By

Sean Tubbs



Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

will not request that the Federal Highway Administration order a new study of the environmental impacts that may be caused by the 6.2-mile

Western Bypass

of

U.S. 29

.






A motion requesting that the FHWA conduct a new supplemental environmental impact statement failed Wednesday on a 3-3 vote.

“To me, this [request] is a delay tactic,” said Supervisor

Rodney Thomas

, who was joined by

Kenneth C. Boyd

and

Duane E. Snow

in voting against the motion.
“I am concerned about the environmental impacts of the bypass… but I do trust [the Virginia Department of Transportation] to have it done properly,” Thomas added.
Supervisors Christopher J. Dumler,

Ann H. Mallek

and

Dennis S. Rooker

voted for the request.
To comply with the National Environmental Policy Act,

VDOT

is preparing an assessment of whether previous environmental reviews are sufficient to comply with federal law.
The FHWA will determine this fall whether previous environmental approvals are up-to-date, or if a new study should be conducted to take into account conditions that were not originally factored in. Construction and final design cannot occur until the federal approval process is complete.
The FHWA’s original environmental impact statement was finalized in 1993 and cleared the way for the bypass. However, the

Southern Environmental Law Center

filed a suit alleging that the FHWA made several errors in its review.
Judge Norman K. Moon rejected many of the SELC’s claims, but ordered a supplemental environmental impact statement be conducted to evaluate impacts on the

South Fork Rivanna Reservoir

. That SEIS was completed in 2003.
Rooker requested that

Albemarle

formally request that FHWA consider a more thorough review for the bypass now because he said much has happened since.
“There is a long list of changes that have occurred,” Rooker said. “The

National Ground Intelligence Center

was not here, the

UVa


Research Park

[and] …

Forest Lakes South

[were] not here.

Hollymead Town Center

was not here.”
Rooker said none of those destinations could have been factored in as part of the statements because they did not exist when the last traffic study was completed in the early 1990’s.
“What a full supplemental environmental impact statement will do is make certain that all of these issues get looked at in reasonable depth,” Rooker said.
Supervisors who voted against the resolution said they felt VDOT’s current environmental assessment is sufficient.
“[

VDOT

is] still doing a study right now to determine if future or additional studies need to be done,” Snow said. “I don’t want to circumvent what they’re already doing.”
“The whole purpose of the update is that they will look at what has been done, look at the changes, and they will decide whether or not they want to do a full impact statement then,” Boyd said.
The vote came despite efforts from many in the community who asked supervisors Wednesday to make the request. That included several representatives from the Colonnades assisted living facility off of

Barracks Road

.
“The approved footprint comes within 600 feet of our health care center,” said Jack Renard, president of the Colonnades Association. “We are vulnerable to the blasting that will be required
during the construction.”
“The building of this project will require blasting and crushing of rocks and whatever else is involved with the destruction of Stillhouse Mountain,” said Mark Kasten, executive director of the Colonnades.
Kasten said prospective residents are already beginning to choose other options because they are concerned about the bypass. He said a new SEIS would help reassure existing residents that the impacts of the bypass will be mitigated.



Sylvia Warner, 100, asks Supervisors to reconsider bypass

One-hundred-year-old Sylvia Warner has lived in the facility since 1993.

“I have cherished looking out from my windows into the beautiful woods behind with peace and quiet and serenity that exists because those woods are there,” Warner said. “Are you telling me that at my age, approaching 101, I will have to find a new home?”
Not all public comment was in support of the request.
“The money has been allocated, bids are being secured and an environmental assessment is being done,” said

Earlysville

resident Jane Koch. “Though I sympathize with speakers from the Colonnades, the footprint for the bypass was determined many years ago and its construction should have been disclosed to residents.”
Carter Myers, an automobile dealer and former member of the

Commonwealth Transportation Board

, said he felt the original environmental study from 1993 is still valid.
“It was a very thorough and full study and very expensive and it was good enough and it withstood a lawsuit,” Myers said. “There have been very few changes in the corridor where it was approved.”
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