When a VDOT crew arrived on May 24 to drill for soil samples on Rt. 620 (Coulson Church Road) near Exit 19 of I-77, it found an unwelcoming committee formed of Sandra and Shirley Felts. The crew was there for the first step in a process that will eventually expand the road from a two-lane to a four-lane as part of the Wildwood Commerce Park project.
“They said they weren’t coming this far, that everybody was going to be happy and satisfied. They lied to us,” said Sandra Felts, referring to the Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ decision in February to shorten the four-lane project.
Felts said she was upset because she would lose a good portion of the property to the project, while vacant and for-sale property across the road would be left virtually untouched.
“They ought to take it (the needed property) where the land is for sale, where nobody wants it,” said Felts. “All the property on the other side of the road has been for sale, or nobody lives there.”
According to Felts, she would lose a 67-foot strip of her property fronting Coulson Church Road. Although the state would pay her for all but the first seven feet, she said the offering price was not up to what property had sold for in the past.
“They offered me $3,000 an acre, but not long ago nine acres sold for $210,000,” said Felts.
“I’m not against progress, I’m not against Wildwood Park, I’m not against jobs in Carroll County. I just don’t think taking my property for a wider road, shoulders and a drainage ditch is right.”
However, Ronald Newman, assistant county administrator for land use and planning, said Felts’ concerns have been addressed by both the board of supervisors and VDOT, who holds the ultimate responsibility in decisions regarding the project.
Newman said he first met with Felts on May 14 following the board of supervisors’ meeting. After discussing her concerns about the wider right-of-way, temporary easement and test holes, he advised that those decisions were made by VDOT.
The following day, Newman contacted Dan Huff of VDOT to request a meeting on the issues raised by Felts. Newman said, “Huff contacted the Salem design personnel, who informed him the plan had been revised in front of Felts’ property to reduce the required right-of-way by approximately one-half. He also stated that the transition at the end of the project did require wider shoulders and that he did not think this width would be reduced or the project shortened anymore.”
On May 21, Newman said he received an email from Felts, “thanking me for looking into the issue. She indicated she still had a concern with the temporary easement and VDOT needing access to her property to clean the drainage ditch that was being proposed. She also indicated she would like to meet with VDOT.”
Newman responded to Felts by email. “I explained the need for temporary easements during construction and also explained that once the project is constructed all that would be left would be the permanet easement,” he said. “I also explained that it was better to have the drainage ditch cleaned with water going out into a field rather than through the house. I told her VDOT would need to periodically clean the ditch and that the definition of periodically would depend upon how much mud, etc. washed into the ditch.”
Newman also advised Felts that he had sent a copy of her email to Dan Huff and Lisa Hughes of VDOT, adding that a “representative of VDOT would be glad to meet with her to discuss her concerns.” He also reminded her once again that the decision as how to proceed with the project came from VDOT.
The following day, Newman received an email from Huff, thanking him for attempting to explain to Felts’ VDOT’s need to maintain the roadways. Huff again mentioned VDOT could meet with Felts to discuss any questions she might have.
Then on May 24, the same day as Felts’ confrontation with VDOT workers, Newman received an email from Huff. In the email, Huff stated “he had attempted to set up a meeting with Felts and that she advised him her doctor had recommended that she no longer discuss the project with VDOT, and that she did not desire to meet with VDOT.”
An eminent domain referendum will be on Virginia’s November ballot, and Felts said she would definitely be voting for it.
Among the limitations of the referendum is a restriction that only allows government to seize land for public use, instead of economic development, and requires compensation for land owners. It also has a provision that would provide business owners compensation for lost profit and lost access damages incurred when an eminent domain project impeded access to their stores.
“Voters need to vote for that so if your land is taken, you get what’s it worth,” said Felts.