By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A study of Shenandoah Farms shows some of its roads need upgrades but a few residents in the Warren County subdivision say paved streets would draw speeding drivers.
Nearly 20 people from the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District attended a meeting Thursday night to hear information on the study. Maps of the sanitary district on display at the meeting showed the road network through the subdivision. Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress led the presentation and discussion about the study, its results and plans for the district.
"Since you all live in the Farms and drive the roads every day we want your input," Childress said. "It's imperative."
The county will continue to collect comment forms from residents through Aug. 19. Then the county will finalize the study with the input and set about planning the upgrades for the district.
James and Candi Pennifill, who moved into Shenandoah Farms in 1997, raised concerns at the meeting about speeding vehicles through the district and asked what the county needed to do to enforce speed limits in the subdivision. James Pennifill said he thought the study was, in some ways, a positive step. But if the county paves some of the roads, the Pennifills said they feared it would inspire more motorists to drive even faster.
"It's a double-edged sword," James Pennifill said after the meeting. "I want the roads better. I think the county's doing a great job with the study and everything.
"But if you can't control the speed on the roads what good does it do to try to improve them," he added. "There's no real way for any enforcement."
Beside inclement weather, vehicles are blamed for the deterioration of the predominantly gravel roads in the district. Pennifill noted the county will not enforce the speed limit inside the district. Childress explained in the meeting that the state puts the unposted speed limit on gravel roads such as those in the district at 35 miles per hour.
Candi Pennfill commented that some residents who expressed a need for paved roads may find they don't want that when motorists start to drive faster along those routes.
Like many of the long-time Farms residents, the Pennifills moved to the district to live away from more urban areas. The Pennifills said many people who come to the Farms still want urban amenities.
Other residents saw the study as a good step. Karolyn Weaver, a resident of the Farms for 35 years, called the study "long overdue." She and her husband, Terry Weaver, live on Youngs Drive, one of the roads eyed for some upgrades.
"This study's the best that we've had in 35 years," Karolyn Weaver said.
Officials did not give an estimated time of when the county may start to work on the roads. The Farms participates in revenue-sharing projects through the state by which the district and the county each would pay 25 percent of the cost while VDOT covers the remaining 50 percent. Several Farms projects already have been selected, according to Childress.
The county has a goal of beginning work on either Tomahawk Way or Fellows Drive this fall but it may not happen until the spring, Childress said. Another project -- a section of Mountain Lake from Drummer Hill Road to Pine Ridge Drive -- may also see upgrades, according to Childress.
Officials were quick to warn residents the entire district would not receive an upgrade. Nor would the upgrades eventually performed be completed in the next five years, officials said.
Shenandoah Farms has 1,090 developed lots each containing a single-family home. At build-out the county official estimated the district would consist of an additional 1,500-2,000 homes.
In response to a question from a resident, Childress said building in the district likely averaged six to 12 homes per year and four or five houses are in some state of construction. County Adminsitrator Douglas P. Stanley recalled approxmately 75 homes were built in the district in the early 2000s.
The current network of approximately 90 road segments spans nearly 43 miles. The county maintains the roads made up predominantly of stone or tar and chip.
"Unfortunately there wasn't a whole lot of attention paid to a drainage design and implementation of a drainage system when a lot of the roadways were originally built," Childress said. "The mountain terrain and lot configurations contributed a lot in how the road system was built.
"As the subdivision builds out problems with the existing drainage system are becoming more and more apparent," Childress added. "That's evident by the number of folks I talk to on a weekly basis."
The county took over the management of the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District in July 2010 and set as a goal the development of a comprehensive review of the entire infrastructure in the district, evaluate the issues found, then plan for the future repairs and construction of the roads and drainage system. The study conducted of the district looked not only at current needs but also at full build-out.
"We're ultimately gonna pave a lot of the higher-volume roads in the farms or in the district," Childress said. "It won't occur overnight. It will take time to accomplish this."
Traffic volume and patterns would help determine how the county designs the road upgrades, according to Childress. Costs, steepness and curvature of a road also may factor into the effort, Childress said. As Childress explained, the study involved taking core samples of certain roads because VDOT would have required the county do so in order to bring the route into the state system.
"They don't want to accept something that's already falling apart, in layman's terms," Childress said.