The adage is that one gets what one pays for. That can’t be more true for residents of Ryan’s Glen subdivision who thought they were getting nice new homes in a relatively inexpensive market only to discover that buying a home in West Virginia is a lot like playing a shell game without a pea.
Witness the reaction of Jefferson County planning officials, West Virginia Division of Highways officials and developers when they all learned that the houses these newly minted homebuyers purchased are slated for demolition as a result of a bypass route around Rippon that has been on the books for almost 10 years.
Nobody seemed to have any explanation.
It’s difficult to fully grasp the level of breakdown in communications in this matter especially given the fact that DOH claims ample warning was provided about the highway department’s plans for the area. Even more, as was shown in a story by reporter Bryan Clark in last week’s Spirit of Jefferson, resident Glen Hetzel in 2005 advised both Ryan’s Glen developer Lou Athey as well as members of the Jefferson County Planning Commission that the site was a proposed route for the U.S. 340 bypass.
Quoting Hetzel: “My concern is where the new alignment of 340 will be when it is done. It was my understanding that it is going through the middle of this property. I wondered if you folks had addressed that.”
As we now know, apparently the matter was not addressed. Not by planning commissioners, by staff, by the developers, nor by the builders. As DOH engineer Dirar Ahmad told residents at a recent town hall meeting, the state made public its plans for the new road way back in 2001. And it brought up the matter again two years later.
Ahmad claims there was no excuse for anyone local not to know about the proposed road project. But documents show Athey had several exchanges with DOH as he was moving through the approval process; none of these apparently yielded anything in the way of a warning.
What comes next for these homeowners, some of whom haven’t yet finished unpacking? Despite assurances from DOH, it appears unlikely that all the subdivision’s houses will be spared unless the state were to switch course, if it even can. Can DOH now revisit routes previously rejected because of the impact on historic sites?
If not, it won’t be just these homeowners who will pay the price. Because of officials’ see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil approach to governing, the DOH is guaranteed to spend a pretty penny of our tax dollars to fix this. The land could have come much cheaper if it had been acquired back when the road project was first initiated. Ultimately, which is more expensive: scrapping plans to build the road or buying all the properties in its path? All citizens, not just these homeowners, should demand more from their public officials.
Some years back then-Gov. Joe Manchin replaced state highway signs that read “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” with the slogan “Open for business.” There should have been a second sign below for all the regular Joes trying to do business in West Virginia. That one could have read, “Caveat emptor.”