By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
In a shift from previous years, the Greene County Board of Supervisors now starts, rather than ends, their meetings with ‘Matters from the public not on the agenda for public hearing’. The Free Enterprise Forum endorsed the change as it empowers citizens to bring issues directly to the Board at a predictable, and reasonable, time; prior to board discussion and decision on agenda items.
Tuesday night (9/27/16) nine residents of Golden Hills Subdivision took the ‘Matters from the Public’ speaking opportunity to brief the Board about the inability to have the maintenance of Wood Drive and Haney Road in their residential development taken over by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). While on the agenda as a discussion item, the reordered ‘matters from the public’ period provided important citizen input opportunity.
The issues that the speakers addressed date back to when the development started and the developer sold the lots with the understanding that there would not be a Home Owners Association (HOA) in the development. In 1990, as a part of the land development, the developer posted bonds worth $220,000 and those were twice reduced to $50,000 in November, 1991 and further reduced to $20,000 in November, 1993.
The remaining $20,000 bond was called by Greene County in February, 2003. In an attempt to bring the road up to VDOT standards, between 2004 and 2010 Greene County spent $27,972 for drainage, grading and other work thereby consuming more than the $20,000.
Unfortunately, all the landowners along the road didn’t sign the plat which is one of the requirements to have VDOT take over the road and the developer passed away.
The residents argued that the County shouldn’t have reduced the bond until the work had been completed. Many of the speakers gave examples of the problems with the roads including the many potholes. Speakers suggested that former Board of Supervisors betrayed them, when it snows the potholes can’t be seen and it is very damaging to their vehicles and kids are now required to walk to the end of the road to get on the school bus, since they bus won’t drive down the road for fear of the potholes doing damage to the buses. [School buses are actually legally prohibited from traveling on roads that are not part of the state system – NW]
Other residents feel that their homes have declined in value due to the poor condition of the roads. One gave a specific example of receiving an offer with a deduction of $10,000 due to the condition of the roads. Another resident had a severe medical condition and was fearful that had it been in the winter the ambulance would not have been able to reach his home.
Vice-Chairman Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville District) understands that the road building bond process has changed and that now all of the deposit would not be released until the road was taken over by VDOT. Unfortunately the $20,000 wouldn’t cover the cost (even if it was still available) that it would take to get the road up to current VDOT standards and that it would probably cost in excess of $100,000 to bring the road up to VDOT standards.
Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardville District) asked Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda who is responsible to get all of the landowners to sign to get the road taken over by VDOT? Mr. Svoboda explained that it is the developer’s responsibility but that didn’t occur before he passed away.
Martin stated that this situation is unfortunate and that the residents are suffering because the process didn’t work as intended when the development was originally constructed.
Regarding concerns of transparency, he further explained that the Supervisors discussed this issue in closed session when there was a possibility of being sued over the issue. Martin believes that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were complied with and information was offered even though not accepted.
The Supervisors expressed their understanding of the residents’ frustration but explained that they could not set a precedent of spending public funds on a private road without the risk of other communities making similar requests.
Martin asked for any final comments from County Administrator John Barkley. Barkley suggested creating an HOA or working with VDOT to see what programs they can offer the homeowners. Finally, Martin suggested that there might be grant funds available that could help the homeowners. There was no formal action by the Board of Supervisors since this was strictly a discussion item with the comments coming during the matters from the public portion of the meeting.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you. To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Photo Credits: Independent American Communities