CHARLES TOWN – Residents of the Ryan’s Glen subdivision, some of whom face possible eminent domain proceedings as a consequence of the planned four-lane expansion of U.S. 340, say they are anxious ahead of an approaching meeting with Department of Transportation issues on Monday.
[cleeng_content id="464681247" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]The meeting will consist of a public workshop which will run from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by a public hearing lasting from 8 to 10 pm.
The meeting will allow for discussion of the seven alternatives currently being considered as routes for the expanded highway, four of which are new routes developed after DOH officials received public comment from the neighborhood, as well as others affected by the expansion at a September hearing.
“I’m hoping somebody will listen, that somebody will have some responsibility to the people,” said Debbie Wilson, a Ryan’s Glen resident who has vocally opposed the routes which would most harshly affect the development she lives in.
Several residents of Ryan’s Glen expressed support for newly developed Alternatives 10A and 10B that would direct 340 to the west, away from their community, along a railroad owned by CSX Corporation.
“We hope that the route decided upon is one that makes the least negative impact on the many families and business owners in the Rippon Community,” wrote residents Becky and Michael Kingsberry in an email.
Residents also expressed gratitude that they were made aware that the June 3 meeting would occur, unlike the September meeting which went without notice other than an electronic sign along the highway.
The announcement added further tension for some in the community, though, as it pushed the deadline for the DOH to enter a “record of decision” – a document that would formally choose a route for the proposed but as-yet unfunded expansion – out until 2015.
Residents say this leaves them with a cloud hanging over their homes, leaving them unable to sell or refinance except under highly unfavorable terms.
“I was looking into possibly refinancing, and it reared its head then,” said Kelly Timbrook. “I took a real hit.”
Timbrook said her life savings are tied up in her home.
“The prospect of maybe having to declare bankruptcy if I lose my house – that has caused me a lot of sleepless nights,” she said.
“Not knowing which route is going to be selected is leaving many residents worried and stressed out,” wrote the Kingsberrys. “Imagine it was your home or business on this path. You have to live day by day not knowing if you should be packing up your belongings and starting from scratch. It is not a good feeling.”
Several residents remain angry that the subdivision was approved in the first place, given the fact that public information available to builders and planners at the time showed a possible conflict between the expansion of 340 and construction of Ryan’s Glen.
Local resident Glen Hetzel warned the Jefferson County Planning Commission, developer Lou Athey and Dan Ryan Builders during an August 2005 hearing that the subdivision might have been in the area affected by the planned expansion of the road. Several routes had been proposed and published by the Division of Highways in 2003, but the Planning Commission was apparently unaware of them.
As a part of the subdivision approval process, the developer also obtained a letter from the DOH concerning access of the subdivision to 340, and the development requirements for creating a turnoff from the highway. The DOH did not note the potential conflict between the building and highway expansion plans.
Local activist and former planning commission member John Maxey said simple steps to prevent a repetition of the Ryan’s Glen predicament have not yet been made.
“Why is it that we are sitting here a year later and there hasn’t been any action to correct the lack of communication with DOH?” he asked. He said developers should be required to submit a letter from the DOH, indicating that a subdivision would be unaffected by planned highway development before it was approved.
Timbrook says she primarily blames Dan Ryan Builders for the predicament.
“I think the lion’s share of the blame lies with Dan Ryan Builders,” she said. “My life savings may be out the window because of Dan Ryan’s greed.”
Dan Ryan Builders have said they were merely the contracted builder of the project, and that they relied on Athey’s assertion that the subdivision would not be affected by the expansion.
Timbrook says she doesn’t buy that explanation.
“Nobody in his or her right mind depends on one single individual when you are looking at a multi-million dollar endeavor,” she said. “If they want to say that Lou Athey shares the blame, then I can understand that.”
“Lou Athey and Dan Ryan all got paid, and I’m assuming they are all insulated from what the rest of us are facing,” she said. “I’m paying for somebody else’s problems.”
Wilson says worrying over the various routes has set neighbors against each other in some cases, since routes that will spare one property will inevitable impact others more significantly.
“It is tearing this neighborhood apart,” she said. “It is turning neighbor against neighbor.”
“None of us along the 340 corridor should be treated this way,” she said.[/cleeng_content]