't prepared for: a future road connection going through his one-acre lot.
"It was a complete shock because we've already endured so much construction around us," says Minnerly of a September 2 letter from Albemarle County advising him of plans afoot for Creekside, a new section of the Old Trail development.
Minnerly, a carpenter, built his home 13 years ago, before Wayland's Grant, Grayrock, and Bargamin Park sprang up across the street, and before Old Trail developers submitted plans to build 96 units on nearly 77 acres beside and behind his plot.
He insists he's not a NIMBY and that he has no problem with the new neighbors. But he draws the line when it comes to having a dotted line drawn through plats of his property. "I object to a right of way when no one has ever asked me," he says. Nor has he granted a right of way to anyone.
"The county requires me to reserve a right of way for future connections," says Justin Beights with Beights Development, which is building Old Trail. "We're not going to build [a road] because we don't own Mr. Minnerly's property. It's not even a real right of way. It's something the county wants."
Minnerly is not reassured by Beights' assurances. He's particularly nervous given the Supreme Court's late June ruling that private property can be seized for commercial interests. To him, Albemarle is saying, "We can ask for a right of way, and if they refuse, we can condemn their property," he explains.
An initial plan for Creekside showed a connection to Jarman's Gap Road just down the road from Minnerly. VDOT rejected that proposal because the connection did not align with the entrance to Wayland's Grant, as both VDOT standards and the Crozet Master Plan require. And the Wayland's Grant entrance is directly opposite Minnerly's property.
"We wanted to line up that intersection," says Albemarle senior planner Francis MacCall. "We're not looking to take any property. We're not looking for the developer to take any property. If Mr. Minnerly wants to sell his property in the future, we'd like to see an intersection there." But, he adds, Minnerly is under no obligation to sell his property to a developer.
MacCall says the dotted line across Minnerly's property– and several other properties– will not appear on the final plan. "There are no rights of way here; there are none being taken," he emphasizes.
Doris Davis, another homeowner with property adjacent to Creekside, was also surprised to learn of a road connection going across her land. 'This is my home place," says Davis. "We're sitting in a little island between Old Trail and Creekside. No one has approached us about a right of way."
Can a right of way affect property values? "Generally," says Dave Phillips, CEO of Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors, "sometimes positively, sometimes negatively."
In the case of a small access road, says Phillips, "I doubt that would rise to an eminent domain level– although in Connecticut it might." He thinks that's unlikely in Virginia except for a major thoroughfare.
"The county, to my knowledge, has never stepped in on behalf of a developer to condemn property," says Supervisor David Wyant, who represents Crozet on the Board of Supervisors. And not everyone on the Board is in agreement about road interconnectivity, he says.
MacCall anticipates county staff will approve the plan, and Creekside goes before the Planning Commission October 18. It's a by-right development that does not need to go before the Board of Supervisors.
Minnerly wants written assurances that the land he intended to live on the rest of his life isn't in jeopardy.
"Please don't threaten my land," he beseeches Albemarle County. "I've written dozens of letters to the county and gotten no response. No one has called or written to calm my concerns."
"It's a non-issue, but it makes Mr. Minnerly uncomfortable, and no one will assure him," says Beights. "It's up to the county."
Wyant has had his own brush with eminent domain. "It's happened to my family twice in Northern Virginia," he says. "It just leaves a bad taste in people's mouths."
Julia, Marissa and Paul Minnerly stand where subdivision plans show a road going through their yard. The Minnerlys already will lose 15 feet in front of their house when Jarman's Gap Road is widened.
PHOTO BY GEORGE KAMIDE
A preliminary plat of Old Trail Creekside has a "future connection right of way" going through Paul Minnerly's yard. The county says the road connection going through his property really doesn't count.
MAP BY THE TIMMONS GROUP