Thursday, November 8, 2012

Big Changes

I live in Southeastern Virginia, before you get to the traffic hazard that is Hampton Roads area.  We are rural – country.  Actually, I live on a farm, a farmer’s daughter.  I was born and raised on this farm just as my dad was, and his dad, and his dad before him.  It’s been in our family for more than 100yrs and is registered as a Century Farm.  You can kinda say I’m attached to this land, to this place.  “There’s No Place Like Home” a quote from my all-time favorite movie has no truer meaning than for this place here in small town USA, what we call Cedar Lawn Farms.

My husband and I built our cozy little home at the back of one of my dad’s fields.  In our simpleton mind, we have the life.  A house you can’t see from the road, acres and acres of woods around us to hunt (for my husband’s sake), and a little pond down our lane that when we stock it back, our children will fish in during summer break.  My grandparent’s house is a row of trees and a field over, and beyond that is another row of trees and a field then my parent’s house.  Yes two minuets are all it takes to get to my childhood home. 

My dad farms cotton, wheat and soy beans.  He has fields all down our road and around on the next country block.  Even on the highway that runs through the small town that our farm is outside of.  And that highway gets me to the point of this post.

VDOT has decided that they need a faster way to transport cargo from Richmond to the ports in Portsmouth.  Going down the existing highway called Rt. 460 just isn’t fast enough.  Because scattered all along this highway which stretches from Blacksburg to Suffolk (across the whole state) are small towns with stop lights.  And you know stopping for a stop light every 60miles is such a hassle for truck drivers. 

So VDOT has, with influence from the manufactures that are shipping this cargo, put into effect to create a whole new Rt. 460.  One only for cargo trucks and tractor trailers, to bypass the small towns only to have the cargo arrive, here it is, HALF A DAY sooner than it was before.  HALF A DAY!, or a whole day depending.  Also, truckers will have to pay a toll, a mandatory toll because they have to use this new highway or be fined, each way…out of their pockets in hopes to get reimbursed (or given a stipend beforehand).  Virginia does not have the money to build this highway or the man power so they have contracted this work out to a private company and hence the toll. 

There will only be interchanges every so often and regular traffic will be prohibited from taking this road unless there are certain conditions that I can’t remember. 

Building a new highway means taking private land and claiming imminent domain.  Well that folks is what’s happening to part of our farm.  The new 460 is passing right through our farm.  In fact it will be taking the house I grew up in, my parent’s house.  That’s how close I will now have a highway to me and my cozy little paradise.  And not only will they take the house but the grain bins, shelters and old peanut drying shelter.  Of course the state will have to pay my dad big bucks for all of this because it is affecting his living, takes away acreage that produces our family’s means.  But who cares about money when you are talking about family?!

Luckily, my grandparent’s house (big, beautiful pre-Civil War plantation-esque house) will not be affected.  Both of my grandparents have passed and the house was left to my dad, so they will be remolding (since the electrical wiring is so old and it needs a face-lift) and moving there.  I thank God that that house and fence and red barns will still be there.  But it breaks my heart that my kids won’t really know my childhood home, and that I won’t be able to go “back home”.

This process started in 2004.  Archeologists came looking for anything that could prohibit building there: Native American burial grounds, endangered animals, precious rock, etc.  But found nothing.  It doesn’t matter that a cemetery behind my parent’s house, where relatives from over 200yrs ago are buried, will be dug up and moved.  The state doesn’t care about that. 

I am so angry.  And I am so sad.  I have been mad about this since they first announced the proposal.  I do not understand why they need a service road just for cargo, when the outcome does not produce that big of a difference time-wise.  Why are we a world that has to have things in a split second?  Why can’t we just slow down?  I believe America and the world would be a better place if we just took time to take life in.  But yet this is all in the name of progress.

I could just scream.

Construction starts December 2014.  I have two years to cherish everything that is Cedar Lawn Farms right now.



I'm so sorry:( that really sucks!


My husband tried to post but was unable:

My wife is a follower of your blog and forwarded me this story. I personally believe that this behavior by government is disgusting. It's a violation of your property rights by the very folks that are supposed to be protecting them. Politicians love eminent domain because it allows them to serve what they believe to be the "common good" and it costs them nothing to do so...and it costs you everything.

You have options though. You can choose to sell, but I am assuming (by the tone of this blog post) that you don't want that. You will be compensated for your land, but will more than likely be paid what THEY want to pay. That is just a straight line appraisal by a couple of different firms--and they'll pick one THEY think is equitable. More than likely it will be a composite $ value. Keep in mind though the appraisers are hired and paid by the very entity that wishes to confiscate your property. If those same appraisers want to continue to get business from gov't they will give them a value that is favorable to THEM and not you. You may want to get your own opinion to make it equitable. That's one option.

The other is to fight. There is a superb organization in Arlington, VA that specializes in property rights and civil forfeiture through eminent domain. They have been instrumental in getting eminent domain laws changed on the state level (in fact they just completed one in VA recently to limit eminent domain) and also defend individual cases and they celebrate a very high success rate. Best of all local gov'ts that use eminent domain know who they are and are deathly afraid of them. The Institute for Justice (www.ij.org). I encourage you to check them out and reach out to them if you are so inclined. They are in a position to help.

Sorry you have to deal with people like this, but know that the world is full of people who always want something that doesn't belong to them and gov't is usually at the center of it, but there is help and hope.



Kay Holt

Jeff- my dad has been to many meetings, met with officials, the story has even been on our local news. He has researched, forbid, and complained. There really isn't much more that the land owners can do. And I guess I should correct and say the cargo companies have influenced VDOT to want to create this highway. Money talks. My dad is a smart man, and has gone down every avenue to prevent this from occurring. Things keep coming up to push back start dates and such so here's to hoping it just all falls through. And I agree it should be against the law to just take someone's home the government shouldn't have that kind of power.

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