Riverside residents unable to derail plans for road

April 09, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

An 11th-hour effort by some Riverside residents to keep a road from being built within 100 feet of their homes has failed, although they may be able to get a few trees planted as a buffer against traffic noise and headlights.

The road, Belcamp Garth, has been planned for Riverside for at least six years, planning director Arden C. Holdredge said. It's the second part of a two-phase plan to complete the last quarter mile of the southernmost portion of Riverside Parkway.

The parkway will pass over U.S. 40 and the adjacent railroad tracks, with a cloverleaf exit onto U.S. 40, and continue into Belcamp Industrial Park. It is scheduled to open in the next two weeks.

Belcamp Garth is an 800-foot-long road that will replace Belcamp Road, a temporary route that has served as the lower end of Riverside Parkway for several years. But Belcamp Garth will be built as much as 150 feet closer to the homes on three courts off Caldwell Square.

"We lost, and we're very unhappy," Terry Larson, a resident of Caldwell Square, said Friday. "We would have loved to see the road stay right where it is, but it would have cost too much time and money to change the plans. I just hope they'll be able to put up enough trees back there so it'll be safe for the kids to play."

The new road was ordered by the county to provide access to a nursing home on Belcamp Road, a planned fire station for the area and future apartments or townhouses that will be built south of existing development, said John Dixon, president of BLC Properties Inc., the developer of Riverside.

Residents of the Caldwell Square area say they weren't aware of the plans for Belcamp Garth until last month, when stakes marking the boundaries of the new road went into the ground behind their houses. Construction, which was to begin this month, will eliminate most of a berm that now shelters the homes from Belcamp Road and will wipe out several pine trees and willows that provide additional buffer.

Mrs. Larson, who has lived in her home four years, said that

when she and her neighbors saw the stakes, they canvassed the neighborhood of about 50 homes and learned that most of the residents of the three courts did not know about the new road. They thought the area behind their homes, built more than 10 years ago, was designed as open space.

She said that while BLC held annual meetings with the Riverside Community Association to discuss development, recent meetings concentrated on the $4 million overpass as a way to eliminate a dangerous grade-level intersection at U.S. 40. There was no mention of Belcamp Garth in meeting minutes of the last two years, she said.

After Mrs. Larson and two neighbors confronted planning and zoning officials at a planning council meeting in Abingdon earlier this month, Mr. Dixon suggested a compromise. He said BLC might be willing to keep the old road in place as Belcamp Garth if it could make some changes in the proposed land use, including moving the location of a planned fire station on land being donated to the county and selling a different piece of land to the nursing home for a parking lot.

County officials rejected that idea, saying the existing road is not to par as a permanent roadway and that a new one, even in the same place, would have to be completely redesigned to county specifications and resubmitted for bids.

The time and money involved would be prohibitive, said Mr. Dixon after a meeting with county planning and public works officials last week.

"I would have had to throw away this set of engineering plans and start again from square one," he said. "Unfortunately we have a public works agreement to build the road and turn it over to the county. It can't be stopped."

He said it will cost BLC about $100,000 to build Belcamp Garth.

"It's unfortunate that these people were unaware of the plans," Mr. Dixon said. "I think they were told something different by sales agents. It's not open space back there. It's BLC property, and it's land to be developed."

Riverside, which has about 2,000 homes, will have about 2,700 when complete, he said.

"It's a case now of finding what can be done to make it less objectionable to the people living on that side of the road," Mr. Dixon said.

He said construction workers will be instructed to replant as many of the uprooted trees as possible and that the sidewalks on the Caldwell Square side of the street may be eliminated and a buffer of trees planted there instead.

Mrs. Larson said that would help reduce noise and could discourage the children from going near the road but is small consolation. "It's just too bad that we didn't know about it earlier," she said.

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