County: Path to Woodbrook Paved by Mistake

The Road to Woodbrook. This 8-foot wide path is big enough to carry a full size automobile from the Carmike theater to the Woodbrook Lagoon. County officials conceded Thursday that it was built in error.

After several days of denial, Albemarle County officials conceded Thursday that the path to Woodbrook was paved in error. In a telephone interview with this blog, Rio District Supervisor Rodney Thomas said, “It was paved by mistake.” The original plan, as directed by the Board of Supervisors on April 14, 2010, was clear – no paved path to Woodbrook. A document obtained from the County Web site confirmed that on April 22, 2010 the County properly instructed Arden Place developers to not construct the path.

The County’s concession came after several days of email in which they maintained that the path was built as directed by the Board. “There has absolutely been a misunderstanding by the Woodbrook Residents of the original plans or what they have been told or have interpreted on their own,” said Thomas in an email message to this blog on Wednesday. “The plan is being executed as presented in April 2010,” he said. But when presented with a transcript of the April 2010 Board meeting the next day, Thomas agreed that the path should not have been paved.

The same area in April 2010, before the path was built.

Perhaps the strongest denials came from County planner Bill Fritz. In a Wednesday email message to Thomas and intended for distribution to Woodbrook residents, Fritz said, “All decisions the Board made are incorporated into the approved site plan.” In response to numerous emails from angry Woodbrook residents Fritz said, “[Staff] will permit [the path] to remain asphalt.” Woodbrook residents may recall that it was Fritz who first proposed a trail running from Rio Road to the Woodbrook Lagoon.

The majority of Woodbrook residents have been opposed to the path since it was first introduced in the fall of 2009 and were relieved when the Board of Supervisors directed developers not to build it in April 2010. They are not happy. “Arden Place needs to remove the road and plant trees,” said one resident. In a sample polling of 15 Woodbrook residents selected at random Thursday, their position was unanimous – remove the Woodbrook leg of the path and replace the trees.

Many Woodbrook residents are also angry over the failure of the County to monitor a Board of Supervisors approved action. “They should honor their agreement they made with us back in April 2010, and rectify their mistake,” said one resident.

Woodbrook residents will now have to decide how they want to handle this. What do you think should be done? We welcome your comments below.

33 thoughts on “County: Path to Woodbrook Paved by Mistake

  1. I think, while they are still in the building stages with large equipment and power tools, that the asphalt should be jackhammered, and either a playground/park, a mulched trail, and/or decent sized trees should be substituted.

  2. As Woodbrook residentsI we agree with the majority of residents who would like to see the path removed and replanted with trees. Otherwise it makes a joke of the whole process.

  3. This seems to be a "convenient mistake" made by the developers, in order to achieve the goal they originally presented to the Board of Supervisors for approval. When the discussion and subsequent vote of disapproval came back, they appear to have ignored the vote and gone ahead and plowed forth with their original plans. I, for one, cry "Foul!" This is just an example of how money talks and, sometimes, skirts the rules. We cannot let this stand! The asphalt should be removed and trees replanted in order to restore the area to its previous state.

  4. The Albemarle County Planning Commission said 'no' to the path. The Board of Supervisors said 'no' to the path. Yet we have a path, and it's 8-feet wide and ADA compliant to boot.

    Something is clearly amiss here.

  5. As residents of Woodbrook we feel strongly that the path should be removed and the trees should be replanted-as was the vote of the Board of Supervisors. If this decision was not followed, who's to say what future decisions will not be followed by developers?

  6. I'm in complete agreement that the asphalt should be ripped up and trees planted. What do we need to do to get this accomplished?

  7. Since they admit it was built by mistake, it can be torn up. Trees and other shrubbery can be planted for what was remove. If this was the builder's error, he should pay. If it is the county's area, then they should pay.

  8. As a past community board member who was involved with this issue from the beginning, and attended a number of meetings about it, I am deeply concerned that the County's approved plans were disregarded by the builder. I heartily agree, in fact I demand, that the pavement be removed and the trees and shrubbery replaced. As a previous comment states, it otherwise makes a mockery of the whole planning process. And yes, the builder should of course pay to restore the area that was destroyed in error. If any other action is needed by the community I hope someone will let me know.

  9. There are a lot of things about this that bother me. First of all, does no one monitor what the approved plans are vs. what is built?

    It also bothers me how this keeps coming up. If you remember, the path had originally been voted down and then was brought up at the last minute at a meeting by outgoing Supervisor, Sally Thomas. All of a sudden, it was on the table again with no notice to residents of Woodbrook. We worked to get that off the table again (with the help of Rodney Thomas). But just as we were breathing a sigh of relief, we see that things have been done contrary to the approved plan.

    Several residents wrote to the supervisors and complained and everyone was told that we were mistaken and that things were done according to plans. When the transcript of the meeting with the approved plans were sent to the Supervisors (along with the document that signed off on it), the tune was changed and there was an admission that we were right; the path was inadvertently paved and 40 feet longer than it was supposed to be. However, we're told it was just a "goof" and that it really is better for Woodbrook to leave it. Hmmmmm. . .if an individual or business ran afoul of the Supervisors' vote would they be allowed to just leave it? I kind of think not! And if you just let things go when they aren't done correctly, what provisions are there that we can trust anything that gets voted on? This is the second thing in recent months that was voted on by a public body one way, and implemented another way. You have to be able to trust what is voted upon.

    And why weren't there emails sent out to the people who were told that we were mistaken about the plans when it was discovered that we were not? That doesn't seem quite right to me. I guess this doesn't seem very important in the scheme of things to most of the supervisors, but we live here!

    We've definitely lost a lot of our noise buffer with all the trees that were cut down and I know there was a big party down there a few weeks ago. It was easy to drive on the Carrsbrook cut through until rocks were put there (and people still occasionally try!); it's way easier to drive at least part way to Woodbrook with the paved area.

    As I said, there's a lot about this that bothers me . . .

  10. I don't get it. We are not talking about a nuclear power plant or a toxic waste dump. All the upset is about a small asphalt path that could be a nice community resource. Walk the entire wooded path to its end at Rio Road and the Fashion Square mall, and you may change your minds.

  11. The issue here is not whether the path is a good idea or not… that has already been decided at two Planning Commission and two Board of Supervisor meetings over a period of almost a year.

    The issue is whether or not the developers faithfully carried out the Board of Supervisors instructions as directed on April 14, 2010. In a democracy, it's imperative that the rulings of our governing bodies be respected.

    There are many people in Woodbrook who worked tirelessly with government officials to reach the April 2010 decision. Some spoke out at public meetings, others wrote letters to their supervisor, still others delivered fliers door to door. Naturally, they want to see the results of their hard work realized in the real world, not simply set aside by a careless mistake.

    We don't know exactly what happened here, but we do know this. After months of effort, residents, supervisors and planners agreed. There is to be no path to Woodbrook.

  12. It might be a "nice" path and a "nice" community resouce but it would be "nice" if it were done for the right reasons and at the wishes of the residents.

    I would like to know if the BOS only cares about and backs up decisions that are in favor of business in Albemarle County? Why is it that the voice of the people never seems to be heard? As citizens we are told over and over that we need to be involved at the local level. It appears to me that everytime the citizens at the local level speak, the BOS doesn't hear them. I do realize, in this specific instance, the Board agreed with Woodbrook residents and the trail was not to come through. Now that the damage is done (the path present, the trees cut down, a "maintenance road" from Rio to Caarsbrook) will the result be a shrug of the shoulders and a "tut-tut — sorry, better luck next time" answer be given?

    I'm sorry I appear to be so jaded and cynical – I wasn't born this way. Living in Albemarle County has hastened the process along.

  13. In the April 2010 letter from Mr. Fritz to Mr. McGinty it clearly states that "the path terminates at the travelway connecting to the Gardens Shopping Center (also referred to as Carmike). This is what was agreed upon, voted on … but NOT what happened. (See http://cvillepublicmedia.org/woodbrook/docs/2010/0422-FritzToMcGinty.pdf)

    Please remove the path which extends beyond the Carmike, plant new trees and most importantly restore our trust in the process of local government.

  14. Regardless of whether one likes this extended path or not, the issue of whether it should exist at all has already been legally resolved. Albemarle County, through its Planning Commission and its Board of Supervisors, has decided that it should not. The County now must enforce this decision by requiring that the path extension be removed and the land reforested.

  15. I am in agreement with other Woodbrook residents of removing the paved path that was not approved. I like the idea of replanting trees.

  16. I'll be another contrarian voice on this–I fail to see the sinister motives of the BOS or the developer in this. Whatever people think was approved was not closely monitored–screw-ups happen all the time, which does not of course justify it.

    I really don't see what Woodbrook residents seem to fear so much. Do we want a gated community?
    I think we're actually developing a bad reputation in the community by this fortress mentality that seems to abound. If this were a path from the Carrsbrook neighborhood (which of course has been there since the beginning), would there be so much concern?

    Our neightborhood has much better things to get worked up about, beautification and cleanliness for starters.

    Steve Wilson

  17. It's worth recalling where all this "upset" with Arden Place began. Early on we were told by the developer that they had a near absolute right, using an old abandoned road right-of-way, to route their commercial apartment complex traffic into our quiet Woodbrook neighborhood. That struck most of us as wrong and ridiculous, and began to destroy our confidence in the BOS and the county planning process. Why should it EVER have been necessary for the neighborhood to defend itself against "planning" that made no sense? So, that's where we started.

    Over the last few years we've seen the "Stellar One" bank woods destroyed, the Arden Place woods destroyed, and now the Stonefield woods at Hydraulic Road and 29 destroyed. Is this making Albemarle County a better, more beautiful, place to live? This summer we've learned that the 29 Bypass, with support of the BOS, is back again. Public meetings are replaced by closed door meetings, mistakes happen, but apparently monitoring and enforcement don't. Every development seems to involve multiple waivers of what we hope are thoughtful regulations. Is there anything happening here that encourages us to trust the planning and development process? If there is I'm missing it.

  18. I would have cut the BOS some slack had they not responded to the complaints by saying the path had been built exactly as intended. Either they are being deceptive or are clueless and/or too lazy to look into themselves. They voted against it but it still happened. Makes me concerned about other county developments.

  19. It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and I think that is why the developers paved this path. It seems like it would be a lot more expensive to pave a path rather than create the gravel path that was agreed upon. The paved path seems to set the developers up for a more permanent road in the future. The path is so close to the Woodbrook neighborhood that it wouldn't take much to connect the two roads in the future. I believe that the developers need to follow the guidelines set up at the meeting. They need to abide by the rules and remove the part of the road that was not agreed upon.
    The Mytingers

  20. Do we know much about the Woodbrook majority that folks mention in posts here. Might it help to take an email survey to get a clearer sense of the number of people in this majority?

  21. Meg: WCA President Susan Reed has sent several email messages to the neighborhood email list on this subject. She reports that the responses have been overwhelmingly in support of removing the path and restoring the land.

    However, as several people, including myself, have commented here, it has long since been decided that there is to be no path.

  22. Thanks for clearing this up, Dan. I recognize that the majority rules, so I will just stand as part of an apparently small minority who feel that the path is a good thing in spite of the Board's ruling.

  23. I am sad, disappointed and frustrated about the illegal path to Woodbrook. I advocate its removal. As stated in many comments to this blog, the neighborhood as an association and as individuals opposed the path. The county agreed. Something must be done to remove the path or mitigate its impact.

    Having attended the meetings re this issue, I recall how passionate the developers were in advocating for this path. It is in their best interests to increase the ammenities provided this development given its high density, poor access, narrow roads within the development, slopes and lack of views (will it be difficult to lease once leaves fall and residents must look at the back of the shopping center?). I recall one representative of the development threaten to build low income housing if the path were not approved. I note that the path was used in written media to advertize open house. Did the developer disregard the ruling and build the path to increase sales? If so, will letting one business get away with disregard for rule set a pattern for other businesses in this community?

    I think it is intresting that the lagoon was improved around the same time the development was begun. Is it "promote business as usual" Was there collaboration with county? Have other ordinances been overlooked? I call for an inspection of the rest of the development to find out. Safety or other environmental problems could be devistatiing. I was impressed with the size of slopes on this property. Have these been safely been mitigated?

    It is also important to remind Woodbrook residents that the path is on private property. Woodbrook residents would not be allowed to use it while others can legally or illegally enter Woodbrook through the path. I and others have been concerned about use of the woods to enter Woodbrook. Crimes have been consistently been noted throught this blog to aleert residents and increase vigilance and protect property.

    Pkese encourage the county to remove this path and increase inspection of the development for other oversights and mistakes. Audrey Kocher

  24. A little while ago, I read a post by Susan (no last name) that argued against the recent uproar over the path. I don't see it any more and assume it has been removed.

    Is the blog's policy to remove any comment the administrator disagrees with?

    Please restore that comment, and any others you have removed for no good reason.

  25. George: Susan (no last name) wrote to us earlier today requesting that her comment be removed. We did so immediately.

    Provided that they are respectful of the opinions of others, we post all comments no matter which side of the issue they take.

  26. That petition says a lot that I am not willing to support. It is too prescriptive and it reads with the blame placed squarely on the developer, assuming it is within the county's power to make them remove it. The petition does little to address the possibility that the county signed off on the path after having voting it down. Also, and it brings in related, but less blatantly "wrong" issues (e.g., the service access point, which I thought was off Caarsboork anyways??). Sorry, but no signature from us.

  27. Anon: With this week's admission from Supervisor Thomas that the developer paved the path in error it looks pretty much like this was the developer's mistake.

    Whether the County has the authority to set it straight is yet to be seen.

  28. I can see the pros and cons of the pathway as I'm sure most of us can. However, what is so alarming is the blatant disregard for the democratic process. Residents spoke up at the public meeting (majority against path) and the government officials heard their voice and voted "no". For this ruling to be ignored totally baffles me. If things are happening like this on a lower level, can we trust our government officials to act responsibly on the bigger issues?

  29. Dan: The whole issue here is the incompetence and/or deception of the BoS and now we are supposed to simply believe Sup. Thomas that it was the developers fault? Even after he denied the path was wrongly built?? I'm not sure I follow your logic… Seems more like a denial/deflection from an elected official.

    I suggest simplifying the petition so you can get more numbers and have a less directed letter. What good will the petition be if it turns out someone in the county messed up and wrongfully approved the plan?

  30. I respectfully disagree with all the hue and cry over the path from Arden Place. I realize people are upset, and perhaps justly, about the BOS and/or the developers apparently reversing an agreement that was made. But rather than starting yet another war with either of those groups, I say let's try to make something good come out of all this. Instead of demanding in anger that the path be ripped up and plopping in trees that will die unless someone is dedicated to taking care of them, leaving us with a bigger mess to fret about, why not make the most of this error/change in plans, whatever it was, and put our efforts to making the path work to our benefit and helping to create something we can all use and enjoy.

    I have always agreed with the idea of neighborhoods being connected for pedestrians. My husband was one of the few folks who actually stood up at one of the meetings to say he thought a path connecting Woodbrook to Arden Place and to Albemarle Square was a good idea, that it would improve what has been a messy connection anyway, make it possible for people to walk or bike to the shopping areas, or on to work, or to the bus stop in Albemarle Square. It could make our neighborhood much more accessible without cars to places we would like to go. Plus it would provide a nice place for just walking and exercising. I know folks are concerned about "undesirable" people entering our neighborhood. I just don't think a well maintained path would have that effect, but in fact may work to our benefit. If more people are using the path, it becomes more self-monitored. People enjoy using the path to Carrsbrook for walking, especially since it has been cleaned up and a true path actually designated. The Arden path directs users away from people's back yards, which is a benefit, and routes it toward the new lagoon area instead, which may become a beautiful destination when that project is completed. If we actually worked WITH the developers, I would guess that reciprocal usage would not be an issue at all.

    My main concern in all this is that the Woodbrook neighborhood has received so much bad press with its protests for this and that in the past few years–the baseball field and now the path to name two issues– and to the rest of the community I feel we sound like a very negative, unfriendly, isolationist group of people. I think this has a defining effect on our image as a neighborhood, on our property values, and just on our psyche as neighbors, because people think this is not a place they want to live or buy a home, despite all the good things we have going for us like a neighborhood school within walking distance and its own recreational facilities, wide tree lined streets, closeness to shopping of all kinds.

    I think we would be much better served by focusing our efforts on some good PR for our neighborhood, such as a volunteer effort to HELP clean up the lagoon and paths, even the ones near the school, to make an area we all can enjoy and be proud of. I walked down around the lagoon area recently and see potential for a beautiful nature preserve, and place to walk, which I think is one of the stated goals of the project. I'm so glad they are doing something to clean up that lagoon and help clean the waters that drain into the Chesapeake eventually, and if the neighborhood got behind it and involved in the work, perhaps we could help shape the final product to our liking, including any connection to Arden Place.

    (continued below…)

  31. (…continued from above)

    And we could work toward bringing more beneficial things into our neighborhood, like sidewalks if people really want them (though it will narrow our streets and parking), or a bus stop of our own, or a community trash service agreement that would save $ and fuel by contracting with a single trash service for the entire neighborhood instead of having three trucks go down my street the same morning of the week. These are things that could really serve the people of our neighborhood. Or just plain working to beautify Woodbrook itself would be a great project. How about a clean-up, fix-up, beautify-our-yards campaign, or a neighborhood garden week tour? We could also organize some ways to better get to know our neighbors –not just protests at county meetings or on blogs, but something like coffee and dessert parties in people's home, or block parties, or a directory of names, addresses and phone numbers so we can know who lives around the block, or who is available for mowing lawns or babysitting, or doing handyman work, or any variety of things that people might like to offer their neighbors. A realtor did that for us once long ago.

    These are just some of the ideas that I've had over the years. We are longtime residents of Woodbrook having moved here in 1977, drawn then by the neighborhood school, the young families with children, the large comfortable homes and woodsy feeling. Many times we thought about moving elsewhere, to the country for its spaces, or the city for its conveniences, but we ended up deciding to stay here, in part because so many of those conveniences have come to us, we still have the green spaces around us, and we still have those lovely tree lined streets that are wider than almost any other neighborhood around, I think. We have grown older with the neighborhood, but the city, especially the county has grown as well, bringing different needs and priorities from those of 34 years ago. We would benefit from being able to walk to nearby neighborhoods and shopping areas and restaurants, from having greater access to the green spaces we do have at our fingertips including hikes through the woods, instead of always having to hop into cars and drive on 29 to reach such destinations. Businesses could benefit as well by being more accessible to foot traffic.

    Young people more often choose to live near Downtown and its amenities. These are the people we want to buy our homes eventually, people who are used to being able to easily access recreation, shopping, and public transportation from their residences. We are no longer out in the country, four stop lights away from the University as it was when we moved here (yes, that's true!), when Rio Hill and Fashion Square were forests and pastures respectively (also true). Now we are part of the urban ring, even though we are technically the county. We have seen a lot of changes in our 34 years here and I for one would like to see us move forward into the modern world a little more, a world of interconnected neighborhoods, green spaces accessible to all, an emphasis on pedestrian rather than vehicle traffic. If we shut ourselves off from these things, and maintain a sort of fortress mentality, I think we shoot ourselves in the foot for the future. Most of all I'd just like to see us become a more positive and forward thinking neighborhood!

    Lynanne Wilson

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