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Eminent domain for the Dulles Greenway? Broad Run supervisor asks for legal opinion

Loudoun County Supervisor Ron Meyer (R-Broad Run) wants to know if the county can acquire the 13-mile, privately owned Dulles Greenway using eminent domain.

On Tuesday, Meyer asked County Attorney Leo Rogers to provide the board with a legal opinion on the question – one that he said constituents ask him all the time.

“I just think it’s important that we know whether or not we can do it, whether it’s an actual option,” Meyer said. “Unless we know what the option is, then we can't actually weigh the merits of it.”

For years, the county and its residents have vehemently objected to the high cost of the roadway, which connects Washington Dulles International Airport with Leesburg.

Last year, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the State Corporation Commission's denial of the Loudoun Board of Supervisors and former state Del. David Ramadan's challenge to the toll rates on the Greenway.

Ramadan called the rates “excessive, violating the law and contributing to the severe congestion in eastern Loudoun County.”

But the State Corporation Commission said the Greenway operators, TRIP II, were operating within guidelines established when the road was created and finalized in the 1990s.

Meyer said if the county can acquire Greenway without taking on the more than $1 billion of debt held by the Greenway's ownership group, eminent domain could be a financially viable solution that would allow for tolls to be cut. He also noted that the county’s commissioner of revenue assessed the value of the road at $367,425,900.

But Meyer said that there are still many potential legal implications to acquiring the Greenway through eminent domain.

“I think we need to get a legal opinion on whether or not we’re allowed to [use eminent domain], and if we can acquire it without the debt,” Meyer said. “The problem is the debt, everybody has either wanted to buy the Greenway or use eminent domain to get it, but the problem has always been, well, they have this billion-dollar debt scheme that they have that we would have to take on, and if we have to finance a billion dollars of debt, there’s no way we could lower the tolls. If we don’t have to finance the debt, then, yes, I think it’s a viable option that we need to consider.”

Meyer said that if the county cannot acquire the Greenway, then local legislators and the governor should make “Greenway alternatives” some of the state’s top transportation priorities for the area.

The Broad Run supervisor expects the county attorney to provide the board with a legal opinion within the next several weeks.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @SydneyKashiwagi.

Comments


It’s worth asking the question.  We are unlikely to get another major East-West corridor in eastern Loudoun any other way.

But the Greenway is a mystical beast.  Shares of the Greenway have been bought and sold and, if memory is correct, the current value based off the share price is $1B so, why is it only assessed at $367M?

Also, the Greenway owners have used the Greenway as a piggy-bank and slathered it full of debt.  Their charter specifically prohibits toll rates that discourage the use of the road and send people to other arteries to avoid it.  That happens so clearly, I can’t understand why the SCC allows them to continually raise tolls.

There is something really shady going on with the Greenway and I don’t know exactly what it is.  Why does the SCC continually give them a pass?  If there was any real fear of them not getting a toll rate increase, they’d stop adding debt to the Greenway which forces toll increases.


Or here’s anidea, but it could actually work.  The County could subsidize the tolls by buying down a portion of them. Electronically, X % of every toll could be split 90/10, 80/20, 70/30, whatever between the user and the County.  This would spur use of the Greenway, which means, getting cars off the County (and VDOT) maintained ‘free’ streets.  Gotta be cheaper than building and then maintaining brand new roads (or lanes) to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic volumes.  There is neither a draw-back nor incentive to TRIP II to do this - they get the same $$, but the County/State get to tackle their Rt. 7, Waxpool, 20, FFXCPkwy, etc. problems in the process.


Election year!!! will never happen, Ask David Ramadan.


This article made me laugh. It should be titled, “ Loudoun County officials can’t build their own roads, so they look into the possibility of taking somebody else’s “.

Hint:  traffic congestion in the county isn’t due to the Dulles Greenway .  It’s due to the fact that the Dulles Greenway is one of the only roads in the county capable of handling the high number of vehicles on County roads.

To put it another way, if you want take care traffic congestion you need to build or upgrade county roads.


When’s the election? Base pandering, nothing more. Now he can truthfully say “I tried” to address the Greenway toll situation, led the charge in fact. The other 8 are scratching their heads and asking themselves why they didn’t do the same thing first. Next stiff breeze will blow this away.


Greenway Assessed Value: +$367,425,900
Greenway Liabilities: -$1,000,000,000

Even a 5th Grader can see that is a dumb idea.


Ron Meyers is good for a laugh quite often. Just like the bridge he wants taking the Greenway is both foolish and unaffordable. Do you think Meyers would want the Greenway if it was his money buying it, I don’t think so.


I do not understand how our county attorney lost this case in the first place.  Now, they want a “new” opinion from the guy?


It’s concerning to see an elected official entertaining an idea of let’s just steal something we can’t afford or otherwise righteously obtain. I wonder how far he would take this- houses, businesses?

And then to recognize that we can’t buy it outright because that would negate the point of being able to lower the tolls because it would be economically unfeasible; just like the current owners and toll payers have discovered.


I get the idea…. You and Your Developer, Real Estate, and other friends, get the Greenway through eminent domain, traffic increases significantly and the BOS and all their friends, and extended friends, are all instant millionaires while we assume the debt. This is coming from someone who has shook his hand numerous times, but between my own Town, and the County, there are way too many cozy relationships going on and we need to force some open books way after folks leave office, and not just theirs, as they are too smart….


I do not like private tolls, public tolls, fast lane tolls, any tolls, and believe the cost of all roads should be recovered solely thru the gas tax, that increases or decreased based on need.

But, Ron Meyer seems like a dishonest slim ball scheming thief.  A lack of road foresight and planning over 20 years ago should not turn us into criminals today. 

The road has a fair market price – and if the county buys it to implement a mileage-based rate structure, Leesburg, and Western Loudoun would see a significant increase. 


It does seem an awful lot like theft.  If people are paying for the road, then there must be sufficient demand for that service at that price.  Just because you don’t want to pay that price doesn’t mean it’s ‘ok’ to steal it.

How about you don’t drive on it if you think it’s too expensive?  Enough people do that and they’ll have to lower the price.


Ron Meyer must be smoking crack.


Well, this is a creative attempt to lower tolls. HOWEVER, this is just plain stealing.  One cannot go take a product instead of paying for it simply because one does not like the asking price. And, to try and take this product without paying back the debt? That is also stealing - it would be stealing from those businesses that lent the money. 
I don’t like the tolls, I don’t like the flat rate toll no matter how far you travel on the Greenway, and I don’t like SCC’s agreement that the high tolls are allowed.  But, I really do NOT like government stealing.


So he wants to take their land/business and leave them with the debt that resulted from the land/business, as well as taking away their ability to pay off that debt.  I see a huge bankruptcy in the works with creditors/vendors taking a nasty hit.  This is just wrong.

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