Hero or villain, the name Mosby remains divisive in Clarke County to this very day. The ongoing saga of the Clarke County High School approaches another milestone this week as the Berryville Area Development Authority (BADA) will conduct a public hearing at the Town/County center on Thursday, Feb. 25th, at 6 PM concerning the Final Site Plan Permit for the new school. Featured prominently in that permit will be the legal status of the land on which the town hopes to have VDOT extend Mosby Boulevard to Main Street. This contentious stretch of road has the potential to derail the entire process if the Town and the School Board cannot find a way to work through their disagreements. Both groups must develop long term plans that include a road with a very uncertain future.
The Town is adamant that Mosby Boulevard must be extended across the school property to Main Street. To ensure this can be accomplished, the town has required a deed of dedication for the Mosby build-out right-of-way before they will approve the Special Use Permit. The original request was for this dedication to be a fee simple title which would give VDOT the right to control, use, and transfer, the property at will. In addition, the town has stipulated that, since the school’s site plan includes a main entrance on Mosby, if it is not completed within 5 years of the special use permit being issued, the school will be required to build a permanent entrance from West Main Street in the vicinity of Tom Whitacre Circle where the proposed Mosby extension would terminate.
The School Board agreed to the town’s terms and submitted deeds for the property, however they added a 5 year “reverter clause” (also referred to as a revisionary clause) so that, should VDOT fail to build out the road in five years, the land will revert back to the school system. Since the school system would be required to provide an alternate entrance at that point, Mosby would no longer be part of the school’s site plan requirement. Currently the VDOT project is not funded. Furthermore, based on the scoping meeting held in January (see article “Mosby Boulevard Project Scaled Back”) it seems unlikely that VDOT will be in a position to fund the the road any time in the near future. The School Board believes planning for its absence is the most prudent course of action.
The Town has categorically rejected any deed with a reverter clause. Town Manager Keith Dalton commented, “Even though they knew the reverter was not acceptable and does not meet the requirements of the SUP (Special Use Permit) they chose to place the language in the deeds they submitted to the town.”
In a final notice dated February 17th, the town informed the School Board the the reverter clause must be removed from the deeds or they will be forced to inform BADA that the terms of the Special Use Permit have not been met. Without the Special Use Permit the entire high school project will come to a screeching halt.
Ironically, when the town had the deeds reviewed by the Attorney General’s office to determine if the revision clause would be acceptable, the information they received back actually required alterations to the town’s original request. An assistant to the Attorney General found that a School Board does not have the authority under state law to convey title in fee simple as was requested by the town. A school board is however, authorized to grant easements. As a result, the town is now requesting that the school board grant a perpetual easement.
Based on the town’s revised request, a potential compromise has emerged. Late Monday evening, the School Board approved sending a letter expressing their intention to grant VDOT a perpetual easement. This is contingent on confirmation from the Zoning Administrator that granting the easement will not require going back through the hearing process, which could hold up the project several more months. An easement is less intrusive and would allow the school to use the property for recreational fields and temporary structures until such a time that Mosby could be funded. It would also provide a window of opportunity for the road to be built well beyond the five year limit that a reversion clause would impart, thereby creating a ray of hope that the project will continue to move forward.