In reality, it’s just a bunch of paper that will sit on a shelf that may or may not ever be utilized anyway, like so many others of its kind that have come and gone in the past, but the County Commissioners were right to nix the Route 589 visioning plan.
The major hiccup, an expected one at that, was a planned expansion of the current 100-foot right-of-way to 160 feet, meaning existing property owners would see their land deemed useless, or stolen in the words of Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw.
Currently, Route 589 has a 100-foot right of way, but to add hiking and biking trails, lane expansion and to address the required stormwater issues the state wants to add 60 feet. While the goal is logical, property owners have every right to cry foul over the move, one that reportedly was added to a map in recent months and not available for review at the prior public workshops.
As understood, an expansion of the right-of-way would not have meant compensation for the affected property owners, such as the case when governments enact eminent domain. In those cases, fair market value is given to the property owners for the government essentially “taking” the land for what’s deemed a public good. In this case, it appears property owners would have been without recourse, due to it being classified as a right-of-way.
The state has a problem here now because the county has nixed the visioning plan and there’s no money to start the process over from scratch.
With fiscal constraints understandable, it seems reasonable to expect at least this portion of the visioning plan to be addressed independently.
SHA Director of Planning and Preliminary Engineering Greg Slater told the county the nixed plan would now be set aside and there is no plan to revisit it at this time. However, the county was okay with that, as it has already been told serious work on Route 589, meaning expanding it to four lanes from the existing two, should not be expected for at least 15 years.
Even if the county had approved the plan, it was still going to sit on a shelf and gather dust for years. Instead, the county was right to dismiss it at this early stage.
However, there are two major questions now with this decision.
One is the fate of the pedestrian and bike proposal. That should not be lost. It’s important to integrate these means of travel into any new road in our area, as we desperately need to stress alternative modes of transportation and the area is clearly behind other more progressive jurisdictions on this front.
Another is whether this decision will impact short-term improvement plans for the road that include the addition of turn lanes, additional travel lanes in certain high-volume areas and general safety improvements. The preliminary understanding is this week’s decision does not impact those plans, but that needs to be made clear.
There are several other uncertainties surrounding this week’s decision, but the commissioners were right to ease property owners’ fears at this time and do away with it for now.