The Virginia Department of Transportation’s latest proposal to take an additional 2.33 acres from the new Clarke County High School site as part of its planned extension of Mosby Boulevard is being met with resistance by local leaders. The VDOT plan is causing concern that what appears to be a new escalation in Mosby right-of-way debate will cause further unnecessary disruption to the high school site as well as jeopardize future school needs.
“You may recall that last year  as part of the requirements of the Special Use Permit needed for the School Board to be able to actually build our new high school, we were obliged by the Town of Berryville to give a Right-of-Way to VDOT going through the middle of the property, for the construction of a secondary road – Mosby Blvd. – a prolongation of the existing boulevard which goes through the residential subdivision Battlefield Estates,” school board Chairman Robina Bouffault said in a widely distributed Sunday evening electronic mail message.
“The amount of acreage required for this right-of-way, was 2.76 acres. This was negotiated with VDOT and the Town of Berryville, and in June 2010, after review by VDOT and their attorneys, and the Town of Berryville, the deed of easement was duly recorded.”
Bouffault’s message then expresses frustration toward a VDOT office that seems indifferent to local concerns and previous agreements related to the impact of Mosby Boulevard as it bisects the school site;
“You can imagine our surprise therefore, when on November 1st we were informed that now VDOT wanted additional acreage – some 14 ft additional width added to the length of Mosby. At that time, we proposed that they try to minimize any further ‘takings’, and if necessary, take that width from the north side of their existing right-of-way, instead of from the south, where we had already planned both PE fields and a new greenhouse,” Bouffault said. “However, to our dismay, we further discovered on Dec. 7th – last week – that they want an additional 2.33 acres – almost double the acreage previously deeded, and that the additional width can be as much as 37 ft – seriously encroaching upon our current plans not only for our PE fields, but also the planned greenhouse in the back of the school. They had apparently almost completely ignored our request, even dropping the round-about further onto our land. They now want to take 20 ft additional width to the north, plus anywhere between 10ft – 37 ft to the south!”
Bouffault says that VDOT’s new demand is not a legal requirement and will result in over 5 acres of school property being taken for the Mosby Boulevard extension.
“It would encroach upon land that we need for our current new high school, and also upon the land to the north that will be needed in future for additional school capacity requirements,” Bouffault said.
In addition to its right-of-way expansion plans, even VDOT’s advertisement for the Mosby Boulevard extension scheduled for Wednesday, January 12, 2011 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at the Berryville/Clarke County Government Center is drawing fire.
“To add insult to injury, I am attaching the official VDOT notice for their Public Hearing to be held in Berryville on January 12th, 2011, concerning Mosby. You will note that the only place you can see the corresponding information is either in EDINBURGH or in STAUNTON. It will NOT be available for review anywhere in our county – thus pretty much ensuring that no one will have had a chance to review it prior to the Public Hearing,” Bouffault’s email message said.
Berryville Estates Community Association (BECA) president Sharon Strickland was angered when she read VDOT’s public hearing notice.
“I believe it is critical that all residents see this plan and that it be available not in Edinburgh or Staunton but here in Berryville,” Strickland said. “We do not live near Staunton or Edinburgh and that will prevent many residents from visiting those offices to review the proposed project information.”
Strickland wants VDOT’s Mosby plans to be available at the Berryville/Clarke County Government Center prior to the meeting and directed her request to Town of Berryville and Clarke County officials by electronic mail message.
However, in a Sunday evening e-mail response to Strickland, Clarke County Supervisors Chairman, Michael Hobert said that plans to have VDOT’s project documents locally available for citizen review is already underway.
“I anticipate that the VDOT documentation will in fact be available at the Government Center early this week,” Hobert said “I was told last week that it would be provided.”
Hobert also noted, “As for the hours chosen by VDOT to be available to discuss the project, I believe the time period was actually selected in an attempt to encourage accessibility to working citizens. Perhaps we can request an extension of the scheduled hours. I will address this with our VDOT representatives.”
Once extended, Mosby Boulevard will divide the Clarke County High School campus. The plan has raised the ire of many Clarke County citizens who question the cost and wisdom of extending the road which currently ends at the edge of the school site property. However, neither safety concerns nor scarce funding in a time of economic austerity has deterred Berryville officials from moving forward with the road plan.
This latest Mosby Boulevard development is certain to raise the same issues yet again as citizen’s question Berryville’s version of “the road to nowhere.”
“We need our land for our students – not only for our currently under construction new high school, but for our future students needs as well,” Chairman Bouffault lamented.