Backyard bypass

February 24, 2004|by TARA REILLY

When Mona Adkins moved to Partridge Trail in the Robinwood Drive area 16 years ago, she said she did so to live out a peaceful retirement.

Her grassy back yard, in which sits a gazebo and several trees and bushes, is known to attract deer, birds and an albino skunk neighbors named "Flower."

Now, Adkins, her husband, Lee, and resident Ned Garrett say the wildlife may be pushed away and their quiet neighborhood transformed into a "speedway" if Washington County moves forward with a plan to build the proposed $7.5 million Robinwood bypass.


The mile-long road would be four lanes and would split off at Robinwood Drive near Hagerstown Community College and run to Jefferson Boulevard (Md. 64).

The road, which residents of that area call "the road to nowhere," would be between Partridge Trail and Greenhill Drive and cut through the Adkins' back yard, the back yards of two other homes and the property of Covenant Presbyterian Church.

"It'll be an island on roads. That's what we'll have here," Mona Adkins said.

"It changes the character of the neighborhood totally," Garrett said.

The bypass would take up much of the Adkins' approximately 1-acre back yard, putting the road just feet from their home, Mona Adkins said.

"You know what kind of back yard I'll have? I'll have nothing," she said. "I'll be facing a road."

The Adkinses and Garrett said the road wouldn't serve a purpose, because the Jefferson Boulevard side of Robinwood Drive isn't clogged with traffic. They said the other side of Robinwood Drive, close to Dual Highway, is where the traffic improvements are needed.

She said the bypass was proposed in 1998 by the county, and residents gathered about 1,000 signatures on a petition to the Washington County Commissioners that stated their opposition to the project.

That year, the commissioners decided to abandon the bypass, according to a June 30, 1998, letter from Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook to residents of the Robinwood area.

Adkins said she and her neighbors were surprised to learn by word of mouth last year that the bypass was again a county consideration.

Don't the commissioners "have any obligation to keep (their) promise to the public or what?" asked Garrett, who lives on Dormayne Drive, a private road off Partridge Trail.

"Do we trust who we put in?" Mona Adkins said.

Snook said in a phone interview Monday that the current board of commissioners decided about six months to a year ago that the Robinwood bypass should again be pursued.

He said that decision was made because of the growth of the Robinwood area. Building the road would address safety issues related to increased traffic, he said.

Snook said the bypass project is a more affordable option than widening Robinwood Drive to four lanes near Jefferson Boulevard.

The county would have to buy rights of way from about 60 property owners to widen Robinwood Drive, he said.

"It came back up because we just felt we couldn't buy the right of ways of 60 homes," Snook said.

Commissioner John C. Munson, who opposes the proposed bypass, said he can't recall voting to reconsider the project.

He said the commissioners must vote to approve the new road.

Munson said the commissioners are in the process of negotiating with Richard A. and Robin M. Daughtridge to acquire their property, which would be affected by the project.

He said the Daughtridges are willing to give up their land in exchange for property located near HCC.

Merle Elliott, president of HCC's board of trustees, and Snook have said the Daughtridges would sell 21/2 acres to the county in exchange for cash and about 4 acres belonging to HCC northeast of the campus.

Munson said that transaction has not been finalized.

Mona Adkins said the county would like her and her husband to give up a portion of their back yard or sell the entire property to the county in order for the road to be built.

"Neither one's for sale," she said.

She said the county is asking the same of the other owners of properties that would be affected by the road. Most of the residents in the area oppose the proposed bypass, she said.

The county would have the option of using eminent domain to get her land and the property of others who choose not to hand it over willingly, she said.

Eminent domain is a power of government to seize private land for public use in return for compensation to the property owner.

"This is my retirement home, and I have no interest to sell my house and my property," Mona Adkins said. "I will fight this."

Snook said the county has no current plans to force people to give up their properties.

"We're not going to force anything at this point in time," he said.

Snook said the bypass would be built five to 10 years down the road.

Mona Adkins said she fears the bypass would make Partridge Trail unsafe and that cars could run off the road into the homes nearby.

"It won't even be safe to even sleep in your bedroom," she said.

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