Ryan’s Glen options are all unkind cuts

Efforts to resolve the mess that is the Ryan’s Glen subdivision’s threatened demolition by road-building are commendable. Alas, none of the plans currently being proposed are very good.

The state highways office is currently weighing a number of options to re-route U.S. 340 near Rippon in order to not have to condemn several parcels in the subdivision, which was constructed by Dan Ryan Builders in 2006, long after plans by the Division of Highways to expand the busy road to Virginia were on the books. The office hosted a public forum on Monday to give residents and stakeholders the chance to weigh in on some of them.

As might have been expected, the evening did not go well. Each option has a winner and each one a loser, meaning if one option is picked over another, there’s no real compromise being effected. The process might just as well be made simpler by drawing straws. But of course, there’d be no fairness in that either.

But there’s no fairness in a solution that asks longtime landowners to surrender parts of their properties to eminent domain in order to allow Ryan’s Glen homeowners to keep their houses. These landowners were idle bystanders as developer Lou Athey pitched his plan to develop the land near Rippon in 2005. Likewise, there’s nothing fair about telling that subdivision’s residents that they must bite the bullet for the mixup between the Jefferson County Planning Commission and the state highways office that resulted in these homes being constructed in the path of an oncoming highway, when, clearly, the homes never should have been built in the first place.

It’s for this mistake that the Planning Commission should take a long, hard look at how it conducts its business. Commissioners were warned of the highway office’s plans to expand U.S. 340 when Ryan’s Glen was just drawings on paper and failed to act, like a switchman asleep at the crossing. Likewise, apparently there’s no one at the Division of Highways to check on the possibility of two proposed objects occupying the same space at the same time.

Even worse, the highways office has indicated it won’t decide on the road’s new route until 2015, a move that only serves to draw out the agony for both property owners and homeowners and leaving them unsure how to proceed in their own best interests.

What’s happened to the residents of Ryan’s Glen is unconscionable. If there’s a way they could extract more than fair market value for the loss of their homes, they ought to. The pain might serve as a lesson to the county to be more diligent in its processes and for the state and county to better communicate intentions regarding land use.

Jefferson County is one of the few counties in West Virginia that people move to from outside the state. Having enough folks who entertain the notion to move here encounter just such a taste of the slap-happy, free-for-all that is West Virginia’s government in action might serve as a remedy to that.


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