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River Watch Parkway extension concerns residents

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Martinez resident Sonya Wheat knows that living next to a busy thoroughfare such as Old Petersburg Road can take some getting used to. Residing roughly 20 feet from a busy four-lane road, however, is a different story.

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The right of way along Old Petersburg Road is being cleared for the expansion of River Watch Parkway, from Baston Road to Washington Road at Towne Center Drive.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
The right of way along Old Petersburg Road is being cleared for the expansion of River Watch Parkway, from Baston Road to Washington Road at Towne Center Drive.

Wheat, like many others along Old Petersburg and Old Evans roads, is dealing with the reality of River Watch Parkway’s expansion from Baston Road to Washington Road at Towne Center Drive. That is, the road might be built a little too close for comfort.

“I knew that it was going to be close, but I didn’t realize that it was going to be this close,” said Wheat, who has lived on Old Petersburg Road for the past five years. “I think with the road being right here, it’s going to be dangerous.”

The extension, which will run through a large portion of Wheat’s yard, includes widening Old Petersburg and Old Evans roads to four lanes with medians, bike lanes and sidewalks. The improvements will begin just west of Baston Road to Old Peters­burg Road at Old Evans.

The widened road will continue along Old Evans, including a bridge over railroad tracks near Columbia Industrial Boulevard. The $34.2 million project will tie into Washington Road at Towne Center Drive and is expected to be finished in the spring of 2017.

The expansion concerns Becky Godbee, who has lived in the same home in the 4000 block of Old Petersburg Road for nearly 11 years.

She said she has spoken to three planning groups about the proposed route and was scratching her head when plans showed the right of way bumping up next to the concrete pathway that leads to her front steps.

“When we measured it out and parked our full-size pickup truck against the garage door, it hangs over,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘That’s just not right. How can that be?’ ”

The proposed median would prevent Godbee and her husband from making a left turn from their driveway, she said. That is, if they can back out of the driveway in the first place.

Godbee said her husband’s truck needed the yard for the room to turn around. But with no front yard, she is left with more questions.

“How will we get out?” she said.

Department of Trans­por­ta­tion spokeswoman Cissy McNure, whose department has authority over the project, said it hasn’t received any complaints. Ron Cross, the Columbia County Commission chairman, said he also hasn’t heard complaints about the project, which received $20 million from the 1 percent transportation tax being collected in 13 area counties.

Cross said the extension will make Columbia County more convenient to the downtown area and make commuting easier for those working downtown or even at Savannah River Site.

“I really think the biggest thing is better traffic flow,” Cross said.

McNure said crews will begin work in the next few months on the new bridge over the railroad tracks and moving earth between the tracks and Washington Road.

Near the bridge’s site on Old Evans Road is Four Paws, an animal grooming and boarding business. Owners Marcia Acton and her daughter, Tarrah Bieranowski, have heralded the project as a positive one. Bieranowski said she has only one gripe.

“They’re not putting a turnaround in front of our business,” she said. “We’re making it pretty, but not functional.”

County officials expect that when the extension opens, it will relieve traffic headed east on Washington Road in Martinez toward Richmond County and on some of the heavily traveled north-south thoroughfares such as Hardy-McManus, Belair and Evans to Locks roads.

Combined with the widening of Washington Road to William Few Parkway, a voter-approved project on the 1-cent sales tax list, Cross said he hopes the extension will provide an easier commute for residents. It will be a four-lane road from the Riverwood area to Evans, where motorists can travel another four-lane road all the way downtown.

“That’ll be a big asset,” Cross said.

He said he expects the next three years of construction will be worth it in the end. “It’ll work out, and everybody will adjust,” Cross said.

Godbee, who has three young children, said that moving has crossed her mind but that she and her husband believe they would have a difficult time selling the property now.

“I think we’ll stick it out for a little while,” she said.

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AugustaProf
138
Points
AugustaProf 06/08/14 - 02:07 am
19
1
Hard to believe

Having driven by there recently (past a terrible accident no less) and having seen how ridiculously close a few of these home are to the widened road, I find it hard to believe the county didn't just buy them outright. I don't know the law in this case, but it is VERY obvious that these homes are far, far too close to this soon-to-be busy thoroughfare. There is simply no way these homes haven't lost 50% of their value, if they could ever be sold. And it will be very unsafe to enter and exit the driveways. The properties need to be bought and rezoned for commercial use. At the very least the homeowners need this option.

corgimom
34072
Points
corgimom 06/08/14 - 06:21 am
16
3
To the Godbees- get an

To the Godbees- get an attorney, you are going to suffer a major devaluing of your property and you deserve to be compensated. If what you say is true, your property is worthless and the county should buy your home.

geecheeriverman
3083
Points
geecheeriverman 06/08/14 - 06:25 am
9
0
eminent domain

The right of the Government to seize your property for public use, usually for compensation. You never get what it is worth when dealing with the Government Lawyers.

Riverman1
86923
Points
Riverman1 06/08/14 - 06:40 am
8
5
Paid Well

I suspect they were paid very well for losing their yards and happily agreed. Personally, I'd build a brick wall to separate the house from the road.

seenitB4
90837
Points
seenitB4 06/08/14 - 07:09 am
10
1
Too close for comfort

You might as well sell to them.....I just don't see any peace of mind with traffic whizzing that close.

Dixieman
15998
Points
Dixieman 06/08/14 - 07:39 am
14
0
Drive there every day

and I am amazed at how little of the front yards are left. Very surprised the entire houses weren't taken by eminent domain (which requires payment of fair market value to owners). These folks are going to have cars crashing into their living rooms after 2017. Were the homes not condemned outright just to save some $$$?

BamaMan
2514
Points
BamaMan 06/08/14 - 07:44 am
13
0
Sickening

I know progress sometimes is painful, but the sight is sickening. The county should've just bought all the houses because there is no yard at all for these poor people now, coming up pretty much to front porches. I saw one lady sitting on her steps with her head in her hands. Felt so bad for her. Their properties are not worth a plug nickel now. This is why I would never buy a house except inside a neighborhood. I feel for you people.

BamaMan
2514
Points
BamaMan 06/08/14 - 07:48 am
9
1
Riverman

There isn't enough room to BUILD a wall.

ironpurps
196
Points
ironpurps 06/08/14 - 07:57 am
5
3
Years

Everyone has known this was coming - for years. Why didn't they move then? If you have not been in the mess of traffic by Pizza Joint in the afternoons, then you would see in part why this was necessary.

fatboyhog
2021
Points
fatboyhog 06/08/14 - 08:11 am
8
0
Sell?

To who? If someone knew that the road was being widened, who in their right mind would have bought it? Of are you saying that the owners or a realtor should have be unscrupulous and duped someone? No, I think there should have been better planning. Maybe making it a two lane with a center turn lane would have been a better idea. Or instead of a median, why not 4 lane it with a guardrail in some areas?

Riverman1
86923
Points
Riverman1 06/08/14 - 08:14 am
4
1
@Bama

"There isn't enough room to BUILD a wall."

Well, it would be close, but I personally would rather have a wall close to the house than nothing.

corgimom
34072
Points
corgimom 06/08/14 - 08:16 am
7
2
That road started out as a

That road started out as a dirt wagon track over a hundred years ago, it was never designed for a wide road.

Those houses should be bought out.

And Riverman, there is no amount of compensation for that. When the government decides to widen a road, nobody has any choice, they don't get to say no. They have to take whatever they can get and are stuck with it.

Kingbiscuitboy
411
Points
Kingbiscuitboy 06/08/14 - 08:41 am
4
1
Old news

This is old news. It was first published 15 years or so ago how close the road was going to come to these houses. The owners need to take it up with whomever they bought their houses from or the realtors that did not disclose this construction that was already on the books if they purchased the house within this time period. If there was any compensation paid, I'm sure it was done years ago.

Riverman1
86923
Points
Riverman1 06/08/14 - 08:41 am
4
2
What Probably Happened

With eminent domain fair market value is required. Things such as taking most of the yards are taken into consideration. Columbia County has been pretty fair in past cases.

Grovetown HS land was taken and although there was a dispute about the price, it was eventually settled.

I suspect these home owners on Old Petersburg Rd were given an offer of a buyout and leave their homes or take a big payment and stay in the houses which they know will be much closer to the road.

BamaMan
2514
Points
BamaMan 06/08/14 - 08:49 am
6
0
Yes,

We've known for years this was coming, they should've moved way back then. I doubt they knew it was going to be this close tho. Trust me Riverman, there is not enough room to build any wall. You will almost be able to "reach out & touch someone".

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 06/08/14 - 09:26 am
0
0
there were a few homes that
Unpublished

there were a few homes that were bought... the rest the paid the owners a sum depending on how much of their yard was being taken. These homeowners have already been paid.. some are holding on to their properties in hopes that the land would eventually go commercial

jimmymac
42931
Points
jimmymac 06/08/14 - 09:34 am
0
0
RIVERMAN
Unpublished

I doubt a wall would stop the noise these poor people will have to endure. They should be bought out and paid fair market value. That should have been calculated when assessing the cost of building a wider road.

John Locke
345
Points
John Locke 06/08/14 - 09:49 am
7
1
Cross says "Shut Up"

I love this line from the story, "He said he expects the next three years of construction will be worth it in the end. “It’ll work out, and everybody will adjust,” Cross said." In other words, you WILL adjust. And of course he's never heard complaints. The procedure in CC is to cover your ears and you can say you never heard anything. Those homes are worthless, but Cross could care less. He does so many things arbitrarily as it is. He ordered the Rec Services to have bikes for rental at the park -- it was his idea so make it so. His imperious behavior and snotty attitude is why I voted against him. Too bad the idiots in the county reelected the dictator.

ralphinga
1354
Points
ralphinga 06/08/14 - 10:44 am
2
0
Shoddy Reporting

Come now 'Chronicle'.....where is the rest of this story? You wrote the who, and the what, even the where and when. You have left out the How and the Why. How did this very old and well publicized plan get past these folks who allegedly bought this house in all innocence, 5 years ago. And then a good editor would have demanded that the reporters write Why these folks bought this house, given that every opportunity should have been available to see the future and not buy. "Methinks the lady doth protest too much," to misquote the bard.
I shouldn't have to solve the mystery in the 'Chronicle' ...... The answers should be in the story.

Look at this old 'Chronicle' story....
http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2005/07/05/met_457853.shtml

historylover
11169
Points
historylover 06/08/14 - 10:01 am
4
1
Sad but true

Riverman1 you are right. They probably took the money offered and opted to stay. This project has been on the books since the early 1990's. They should have taken a tape measure and laid out how close the road would be to their homes. I do not believe these folks were duped. Now they are in a bad situation, but the county doesn't owe them anything at this point.

As I said, sad but true.

Pops
10434
Points
Pops 06/08/14 - 10:53 am
4
0
I used to drive that route every day for almost twenty years.

When the D.O.T. first started publishing their intent to widen that stretch, I used to imagine ALL the houses being gone. I can't imagine putting in a road as wide as the one crossing Baston Road without getting rid of the houses.

countyman
20588
Points
countyman 06/08/14 - 11:39 am
3
1
Section 8

Ron Cross and the other leaders in CC obviously have a strategic plan... They're more concerned about the people living in Evans off Washington road and North Belair..

Why else build two large rental properties(Magnolia Trace & Wedgewood)in the same general area? The 1/br at Wedgewood is only $540 per month and families can't earn more than $40,000 if they live in Magnolia Trace..

The area discussed in the article has already went downhill in the last few years(Old Evans, Old Petersburg, and Blue Ridge).. There's still decent places to live in the area, but it's home to many older homes and cheaper apartments... Blue Ridge Drive is still nice between the Lakeside school entrance and Evans To Locks rd..

The empty Food lion property is a major eyesore and still hasn't been redeveloped yet.. The old Food Lion on Furys Ferry is now a Walmart Market and Big Lots replaced the Food Lion on Washington rd in Evans..

itsanotherday1
45420
Points
itsanotherday1 06/08/14 - 11:40 am
3
0
I've traveled that road a few

I've traveled that road a few times lately and wondered the same thing. I was thinking that maybe some of the folks still residing there just had not moved yet.

I'm all for the added capacity to get traffic in and out of ColCo; but it seems these folks got shorted. Maybe they should go back and buy the properties at market price from those who now see themselves butted up to the right of way; subtracting any previous compensation of course.

My best friend had one of the first properties bought close to the Washington Road end, and by the time he was done with moving allotments, etc., he made out just fine. It was a pain to be uprooted, but he was able to parlay it into a nicer home in a more quiet spot.

sewerbabe
71
Points
sewerbabe 06/08/14 - 12:04 pm
2
0
Ron Cross (you have to be in this somewhere)

I don't know who in their right mind would buy property or keep property in this area. Why all the homes at fair market value were not included in the construction costs makes no sense. In Columbia County there are quite a few newcomers on a constant basis. if a real estate agent could sell you a million dollar house on a toxic waste dump or if there are plans in the works for one to be put in your backyard do you really think they are going to tell you? At 7% commission, I think not. The Cobbs were smart and got out. Even in the older article Mrs.Cobb eluded to the fact that they didn't know this was going to happen or they would not have bought their home. I feel for those left behind with all the car pollution in the Columbia County/Richmond County area they're in for some foreseeable lung problems. If you have children move. After all Ron Cross really doesn't care.

Graymare
3370
Points
Graymare 06/08/14 - 12:07 pm
0
0
A repeat.

Years ago, the same thing was done on Peach Orchard Road. The road is in people's front lawns. Some still live there.

Discussionstarter
495
Points
Discussionstarter 06/08/14 - 01:02 pm
2
0
If this had been Ron Cross's house, I promise you...

the whole property would have been bought out. 20' from your front door to a four lane road is awful. This house is worthless. Even a commercial property needs more than a 20' driveway for parking. Columbia County [aka Ron Cross] and the DOT needs to make this right and buy up the entire property. But remember.... Ron Cross does not care unless it affects him. What if this were your house!!!

corgimom
34072
Points
corgimom 06/08/14 - 01:20 pm
1
1
Kingbiscuitboy, there is

Kingbiscuitboy, there is quite often a large gap between proposed roads and actual roads.

Most roads, when delayed that long, don't wind up being built exactly as they were proposed.

pja5529
2161
Points
pja5529 06/08/14 - 02:47 pm
0
0
This is why

This is why I would never buy a house on a main road....only inside of a subdivision, preferably in a cul-de-sac.

Discussionstarter
495
Points
Discussionstarter 06/08/14 - 03:18 pm
0
0
Don't we have a DOT Commissioner from the CSRA?

He needs to step forward and make this right.

AaronHicks
5
Points
AaronHicks 06/08/14 - 03:43 pm
1
0
Flat out lie

I complained several months ago, back in August and still have the emails from the conversation. Why do residents in CC want an easier route to downtown anyway? Take the money and invest in the downtown area first so we actually want to enjoy it. Devaluing our homes by building Section 8 all over the place and putting in a highway near neighborhoods is the fastest way to make people want to move somewhere else. Thank you for selling us out Columbia County. Retake economics and get back to us!

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