Hundreds attend Holland Road meeting

Published 9:47 pm Friday, April 25, 2014

Hundreds of residents and business owners learned how the proposed widening of Holland Road will affect them at a public meeting Thursday at Lakeland High School.

Visitors were able to look at displays showing the possible effect on their property. The city anticipates taking at least part of 178 different properties, whether just for temporary construction easements or permanently.

“I don’t see a need for the project,” said Jeremy Brant, who lives in a neighborhood off Holland Road. “I just do not see where it’s a good use of any kind of funds right now.”

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The project includes widening Holland Road to six lanes from the western end of the downtown bypass to about a mile west of Manning Bridge Road. Intersection and signal improvements and installation of a raised median, storm drains, curbs, gutters, street lighting, sidewalks and a multi-use trail are planned.

Public Works Director Eric Nielsen said the project is needed to expand capacity on the road. Truck traffic has increased in recent years thanks to industrial developments in the corridor.

Although acquisition of needed properties is set to begin in two to three months, Councilman Jeffrey Gardy reminded folks at Thursday’s meeting that actual construction is still a ways away.

“The money hasn’t been appropriated yet,” he said.

While engineering and right-of-way acquisition costs — about $23.4 million — have been funded, the money for construction — an additional $42 million — has yet to be found.

“To me, it looks like it’s going to mess up a lot of businesses,” said Ronnie Yopp, who lives west of the project and won’t be directly affected. But, he added, he drives through the area every day.

Indeed, Barry Cole said his United Country A.B. Cole & Associates Auction and Realty building is slated for acquisition. He remodeled the office only a few years ago, but he acknowledges there’s a need for the project.

“Traffic out there has just multiplied over the years,” he said, estimating about 10 to 15 trucks can be seen at any given stoplight during the day. “They need to do something about them.”

Kenny King owns part of the land on the corner of Kenyon and Holland roads, but he was more concerned about peripheral effects on his neighborhood, Oak Ridge. He said light and noise from the warehouses nearby are causing problems.

“It’s just going to be compounded” when more warehouses are built, he said.

The neighborhood did manage to convince the two closest warehouses, California Cartage and the Navy Exchange Command, to replace their alarms with silent alarms. The previous alarms sounded like microwaves going off, he said.

“If you’re in your backyard trying to relax, all you hear is beep, beep, beep,” he said, worrying that other warehouses might not be as gracious as the first two.

Several members of Hillcrest Baptist Church were at the meeting and said they hope the right turn lane the church was required to install when it redid its parking lot will be replaced

“We just want to make sure the right hand turn lane gets put back in there when it gets done,” said Ella Ellis.

Many residents in attendance were frustrated with the format of the meeting. There was no formal presentation and no time for guests to state their comments in front of everybody. Comments had to be submitted in writing or dictated to a court reporter.

“This was a waste of time,” Guy Bunch said.

Nielsen, the public works director, said the format was recommended by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Those who were unable to attend may submit written comments to the Department of Public Works, Attention Sherry Earley, 440 Market St., Suffolk, VA 23434, by May 24.