Seminole property owners: Hillsdale Drive threatened by Stonefield stormwater

A lawyer representing the Seminole Square Shopping Center told the Charlottesville Planning Commission Tuesday that the construction of one of the region’s top transportation priorities may not proceed as planned if the stormwater management plan for the Shops at Stonefield are not amended.

“It is likely that Hillsdale Drive will not be built if this thing goes forth,” said Frederick W. Payne, representing the Great Eastern Management Company, the owner of Seminole Square. 
The commission voted 6-0 to recommend that City Council uphold a determination by city staff that the developer of Stonefield, Edens, violated the conditions of an erosion and sedimentation permit issued by the city’s department of Neighborhood Development Service. 
The city claims that Edens prematurely opened a 72 inch pipe that carries an unnamed tributary of Meadow Creek underneathU.S. 29. That pipe is also designed to carry a portion of excess stormwater from the Stonefield site in the event of heavy rainfall. The rest would flow through an existing 42 inch pipe. 
Water from both would flow into an existing stormwater basin between Seminole Square and the U.S. Post Office that is designed to handle a 100-year storm but assumes no development at the 65-acre Stonefield site.
“If they had never put their water in here, we would never in any way be impacted to have the existing basin’s ability to handle a 100-year storm,” said David Mitchell, an engineer with Great Eastern.
The construction of Hillsdale Drive depends on the owners of Pepsi-Cola facility and Seminole Square donating land for right of way. However, the alignment for the road goes directly over the stormwater basin. 
“That’s our property that we need to utilize to make this road work for everybody,” Mitchell said. “We will have to build walls to compensate for the loss of parking and the part of a building we will lose for the road.”  
This could mean that Hillsdale will need a bridge, which will further raise the cost estimate. The Commonwealth Transportation Board is expected to fully fund the project at its meeting on July 18. 
The city required Edens to keep the 72 inch pipe plugged until staff was satisfied their work had been completed. That involved installing rocks called riprap to slow down the velocity of stormwater. 
However, Edens opened the plug and the city notified them they were in violation. 
“Edens has an easement from the Post Office allowing them to do the work but they’ve never gotten permission to go on to the Seminole Property,” Tolbert  said. “Without permission from Seminole, it’s impossible for them to tie into it” 
Jason Hicks, an attorney representing Edens, said the company has no responsibility to retain water that originates on the 108 acres to the west of Stonefield. 
“All of that offsite water would be returned to the natural stream and ravine by the post office property,” Hicks said. “All of the water from the Stonefield project is being detained on the Stonefield site and being treated and it’s going to flow through the existing 42” pipe.”
Hicks said that when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looked at the plan, they issued their permit conditioned on Edens posting a $150,000 bond to install riprap in the channel if there are any problems in the future. 
“The reason we had the bond is because everyone knew Seminole wasn’t letting us go on the property to install the riprap,” Hicks said. 
Payne said his clients have been trying to meet with Eden representatives for over a year to come to an agreement about the use of their property. He also said the Jessup family, which owns the Pepsi-Cola facility, is also willing to negotiate. 
Hicks said the owners of Seminole insisted that Edens pay to improve their basin. 
“The demands that they made were for Edens to build a million worth of renovations ot their property which don’t have anything to do with their riprap work”,” Hicks said. 
Tolbert disagreed. 
“We always have been under the understanding that [it] was clear that they would come back to us once they had the permission,” Tolbert said. “Why did they even approach Seminole if they didn’t think they needed one?” 
“There is a serious issue that has not been addressed,” said Commissioner Michael Osteen shortly before the unanimous vote. “I think NDS has taken the appropriate steps.”
Council will decide whether to uphold staff’s decision at their meeting on July 16. 
Payne said Great Eastern has no desire to hold up the Stonefield project. 
“We want to work with them,” Payne said. “We think Stonefield will be good for our business.”