Maybe, maybe not. Spurred by an email from a reader:
Jarman Gap road widening improvements for 2009 – everyone agrees it’ll be nice, but did you know they’re probably taking eminent domain and taking land from the Crozet Methodist Church, as well as all the way down to Grayrock? I live in Grayrock and several homeowners could lose 5-10 feet of their quarter acre lot! There is likely to be a lot of protest to this, and more public awareness is better – will also affect Waylands Grant and Bargamin Park.
I contacted Allan Sumpter, Residency Administrator with the VDOT regarding the possibility of the Commonwealth using eminent domain along Jarman’s Gap. This is his response:
The Jarmans Gap roadway construction project is still in the design phase. Since the inception of the project, an enormous amount of growth has occurred along Route 691 relatively quickly. This growth has made it necessary for VDOT to go back and acquire additional survey information to reflect the physical changes that have occurred along the roadway. Presently, our design team is working to update plans that reflect how these physical changes into the roadway design. Thus, the project has not reached the right-of-way phase.
I’d like to explain how this process works. Once design is complete on a project plans are submitted to our Central Office in Richmond for approval to proceed to the right-of-way acquisition phase. This phase includes all necessary property acquisitions, temporary and permanent construction easements and utility easements. When approval is granted, our right-of-way section is given clearance to begin. Each affected property is appraised by a licensed appraiser. After the appraisal is complete, a negotiation agent contacts the property owner to arrange a meeting to present them with an offer on what VDOT needs to acquire for the project. This may include more than one visit. If and when the offer is accepted, legal documents are drawn up to complete the transaction and the property owner is paid. In cases where all attempts to reach an agreement have failed VDOT will then make a decision to proceed to use the power of eminent domain. A “certificate” is filed with the court system and upon court approval, VDOT can then proceed with the project. A final agreement on what the property owner is paid is made through that system.
As I explained, the project is not yet to this phase. Initial data indicates there are 105 property owners affected on the project. The exact acreage from each to construct the project varies. This information is listed on the plans and will be available once the plans are completed. Therefore, it is not possible for me to provide exact figures to you at this time. If all goes well, the project is appears to be headed to the right-of-way phase this Fall. Right-of-way agents would then start contacting property owners with specifics at that time. I hope this information clarifies this process. As for construction, we hope that construction will be ongoing during the 2009 construction season. (ed. note: bolding mine)
I hope this information is useful. If you have questions, please let me know.
The question is this – do the road improvements that will benefit the community supersede the property rights of the landowners?