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2017-05-17 / Front Page

County prepares to widen Woolridge Road

JIM McCONNELL STAFF WRITER

The county has knocked down all the trees it needs to remove in order to widen Woolridge Road from two lanes to four between its intersection with Otterdale Road and the Swift Creek Reservoir.

Additional work has been halted until the county and Dominion Virginia Power mitigate the project’s environmental impact and obtain required permits.

During a site visit earlier this year, an official with the state Department of Environmental Quality identified wetlands and stream channels that will be permanently damaged in order to widen a 2.8-mile stretch of roadway.

Before Dominion can begin relocating utility poles along Woolridge Road – the next phase of the approximately $25 million project – both the company and the county must receive approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work in those “environmentally sensitive areas.”

Jesse Smith, director of the county’s Transportation Department, confirmed last week that the county has applied for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

As part of that process, the county intends to purchase wetland and stream credits from mitigation banks in Henrico and Amelia counties.

The county also must obtain a Virginia Water Protection Permit from DEQ, assuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations pertaining to water quality.

“We anticipate getting the permits in the next 30 days so we can keep moving forward,” Smith said.

Despite the delay, Smith still hopes to solicit bids for the project by next winter and start construction in summer 2018. It is expected to take two years to complete, he added.

The Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comments on the county’s permit application for the Woolridge Road project until May 29.

Public comments are used to assess potential impacts on endangered species, historic properties and water quality and general environmental effects, and determine the need for a public hearing on the permit application.

There already has been considerable interest in the project from citizens who live on or near Woolridge Road, which county officials say must be widened to four lanes in order to accommodate future residential development.

More than 200 people attended a July 2015 community meeting at Woolridge Elementary, including members of a citizen task force that submitted an alternative to the county’s proposal.

The task force comprised residents of the Foxfire, Foxcroft and Woodlake subdivisions, as well as property owners along Woolridge Road and representatives from two local churches. Citing safety concerns with the county’s plan, the task force proposed keeping Woolridge Road as a two-lane roadway but widening the travel lanes from 10 feet to 11 feet. Its plan also included 5-foot dedicated bike lanes on both sides of the roadway, paved sidewalks, crosswalks and roundabouts at all intersections.

Donald Delegge, a Foxfire resident and a vocal critic of the county’s plan, still maintains that the task force’s proposal would make Woolridge Road much safer for motorists, while improving access for pedestrians and cyclists.

“It befuddles me why the county was so determined to do it this way,” Delegge said during an interview earlier this month.

County officials insist four lanes are needed to accommodate traffic in the area, which is expected to triple from 4,000 cars per day to 12,000 over the next 20 years.

Because of continued westward growth, the county has planned for some time to widen both Woolridge and Otterdale roads. To help fund that effort, the Board of Supervisors in 2007 created a community development authority in the Magnolia Green subdivision.

Under terms of the CDA, all Magnolia Green property owners are required to pay a special assessment for up to 30 years. Revenue generated from those assessments will pay off bonds sold to pay for the road improvements.

Matt Harris, director of the county’s Budget and Management Department, noted that Magnolia Green property owners will pay the first installment of the special assessment along with their June 2017 real estate tax bills.

Magnolia Green’s developer, New Yorkbased iStar Financial, still owns most of the community’s nearly 1,900 acres. The company is expected to pay about $1.1 million of the $1.5 million in total CDA assessments this year, Harris said.

Comments on the Woolridge Road project must be submitted in written form and can be sent by either email to julie.s.hamilton@usace.army.mil, or by regular mail, addressed to the Norfolk District, Corps of Engineers (ATTN: CENAO WR-R), 9100 Arboretum Parkway, Suite 235, Richmond, Virginia, 23236. ¦

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