2009-06-17 / News

New VDOT standards require neighborhood roads to connect

By Greg Pearson


Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer The Virginia Department of Transportation favors extending Battlecreek Drive into the Francis Beer tract if the county approves the residential rezoning. Bayhill Pointe residents have opposed the rezoning.
Starting in July, new residential developments will be required to connect to adjacent neighborhoods unless the new developments or the county is willing to maintain their internal roads. Previously, the county had a policy favoring connectivity, but the planning commission and board of supervisors routinely waived it during rezonings upon request.

"If a new residential development is proposed and built and does not connect to the adjacent neighborhoods, its road will not be eligible for state maintenance," said Dale Totten, Chesterfield's residency engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Exceptions include development designs without stub roads. All public roads in Chesterfield are maintained by VDOT.

Asked last year whether Chesterfield would pay for maintaining residential roads not meeting the state requirement, County Attorney Steve Micas said, "…denying connectivity would not necessarily create an affirmative obligation on the county." That would mean the residents or a community association would have to pay for the maintenance.

Adjacent neighborhoods often request waiving connectivity because cut-through traffic is thought to create safety problems and generate more speeding vehicles. Sometimes school bus stops have to be changed when neighborhoods are connected.

"Connectivity is a poorly conceived policy," said Planning Commission Chairman Russell Gulley. "I doubt the legislature ever conceived that VDOT should come up with this kind of policy."

Last year, the 250-acre Francis Beers rezoning case adjacent to the Bayhill Pointe community was withdrawn when some 200 residents turned out to oppose the rezoning for 230 new homes that included extending Battlecreek Drive. The residents held up signs at the board hearing that read "hear the case now" rather than agreeing to a six-month deferral requested by attorney Jack Wilson. Though victorious, the residents left the rezoning expecting the case to be resubmitted, but it hasn't been yet.

"If the Bayhill case comes forward again, it will have to meet the new road standards," said Totten.

There were other issues in the case - a convenience node and an illegal landfill - that could cause a resubmission to be denied. But the residents were primarily concerned about safety issues related to cut-through traffic headed to and from Bailey Bridge Road.

"If Bayhill Pointe had worked with the applicant, they might have come up with a  workable solution," explained Wilson. "Eventually, the property will develop according to the county plan [for residential development], and the road will connect [into the new development]."

In most cases, the higher VDOT standards also include sidewalks on both sides of the streets for new residential developments. There are provisions for less impervious sidewalks to reduce storm-water runoff.

"In a county like Chesterfield there will be many more sidewalks required, and there aren't many exclusions," added Totten. "VDOT is more engaged in the development process."

Gulley fears VDOT is opening the door for local governments to take over maintenance of residential neighborhood roads because of state budget constraints. In a few years, VDOT is projected to not have enough money to maintain roads statewide.

"I think where VDOT is headed is to put the maintenance of residential streets on the localities while it maintains secondary roads," he said.

"I know some people are connecting the dots, but I am not aware of any internal discussions about it," responded Totten. "There is no legislation on the books or any study under way that would make such a transfer."


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