The Hillsboro Town Council on Thursday night voted unanimously to acquire 0.24 acres of private property by condemnation to make way for the town’s $22 million Route 9 Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Project.
The project will install roundabouts, sidewalks, curbs and gutters and improve the drainage and public utility infrastructure to better control traffic flow and keep pedestrians safe.
John Robic owns 1.29 acres across four parcels along Charles Town Pike. The town needs to acquire or place easements on a portion of the properties to construct a single-lane roundabout at the Rt. 9/Stoney Point Road intersection, to extend the roadway and to build sidewalks.
The town has made offers to purchase the property and easements, but Robic has rejected them. As part of the condemnation procedures, the town will escrow $24,389 and record a Certificate of Take for the acquisition in Circuit Court, which will hold a hearing to decide the value of the land and easements.
According to the resolution to authorize the acquisition by condemnation, the town’s road project is consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, is “necessary to the public health, safety, peace, good order, comfort, convenience and welfare of the town and its citizens” and “requires the acquisition of certain right-of-way and easement interests.”
Robert Hester, Volkert’s director of municipal and highway engineering and the manager of the town’s road project, said the town’s representatives met with Robic on four occasions and that, per Robic’s request, made multiple modifications to the project plans to address his concerns, including moving the property’s entrance and removing storm water management locations from the parcels.
Hester said that Robic, who is also the developer of 40 780-square-foot dwelling units as part of a project called the Blue Ridge Country Inn just west of town, became uncooperative after a final modification was made, at which point it became clear that the town would need to condemn portions of his property.
Erin Donahue, a real estate agent with Terra Real Estate Services, said she hand delivered to Robic the town’s offer to purchase nearly 20 percent of his property on Dec. 18 and met with him three more times to discuss the acquisition. She said that Robic did not want to make a counter offer and that he and the town were unable to come to a “mutually-agreeable resolution.”
Donahue said that Robic said he had plans build a beach area in the back of his property along the North Fork of the Catoctin Creek and of his desire to expand his building’s footprint to the east, into the road right of way.
“It became clear that he didn’t want to move forward with an amicable transaction,” she said. “He didn’t want to engage.”
Under Virginia law, the town is allowed to use eminent domain to take private property for public use even though an agreement on compensation was not reached, as long as the town made “bona fide but ineffectual effort” to purchase the property.
According to the resolution to authorize the acquisition by condemnation, “the town has made bona fide but ineffectual effort to purchase the necessary right-of-way and easements.”
Robic still has the option to negotiate a price for the 0.24 acres with the town. If a settlement is not reached, Robic will have the chance to present evidence in the courtroom related to the value of his property and any losses he feels might occur from the project. The court would then establish a final value.