ACAC to Move, Expand Downtown Location

Local fitness club ACAC intends to relocate and expand their downtown location, which a project that they’ve had in the works for a couple of years. Currently located in rather cramped quarters in the Water Street parking garage, owner Phil Wendel is negotiating a deal with Coran Capshaw, who owns the old Ivy Industries building on Garrett Street. The existing location is just 10,000 square feet (considerably smaller than their 64,000 square foot state-of-the-art Rio Hill location), but their new location will be 35,000 square feet, featuring a pool, racquetball courts, an indoor track and space for some tenants. There had been talk of ACAC moving up to Pantops, apparently in hopes of being more accessible to commuters coming in from 64, but obviously ACAC thought better of that. The new location, if all goes according to plan, will open in early 2005. Elizabeth Nelson has the story in today’s Progress.

Meadowcreek Debate: Lynch Responds

City Council Kevin Lynch, after reviewing the two recent discussions about the renewed Meadowcreek Parkway debate (“Meadowcreek Debate Gets Weird,” “Lynch Clarifies Meadowcreek Parkway Opposition“), has taken the time to address many of the concerns raised by users, and compiled those thoughts into a single document, complete with extensive documentation going back several years. Keep reading for the full text of Lynch’s comments.

I’ve been meaning to check out this site for a while. Glad I got here when I did. Jeez, this is a tough audience. Lots of County commuters by the looks of it. A lot of good questions though, which I will do my best to address.

Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt followed by the counter argument Constriction in the waistline does not cause obesity. It is a symptom of obesity…You need to diet and exercise, or otherwise cure the underlying cause of the obesity, sure – but for now you also need to buy some bigger pants.

Traffic congestion is building up in the region, no doubt about it. Cville is getting press for being a good place to live and people are moving here in droves. Most are living outside of the City. Providing so the new people can travel around without creating congestion for the people already living here is a major challenge.

Much depends on where the newcomers live. The County is growing with mostly new housing in the South, mostly new retail in the North and a mix of the two in the East. I agree with those who say that we need to loosen the belt around the City. Building the parkway is more like unzipping your fly.

If it is time to loosen the belt, then I am absolutely convinced that we need to start with a series of connector roads in the urban ring of the County. Yes, I realize that this is outside of City jurisdiction, but I don’t believe I’m the only one who’s noticed that the urban ring of the County is exploding in population and traffic. Unlike City residents who can and do use a variety of alternatives to the auto, the suburban and exurban residents must and do drive everywhere. I don’t begrudge them this (whether this is healthy in the long term is another matter) but I’m not willing to sacrifice quality of life in the City for their convenience.

Personally, I prefer a bicycle or the trolley, but if we must loosen up then the first notch in the belt should be a two lane “eastern connector” parkway, between Pantops and Rio Rd. That’s where the bulk of the new traffic is going. A new two lane road will take 20,000 cars a day off Pantops, the 250 bypass, Park/Rio, and to a lesser extent, Hydraulic. We could get started on the eastern connector in two months and have it built in three years, if we had the political will to do so.

The next notch is to complete the Southern Parkway between Avon street extended and 5th street extended. This provides Mill Creek, Lake Renovia, Lakeside, etc with quick access to Route 64 and the 250 Bypass, allowing them to move around the region without driving through the center of the City. It will take about 7000 trips a day off Avon street and going to points North (on High/Park St) and will help tremendously to decongest Downtown. When UVA builds the North Grounds connector, even more traffic will be diverted around the City. The Southern Parkway could also be started in two months and built in three years with political will.

Only then should we build the Meadowcreek Parkway, with a functioning interchange, on the 250 bypass. Everyone who has analyzed the traffic flow at the intersection realizes that it fails miserably if we try to do it with a traffic light. Does anyone want to create another intersection like the one at 29 and Hydraulic? We’re contemplating spending in excess of 50M dollars to retrofit the 29/Hydraulic intersection with an interchange. The traffic volumes are comparable to MCP/250. Better to do the intersection job up front, at half the cost or less.

Even if we do these three things within the next 5 years (achievable but a lot of work) we wont adequately addressed our regional and statewide traffic needs. The road network in the urban ring needs reinforcement everywhere, not just in the North East sector. Because the County has been focused on defeating the 29 Bypass, and doing little else, we have a 10 year infrastructure deficit in the region. We’ve already started to address the problems on Rt. 29 with the extension of Hillsdale drive between Hydraulic and Greenbrier, better light synchronization, and a redesign study for several major intersections. I am cautiously optimistic that we can accommodate the predicted increase of statewide traffic on 29 in a manner similar to Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, but it will take 5 to 10 years minimum.

I see no vision in these elected officials. Status quo is their game and that’s why the situation is so difficult today. The more you procrastinate, the more difficult and compromising it’s going to be. Sure, prudence is good. But non-action is stupid, cowardly and fatal.

I agree that many elected officials are lacking in vision and that the status quo is becoming intolerable. I will match my record in working on our regional infrastructure needs against anyone’s. In my past 3 years on council I have taken the lead in pushing to build a regional network1,2, including extending Hillsdale Drive ( – public hearing on the final alignment will be held in early spring – I have been advocating that we build alternative C ASAP) building the Southern Parkway3 (county has agreed to build, but no claims no money is available) and eastern connector4,5,6 (I have proposed 4 potential alignments, county dragging its feet until recently, still no agreed alignment or funding). Other elected officials will pay lip service to these projects, but you can ask anyone at the local VDOT office who actually walks the walk and puts real workable proposals on the table.

I’m afraid that it is the County, along with Blake, Meredith and Rob who are stuck in a 30 year old paradigm (the City builds roads to the County line and the County overdevelops them). This has not been helped by the fact that for the past 10 years, the County’s transportation strategy has been largely focused on stopping the 29 Bypass. Like many, I think the 29BP was badly designed and overpriced. However it would have helped our region’s North/South transportation problems and eased congestion in the City. We’ve given up much of our leverage with the County by letting go of the 29BP. Once the MCP is built, we will have lost what little leverage we still have to get the County to pull its weight outside of the City.

This so reminds me of the debate in Arlington 20-30 years ago over development of I-66. Local government and activists dug in their heels to prevent the road, then to restrict it to fewer lanes than were projected as necessary.

Exactly! And for 20-30 years, Arlington has been one of the most livable areas in Virginia, and the most livable in Northern Virginia (other than some expensive bits of Alexandria). Arlington has used transit to attract mixed use development into its urban corridors while preserving quiet residential neighborhoods, many of which are within walking distance to work, shopping, recreation, etc. Those who sneer at urban planning should know that Arlington’s property tax rate is less than 98 cents per hundred, well below the State average.

Contrast Arlington to sprawling Fairfax, which has tried to build its way out of congestion with roads, instead of intelligent planning (no disrespect to Fairfax planners, it’s a different voter mindset). As a result, Fairfax is a soulless wasteland with a tax rate of 1.21 per hundred.

As Charlottesville grows, it needs to look around the State and Country for examples on how best to grow. We can try to stay compact and focus our infrastructure around transit oriented development like Alexandria and Arlington or we can role over and sprawl out like Fairfax and Newport News. If you prefer the former, then Maurice and I need your help. If you prefer the latter then you should vote for someone else.

The statement [There are at least 1800 new housing units planned for the immediate area, which will result in about 18,000 car trips per day] rubs me a little wrong. Are we to believe that every house will result in ten car trips per day?

Absolutely. 10 trips per day is the average for a suburban residential housing unit. In an urban area like Charlottesville, where 16 percent of people living in the City walk to work, the number drops to as low as 4 trips per household. This suggests an obvious answer – induce people to live closer to where they work, play, shop, etc and the traffic goes way down. Obvious but not easy. Housing in the central City is expensive and scarce. I realize that’s a problem, although people have been finding creative solutions.

Anyone know what [Lynch] means by [The character and success of the Downtown Mall has largely hinged upon the City’s ability to induce people to come downtown while leaving their automobiles somewhere else.]? How does he think people get downtown now? If what he says were true, there would be no parking problems downtown… All the “character” in the world is not going to offset the increasing inability to get downtown.

When the Downtown pedestrian mall was built in 1976, the idea was that people would park at the outskirts and walk to retail, office and entertainment destinations on the Mall. Over time, this expanded to include parking garages where people can leave their cars all day. Later came satellite parking area, park and ride lots, ride share, bike lanes and transit. In the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the Downtown Mall and University, 30 percent of residents walk to work.

We have been struggling to make our transit system work better. We still have a long way to go, but we have increased ridership by over a thousand trips per day in the past few years. The trolley is very successful at moving people between Downtown, the University and surrounding neighborhoods. Drive past a downtown bus stop during the evening rush hour and you will see increasing numbers of people who are working downtown and riding the bus by choice, because its easier and cheaper than dealing with a car. I will be the first to admit that we need to figure out how to make the bus system a viable option for more people. And I have been working on this. I’ve had proposals for streamlining the bus service on the table for over a year and a half. 7, 8, 9

Where exactly are the parking problems Downtown? We’ve got a surplus of space in the parking garages. If you are complaining that you can’t park right under your office window for free all day, I’ll grant you that. But give me an example of any City in the State with the density and level of cosmopolitan amenities of Charlottesville where one can do this? Sure, you can probably find some bland office park or shopping center where you can park a little closer, as long as staring at a cubicle all day is your idea of a good time.

The buses do not run often enough and when they do, they impede surrounding traffic … Why wait 45 minutes at a bus stop for a 30 minute bus ride when driving 15 minutes and spending 5-10 minutes parking is clearly much less time consuming and troublesome? … I don’t think that the problem is necessarily a lack of demand, it is a lack of an efficient, convenient service. For better or worse, we live in an auto-centric society… Cville transit system is as-if non-existent to those who want a modicum of convenience. On the other hand, developing a good transit system is a worthwhile goal, rather than only thinking about cars.

Good points. I don’t disagree. We need to make transit and ridesharing more competitive with the SOV. Until we come up with a workable congestion pricing scheme, the only mechanism we have to do this are to improve transit and be careful with where we allow roads and parking. Our current bus system is based on a hub and spoke system. Most routes only run every hour and its not very scalable. I’ve been promoting a backbone and feeder system. It’s a lot easier to navigate. Busses would come every 15 minutes in the neighborhoods and every 10 minutes on the backbone. Its much more scalable and would only take 4 more busses than what we currently have.

Why on earth do [Bike lanes on the MP]? Leave Park Street and Rio road to the cyclists and the peds. If you want to put a parallel bike path to the MP, that would be great. But I don’t see that as an absolute necessity.

Because even under the best case scenario, where we preserve open space and don’t build out to the level that the County is proposing, at least 1000 new units are going to be built right around the northern termination of the MCP. Getting the number of trips per household from the suburban average of 10 to the urban average of 4 requires that these folks have some viable alternatives, one of which is bike lanes for commuters. And we want to also have a separate lower speed path for kids, recreational cyclists and pedestrians. I know that there are a lot of soccer moms out there who would rather send their kid to practice on a bike or on foot (as my own mom did) rather then schlepping them around in a minivan.

What’s the purpose of building another slow [35mph] road in Charlottesville?

Believe it or not, 35mph is the optimal speed for getting maximum volume throughput from any given road (as I recall, the number is closer to 40, but most people will drive 40 on a road signed for 35). The reason has to do with spacing between cars. As speed increases, safe following distance increases exponentially, and you get less volume throughput, even though the cars are going faster.

I’d like to see at least 65 mph on the MP

That would be Interstate 64 (on a good day). I like to make time on the road as much as the next guy/gal, but driving 65 in an urban area like Charlottesville is ridiculous. You need to find a nice little midwestern dustbowl town or stick to the interstate if you like driving 65 everywhere

The MP needs to be a fast way to get past Charlottesville / Albermarle, with just 1 exit until past the airport.

No. That’s a bypass you are referring to – Not the MCP. The County pulled out all the stops to eliminate the Western Bypass. Now they want to turn the MCP into an Eastern Bypass. In fact when VDOT determined the best route for the bypass, they looked at MCP, (which was called alternative 7A). VDOT concluded that the Western bypass (alternative 10) was preferable to MCP for a number of reasons. 10 The western bypass would have taken much more traffic off other roads than the MCP and the southern termination for the MCP (at the 250 bypass) is the wrong place for a bypass. Environmentally, the MCP impacts more wetlands sites, crosses twice as many streams and impacts more than twice the acreage of “high value” habitat and floodplain, than does the Western bypass.

Yes, the Western bypass would go through our watershed, while the MCP goes through the downstream watershed, but so what? Communities downstream of us still have to drink the water, which will be more polluted if we build the MCP than if we were to have built the Western Bypass. Anyone who considers himself or herself an environmentalist must realize that the MCP is a worse road environmentally than the Western Bypass.

I remain unconvinced that building a Parkway will make Park street worse. With the addition of traffic lights on Melbourne, most motorist will avoid a road with several traffic lights (rio/park) to drive on a road with none.

Building the Parkway in itself doesn’t make things worse. All of the development that is enabled by the Parkway makes things worse. And please, all of you pro-development types, don’t tell me that its going to happen anyway. I know several of the developers and I know that they have plans which have been sitting on the shelf for years because Park/Rio traffic counts are too high to allow any new subdivision roads to access Park/Rio. Of course, some growth will occur naturally. This is a popular place to live. However, if the MCP doesn’t get built, then the number of people moving to the area will decrease (because developers and realtors won’t be shilling their product to people outside of the area) and those who do move here will either have to settle for living on a more compact footprint in the City or somewhere in the County where the infrastructure is better (such as Western Albemarle – except that no one wants any newcomers there). I think it makes some sense that the County wants to designate Rio Rd as a growth area, but they need to build their own roads. Don’t make the City build them.

I agree that lights on Park street will make things better for Park street residents. I have been advocating this since before I was on Council.

I see nary a mention of cost in Lynch’s nearly three thousand words here.

You must have missed the press release. 11 VDOT is planning to begin construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway in 2006 and expects to complete the 2.1 mile project by 2008, at a cost of approximately 26 million dollars. This number, which does not include a functioning interchange, is more than what it will cost to build the Eastern Connector and Southern Parkway together

My question for Cox and Lynch is this: if tomorrow the County agrees to ban trucks, the replacement parkland they want is provided, and VDOT approves their plan for the 250 intersection, would they then support the parkway and vote for the transfer?

If you have read this far, you should know by now that my answer is no. If you include a real commitment to build the Eastern Connector and Southern Parkway then the answer is yes. I’ve been on the record on this for years.

I have been absolutely clear and consistent here. A few months after being elected to Council I sent a memo to Council which outlined how we could move forward with the MCP without giving up on the regional network and creating a disaster for the City. 12 The result of this memo was that on Dec 11, 2000, The City sent a letter to VDOT and the County, clarifying the position of the new Council and establishing a stronger position for the City.

I did not sign the Dec 11th letter, because I did not believe that the commitment requirements in the letter were strong enough. On December 5th 2000, I sent Council a version of the VDOT letter which I was willing to sign.13 I also sent it to the Daily Progress, so I am on record with this. The wording in italics are additions that myself and the rest of Council agreed on. The change bars are the things I wanted to see in the letter before I would sign it. Read it for yourself and then ask me if I am being unreasonable. You will note that I am not asking for anything new, other than firm commitments on the conditions that the City is asking for.

Kevin Lynch

References (all authored by Kevin Lynch):

  • Letter to CHART committee, publicly distributed, concerning regional network. 10/23/02 (RTF, 25kb)
  • Accompanying proposed regional network map 10/23/02 (JPEG, 96kb)
  • Aerial showing alignment of Southern Parkway between Mill Creek and 5th street. Created 7/11/02 (JPEG, 84kb)
  • Letter to MPO, publicly distributed concerning Eastern Connector alignments. 4/01/02 (RTF, 8KB)
  • Aerial showing 4 possible alignments for Eastern connector. 4/01/02 (JPEG, 76kb)
  • Aerial showing possible alignment for Eastern Connector extension along North side of Pantops 4/01/02 (JPEG, 80kb)
  • Proposal for reconfiguring the CTS bus system, publicly distributed. 7/23/02 (RTF, 16kb)
  • Map of existing bus service routes (JPEG, 80kb)
  • Map of proposed reconfiguration of bus system, publicly distributed. 7/23/02 (JPEG, 72kb)
  • No Bypass or no Western Bypass, publicly distributed 10/21/02 (RTF, 984kb)
  • Press release from Kevin Lynch, Maurice Cox Re: Transfer of land for Meadowcreek Parkway 11/30/03 (RTF, 24kb)
  • Necessary conditions for building Meadowcreek parkway. Sent to City Council Oct 23rd, 2000 (RTF, 436kb)
  • Draft letter to VDOT, to be signed by Lynch. Sent to City Council Dec 5th, 2000 (DOC, 36kb)
  • Lynch Clarifies Meadowcreek Parkway Opposition

    In an e-mail to the Charlottesville Democratic Party, Councilor Kevin Lynch has provided a detailed response to concerns about his and Mayor Maurice Cox’s opposition to the Meadowcreek Parkway, prompted by comments resulting from their recent press release. Lynch reviews the history of the road, its position in the area road network, its benefits and drawbacks, his requirements for the road, the nature of transportation funding, and his objections to the Council proposal that the land for the road be given away to VDOT. Keep reading for the full text of Lynch’s comments.

    The misguided Meadowcreek Parkway

    I believe that there are many good reasons for not building the Meadowcreek parkway. What about the reasons in favor of building it? The answers that I hear most often are that it will make it easier for people to get in and out of the City, ease congestion on Park Street and open up McIntire Park. Are these answers valid? Lets consider:

    Of course we want to make it easy for people to move freely in and out of the City. Downtown Charlottesville is the regional center for culture, arts, entertainment, business and government. Over the past three decades, the City has made a conscious effort to create and sustain a unique and thriving pedestrian environment – from the original decision to close the mall to automobile traffic, the expansion and upgrading of the mall and surrounding area, support of the City’s transit system (including the very successful trolley route), and up to the most recent plans to complete the East end of the Mall with a new transit center, upgraded amphitheater and pedestrian plaza.

    The character and success of the Downtown Mall has largely hinged upon the City’s ability to induce people to come downtown while leaving their automobiles somewhere else. This policy has served the City well for three decades with growing success. I intend to continue to support pro pedestrian policy and will try to improve upon our successes with the help and support of the community.

    Anyone who has lived in one of the Central City neighborhoods for any length of time knows that the original motivation behind the parkway was not to bring people downtown, but to make it easier to get regional traffic through the City. The original 30 year old plan so often cited by parkway proponents, was to build a four lane highway through the City, all the way to Route 64. This is why historic Ridge Street was widened to 4 lanes South of Main Street. This highway plan was completely contrary to the City’s pedestrian vision for downtown, which is why many City Councilors before Maurice and myself have fought against the Parkway. These are the shoulders upon which we stand.

    One of the most troubling aspects of the Parkway is that it helps to perpetuate a hub and spoke transportation pattern in which the City serves as the only available intersection for cross-county and regional commuters. This problem goes beyond the Parkway, but is exacerbated by it. This is not new. Over a decade ago, a group of Central City neighborhood associations, loosely organized under the Charlottesville Federation of Neighborhoods, recognized this and began working together, particularly in response to the 1994 “Southern Charlottesville Transportation And Entrance Corridor Study”. This joint City/County plan recommended removing parking from Ridge Street and Monticello Ave. in order to use all 4 travel lanes. The plan also recommended widening Fontaine Ave and rebuilding the Avon/Monticello intersection. There was talk of removing parking along Avon Street. Traffic counts were predicted to increase substantially in City neighborhoods. Northern neighborhoods quickly realized that they had a compelling interest in helping the Southern neighborhoods. Since then, an effort has been made to protect City neighborhoods from the onslaught of traffic, but the underlying condition remains the same.: The County is exploding to the South, East and North, with City neighborhoods caught in the middle. As long as there are no roads to carry cross-county commuters around the City, the Meadowcreek Parkway provides an irresistible attractor for County commuters to drive through City neighborhoods.

    The only neighborhood which originally did not share in the concern was Park Street, which desperately hoped that the Parkway might solve its own terrible traffic problem. Unfortunately, the Parkway will not solve the Park street problem and will, in all likelihood make it worse, as many Park Street neighborhood residents are now beginning to realize.

    For the past decade, Park Street residents have been confounded by traffic studies which consistently show Park Street traffic getting worse – not better – after the Parkway is built. This seems counterintuitive, but it is not. The problem is twofold. First, the Parkway will enable a tremendous amount of new development in the Rio Road area. There are at least 1800 new housing units planned for the immediate area, which will result in about 18,000 car trips per day. While Parkway proponents insist that the new housing will be built anyway, this is not true. Rio Road does not have the capacity for major new subdivisions. Hence subdivision site plans have been sitting on the shelf for years and will continue to sit until the Parkway is built.

    Second, the bulk of the traffic is not using Park Street to get downtown. It is using Park Street to get from points North to points East and South in the County. This is obvious from watching current traffic patterns. The Park street bridge has been closed for months so that Park street cannot be used to get downtown. However this has not reduced the amount of traffic on Park Street North of the 250 bypass. Furthermore, as South Eastern Albemarle and Fluvanna continue to explode, this traffic will get worse. Traffic on the 250 bypass is already congested and is projected to gridlock in the next ten years. Without an alternative way to get from North to East in the County, Park Street will continue to be used as a short cut. Not surprisingly, the only scenario in which the VDOT traffic model shows a decrease of traffic on Park Street is if the Eastern Connector is built.

    As to the argument for “opening” up McIntire Park: It is certainly true that access to the Park could be greatly improved. The idea that this can be accomplished by putting a highway through the park is highly suspect. The City already tried this once without much success. The southern edge of the parkland which Mr. McIntire originally gave to the City was taken to build the 250 bypass. While there is a bypass exit for the park ball fields, the bypass can hardly be said to provide access to the park. As regional roads go, the 250 bypass is efficient and attractive, but it is a hard barrier around the Park.

    The proposed bicycle and pedestrian paths could certainly help to make McIntire Park more accessible but only if these paths can be reached from City neighborhoods. This will not be possible with the existing intersection design.

    Is it possible for the Parkway to provide a net benefit the City?

    The Meadowcreek Parkway, in its current incarnation would clearly be a net loss to the quality of life in the City. However there are nearby examples, such as the Yorktown Parkway, Rock Creek Parkway and Mount Vernon Parkway that are assets to their surrounding communities. Is it possible to get there from here? My answer is a very conditional yes. The Parkway can be an asset to the City and the region, but only if the City and County are willing to make significant commitments to mitigate the negative effects. These required commitments will benefit the entire region and insure that no harm is done to the City. However they will require significant political will and leadership by all parties: City, County and VDOT.

    Even the Councilors in favor of the parkway recognize that a successful outcome is contingent on a number of conditions being met. Nearly three years ago, City Council voted to allow VDOT to proceed with the Meadowcreek Parkway, subject to 12 ‘crucial’ conditions which were put forward in a letter to VDOT signed by then-Mayor Blake Caravati. Description of these 12 conditions spanned 5 pages, but they can be summarized as follows:

    1. Signed for 35mph instead of 45mph

    2. Two lanes instead of four, alignment according to recommendations of Reiley report

    3. Right of way to be for no more than two travel lanes, bike lanes and pedestrian path

    4. bike/ped access required at intersection with 250, tight urban interchange requested

    5. Bike lanes on the parkway, shared off road bike pedestrian path to run parallel

    6. Combine storm water detention ponds into large pond or lake appropriate to the park

    7. At least 50 acres of contiguous park land to re-establish McIntire as regional park

    8. No cell towers without joint Council and BOS approval.

    9. Limited access from 250 bypass to Rio Rd, no trucks, fencing of right of way

    10. Commitment of City, County, VDOT and UVA to regional transportation plan

    11. VDOT to work with MPO Meadow Creek Parkway Design Advisory Committee

    12. Protect, preserve, and care for the Vietnam War Memorial

    While Maurice and myself agree with these conditions, we did not sign the letter because we did not believe it was worded strongly enough to secure the necessary commitments to protect the City’s interest.

    The only way to avoid the negative consequences of the Parkway is to exercise the leverage that the City has as an independent city in the Commonwealth. Regrettably, three Councilors appear to no longer believe this. Fortunately, the Virginia State Constitution requires that a super majority (in this case 4/5) vote is necessary for the sale of any park land.

    Constitutional problems with the proposed parkway “Easement”

    Three members of City Council have asked the City attorney to defend a dubious proposition: That the 4-1 vote requirement in the State Constitution for sale of parkland could be circumvented by turning 9.2 acres of parkland into an “easement”.

    The City frequently negotiates easements across City property but we don’t give up underlying control of the property. Running a gas line under a City park or allowing the cable company to string cable over City streets is accomplished with an easement. Turning a golf course and softball field into a highway is a permanent change in use. Once a park has been turned into a roadway, there is no other use for it. The right to use and enjoy it by the original owners is gone. It’s no easement. So starting out, the easement proposition is on a very slippery slope.

    The next problem we find in the City attorney’s memo is that the easement can not be made open ended and is limited by the State Constitution to 40 years. The memo cites the case precedent. The City of Richmond could not give a conservation easement by simple majority vote because a conservation easement is supposed to last forever and a majority of Council cannot grant an easement without some time limit. In Charlottesville, three councilors don’t even have the authority to put a conservation easement on the park! Yet three councilors claim the ability to grant an easement to turn 9.2 acres of parkland into a major regional roadway. This is preposterous! What else could we do with a major piece of the road network after 40 years is up? Use it as a skate park? Put the land back into recreational use? I don’t think that anyone can honestly argue that the Parkway, once built, could ever be used for anything else other than a road.

    There are additional objections of a more technical legal nature. Suffice it to say that the 40 year easement doesn’t pass the smell test and I can not imagine how it would pass the constitutional intent test in the Charlottesville Circuit Court.

    Conditions for a 4-1 vote to transfer the parkland

    There is no good reason for three councilors to resort to this attempt to stretch the law. I have been very specific and consistent about what it would take to get my vote in order to reach the 4-1 vote required by the Constitution. I do think the Parkway could be an asset to the region. But it has to be in the right context. I believe there is wide support for this context, even among environmentalists and others who have successfully fought the parkway thus far.

    First, if its going to be called a parkway, then it needs to be set in a park. Not on the leftover steep slopes and bottom land that can’t be developed after the road goes through. We must get back good land, like the softball field and golf course we’re losing. Any replacement land should be the same quality of parkland that Mr. McIntire gave to the City over 80 years ago – rolling hills with scenic views and recreational use – not swamp land. The only undeveloped land that meets this equivalent functional use requirement is the farm land adjacent to Rio Road, which should be added to a greater McIntire Park. This is completely consistent with the County’s DISC plan, which calls for additional recreation amenities in the urban area to complement its infill strategy.

    Second, we need a functioning intersection with the 250 bypass. Since the Mayor’s 12/11/00 letter to VDOT, the City and MPO have been asking for VDOT and the CTB to make a commitment to the interchange. It’s been nearly 3 years and that hasn’t happened. We haven’t even got a design funded. The intersection isnt real until there is money in the State six year plan. We need design money in the State six year plan right away and a commitment for the State to come up with the necessary construction funds in the next 6 years.

    Third, we must have a solid and adequately funded commitment to a regional network from VDOT and the County. Phase II of the Meadowcreek Parkway (extending the parkway beyond Rio Rd, and North of the Rivanna River) would create a congestion disaster in the City and is not acceptable. Two essential network elements are the eastern connector and southern parkway. We have been talking about these two projects for decades. Each will do more to relieve congestion in the City than the parkway ever will. Before I will vote for sale of McIntire Park land, we must have a commitment from VDOT and the County to remove Phase II of the parkway. We must begin preliminary engineering for the southern parkway in the next year and have a commitment to complete construction in the next six years. We need a location study for the eastern connector funded in the next two years of the six year plan with commitments for future construction funding. And we need to see a serious state and local funding commitment for transit, bike and pedestrian projects

    When we have real functionally equivalent parkland, solid commitments to build the interchange, and concrete steps on the regional transportation plan, then I will agree to the transfer of parkland.

    Transportation funding

    The naysayers say there’s no money in the State transportation coffers. We need to raise our expectations and demand our fair share of transportation tax revenue. City residents pay over $12M a year in gasoline tax and the half percent of sales tax that goes to transportation. We only get $5M a year back, half of which goes to maintenance. In the County, these numbers are roughly double. We’re getting back only a small fraction of the transportation taxes we pay.

    The main reason the region has been starved for funding by the State for the past 10 years is because the State has been building up funding for the 29 bypass – a quarter billion dollar project. When the 29 bypass was dropped from the six year plan, the money for the project disappeared. It should have been reprogrammed into other projects. We still have a 10 year unmet transportation need which the bypass was supposed to address.

    We can make some real improvements to our transportation network if we can get the transportation investment that should have been coming to the City and County over the past decade. These improvements will greatly benefit the region and the rest of the Commonwealth. Not all of the investment should be in roads, but we will need some roads, especially in the urban area of the County. As citizens of this region we need to make sure our local leaders and legislators in the general assembly understand this.

    I believe those who elected Maurice and I voted for us to attempt to improve the quality of live for the people of the City of Charlottesville. Amongst other things this means improving transportation efficiency, making the best possible use of our natural resources and ensuring the economic health of our community. These objectives involve difficult compromises and commitments, but are possible to achieve with political will and leadership. Any attempt to grant an easement now is an end run around the Constitution and a premature give-away. I will vote for the Meadowcreek Parkway only when we have secured the commitments to build an excellent parkway which does no harm to City and minimizes the damage to our Central Park. Anything less is a betrayal of the people of Charlottesville and an insult to the legacy of Paul Goodloe McIntire.