Did Dorrier Really Have a Deal with Connaughton?

It’s looking like perhaps Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier—the swing vote on the sudden, unannounced vote to move ahead on the Western Bypass—might have misunderstood the deal that was offered to him in exchange for his vote. In The Hook, Hawes Spencer recounts Dorrier’s remarks at last week’s meeting:

As Dorrier gathers his thoughts, he asserts that what changed his mind was a half-hour conversation with Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, in which the Bypass-eager Secretary allegedly promises that the plan also includes full funding for a widening of U.S. 29, as well as a new bridge to extend Berkmar Drive northward over the Rivanna River.

“When he said all that,” says Dorrier, “I said I would switch my vote and go forward immediately.”

But Spencer interviewed Connaughton:

Connaughton clarifies that his conversation with Dorrier did not include any promises about funding Berkmar Drive Extended or any extra bridge across the Rivanna River.

“The discussion I had with him was specifically about this project,” says Connaughton, further clarifying that he considers the planned widening of U.S. 29 the only other part of the discussion.

And then Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs went to Richmond to watch the Commonwealth Transportation Board adopt their highway construction plan for the next six years (one of only two reporters who bothered to show up), and of the $8.3B allocated, there wasn’t a penny for the Western Bypass. Tubbs asked Connaughton about it, and “he said funding for the project would come from reallocating money from other projects, but did not specify which ones.” James Rich is the area’s CTB rep, and he sure sounds dubious that it’s possible to do that.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker—on the losing side of the 4-2 vote—has his own theory as to how the retiring supervisor was persuaded to change his vote. Spencer explains:

Interviewed a few days later, Rooker too is still fuming, and he feels sorry for the 67-year-old Dorrier, who suffers from debilitating Parkinsons, a disease that has physical and sometimes mental effects.

“I think Lindsay is in an impaired state,” says Rooker. “I’ve observed in meetings he’s often confused. Do I think he can be manipulated? Yes, because he gets confused.”

But Dorrier recoils at the suggestion.

“That’s an opinion I don’t share,” he says in a telephone interview. “I take my medication. I stand by the decision, and I think it’ll be beneficial to the public.”

So we’ve got the guy who supposedly cut this deal with Dorrier denying that he offered the upgrades that got Dorrier to change his vote, and we’ve got the board in charge of allocating the money not allocating any money for this road. I’m not sure what’s happened here, but something definitely isn’t right. I worry that Dorrier got snookered, taking the rest of us along with him.

20 Responses to “Did Dorrier Really Have a Deal with Connaughton?”

  • Sounds like another “faith-based initiative” on the part of our local Republicans!

  • It’s not too late for Dorrier to change his mind again, is it? If I were to base my vote on what I thought was a promise, and then these conditions were to change on me after the fact, I certainly wouldn’t have the slightest problem revisiting my decision. I don’t think the public would fault him for it either.

  • This story is getting sadder in each installment. Someone needs to help Mr. Dorrier get through this situation.

  • It is also plausible that the Transportation Secretary Connaughton promised more than he should have and is now taking advantage of Lindsey’s age and medical condition. No one has brought up his “impaired state” and “confusion” prior to this. If Mr. Rooker really had concerns, he should have said something earlier.

  • That’s a fair point, HES.

  • This is disgusting. Unfortunately, now, it requires four votes to undo what Dorrier was tricked/manipulated/[insert word here] into doing.

    If Boyd/Snowe/Thomas had any class at all, they would allow this action to be undone if Dorrier so desired. I am not holding my breath.

  • I agree with the first point you make, HES, that it is entirely possible Connaughton was also manipulating Mr. Dorrier (but listen to Boyd and Thomas prompting him to make the motion…this was CLEARLY conspired ahead of time). As far as Mr. Rooker saying something about Mr. Dorrier’s capacity to make decisions, I don’t really think that’s his responsibility nor do I think it is something he wanted to bring up. I think he is well aware of those issues but out of respect for his fellow Supe he of course would not mention it. And with the knowledge that Mr. Dorrier wouldn’t seek reelection, Mr. Rooker was as tactful as a person could be.

  • Caroline, I think its the responsibility of any of the Supervisors to hold each other accountable. I stand by my assertion that if Mr. Rooker truly had concerns, he should have had them addressed before now. Maybe not in a public forum, but at least at a closed door meeting. At this point, Mr. Rooker is just coming off sounding like sour grapes.

  • There is another less ominous explanation; Connaughton and Dorrier talk about all those projects but Connaughton may have only agreed to the widening of 29, in addition to the bypass. This seems to be the case after hearing Snow weigh in on that very thing in the same recording. Doesn’t that make the debate more of “if we got 29 widened and flattened between Airport Rd and the bridge, along with the Western Bypass, would that be worth it?”.

    If you interested one might listen to Rooker (who I believe verbally pressure Dorrier but listen for yourself) in the previous meeting. This meeting is where the original vote was taken and is instructive when putting this discussion in context. http://cvilletomorrow.typepad.com/charlottesville_tomorrow_/2011/06/western-bypass-debate.html

    I have also read that the Western Bypass comes very close to Rooker’s house and why this is never mentioned anywhere is quite curious. Shouldn’t Rooker disclosure that? Why doesn’t the coverage ever mention it?

  • It would be lovely if someone could fine — or else produce — a google map layer (or whatever) to show the precise route.

  • This bypass is being built for two interest groups: truckers and UVA. UVA wants to have ready access from Leonard Sandridge Rd straight up the new “bypass” to it’s research park. They are feeling constrained on the main campus and want a quick zip north to this property. Truckers want to run trucks up and down 29 a bit faster and cheaper. Both want YOU to borrow 300 million to make things a bit better for them. At its heart, this is a classic developer’s scam.

    It will not significantly improve rte 29 traffic.

    Thousands of children will spend 12 years playing next to a freeway.

    Hundreds of residents will see their home values devestated without compensation (So where are you private property-rights Tea Party people when we need you?)

    If you are opposed you can attend these important meetings and voice your concerns:
    • June 20, 7 p.m.—Charlottesville City Council (City Council Chambers, 603 E. Main Street)
    • July 6, 9 a.m.—Albemarle Board of Supervisors (Lane Auditorium, 401 McIntire Road)
    • July 13, 6 p.m.—Albemarle Board of Supervisors (Lane Auditorium, 401 McIntire Road)
    • July 14 (tentative)—Metropolitan Planning Organization (location to be determined)
    • Write or email the Board of Supervisors or City Council asking them to reject the bypass.
    • Meet one-on-one with the supervisors who took this action:
    Supervisors Dorrier: riverstreet4444@yahoo.com 434-220-6371, Home: 286-2528
    Supervisor Snow: dsnow@albemarle.org (434)284-0825
    Supervisor Thomas: rthomas@albemarle.org (434) 242-3322
    Supervisor Boyd: kboyd@albemarle.org 434-977-9981
    • Write a letter-to-the-editor at the Daily Progress, The Hook, and C-ville Weekly.
    • Spread the word to your neighbors, friends and colleagues.

  • Charlottesville Tomorrow has just created a Google Earth overlay map of the bypass route available here. This uses the route diagrams from VDOT’s 2003 supplemental EIS.

    Brian Wheeler
    Charlottesville Tomorrow

  • Pekoe (or anyone else),

    I’m not the best informed person in the county on the history of the Western bypass negotiations, but I’m interested in the UVA lobbying connection: is this something documented, i.e. via public statements by anyone at UVA, or just an assumption? It makes intuitive sense–I came moderately close to getting relocated from near Grounds to research park, and if the western bypass had existed it would have made the commuting prospect less hellish. But that’s not the same as UVA exerting direct (or indirect) pressure.

  • Dear David

    Was the Sandridge road extension to the 250 bypass and onramps onto the current rte 250 bypass built to help UVA employees commute? Or was it the first step to what they really wanted? I have no information as to open public lobbying of state officials by UVA for the rte 29 bypass, but I dont think that is how it would be done, do you?

    My analysis is based upon a “who wins and who loses” approach. When hundreds of millions of bucks are in play, I have found that to be pretty predictive in retrospect. The master plan for the UVA research park is for a 560 acre development that goes from 29 and wraps up to the airport area with hotels, office space, cafe space; over a million of feet of development. It is a big deal plan. A rapid connection to the main campus would be a very beg deal to them. It would almost be irresponsible of them to take a hands off approach, and, well, it is a powerful and connected place. That is all I know.

  • Former AlbCo Resident

    The map County Mountie suggested and Wheeler produced, left out County Mountie’s point – plot the Supe’s homes locations.
    I think you’ll see County Mountie is possibly right on. Rookers home (at least a couple years ago) is between Hydraulic and the proposed bypass, based on public records, I believe. Perhaps a bit of NIMBY is present?
    Lastly, poor taste with Rookers statements, as reported by Waldo’s initial report and quotes.

  • It might be worth noting that each supervisor lives in their own districts. So whether or not Rooker’s opposition has anything to do with his home location, it’s not surprising that his home would be near it given that it is in his district. What has been referenced several times in the media was that when Rooker ran for office, fighting the Bypass was a significant part of his campaign.

  • Left off of that map plotting the bypass is Berkmar Dr. extd. which, according to the deal allegedly offered by Connaughton, would also get a new bridge across the Rivanna (presumably between the new bypass bridge and 29?) and then, one may infer, its own interchange with either the bypass or 29. If the bypass is going to cost X #of millions per mile, Berkmar Extd., being nothing more than a composition of the two most expensive elements of that road, the bridge and the interchange, would probably be 2X #of millions per mile. We won’t see it built in any of our lifetimes and its shameful that its promise may have been the carrot that got Dorrier to change his vote.

  • What’s the purpose of the proposed Berkmar bridge? Where would Berkmar eventually terminate? Would this open new land for development?

    Also: that very helpful Charlottesville Tomorrow sketch-up of bypass doesn’t show any interchanges at all, does it? It’s not “limited access” but “no access”. Is that the deal on the table?

  • We have updated our cvillepedia article on the Western Bypass to include information on Supervisor Rooker’s stake in property adjacent to the bypass. He filed a transactional disclosure statement with the county attorney’s office in June 2002. Details and a link to the statement are in the article.

    Sean Tubbs
    Charlottesville Tomorrow

  • I think this is the strangest local government story I can recall in over 20 years here. We now have 4(!) members of the BOS representing a long held Lynchburg point of view! It is downright disorientating. Where ARE we?

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