County moving forward on school-bus loop

Warren County is making some progress on a bus loop planned for the Freezeland Road area.

The Thompson Kiss & Ride & Park should alleviate the need for parents to park along Freezeland Road to drop off or pick up children that has posed some safety concerns, officials say. The facility design includes a turnaround for buses, parking spaces, a shelter and a playground. The county expects the facility to serve more than 1,500 residents in the Linden area and the neighborhoods of Shenandoah Farms, Skyland Estates, Freezeland Manor and Blue Mountain. The county built a similar facility on Dismal Hollow Road in 2011.

Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress said Tuesday that officials would like to start clearing the site this fall. The county has an approved site plan and some preliminary designs. Crews recently surveyed the site.

Some residents who live on nearby Woodthrush Way in the Blue Mountains Sanitary District claim the county did not contact them about the project. The rear of their property abuts the site and the neighbors say they learned about the project this week when they saw workers near their property line hacking underbrush and marking the site.

The residents say they are concerned about the project’s potential impact on wildlife migration patterns through the area, destruction of protected botany, any significant tree removal and storm water run-off and its effect on the water tables to the properties below the site.

Officials with the county and the school division have discussed the project for years. The Planning Commission approved the site plan at a regular meeting earlier this year. Planning Director Taryn Logan noted Wednesday that the county began working with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries as well as legislators in 2009 to acquire the 3.2-acre property. The lots were part of the G.R. Thompson Wildlife Management Area. Freezeland Road separates the property from the rest of the management area, the remainder of which spans approximately 4,000 acres.

“We’ve always talked about acquiring a property and developing it as a kiss-and-ride, as an attribute to the community up there to provide for a safe location for picking and dropping off Warren County school children,” Childress said. “I can’t say that we’ve contacted each specific property owner individually but they’ve certainly had the opportunity to voice any concerns during those various process we’ve been through, again, to acquire the property and at the Planning Commission level and we’ll certainly talk to any resident up there that has a concern or questions.”

The county has taken steps to develop a site plan that preserves as much of the natural landscape of the site, including large trees they want to save during the clearing, Childress said. This would maintain a natural buffer between the site and adjacent properties, he added. The facility takes up only a small portion of the entire site and likely would not affect wildlife migration, Childress said.

The design includes bio-retention drains that would limit the amount of stormwater runoff from the site, Childress said. The site slopes down toward Freezeland Road with a ridge at the rear of the property, Childress said. Most of the runoff should flow away from the adjacent properties, he and Logan explained.

“We would be happy to contact any property owners, reach out to them,” Childress said. “If they want to contact us, that’s certainly fine.”

The county likely will apply for grants to help cover the cost and  would leave it open for civic groups to raise money to help build parts of the project, Childress said.

County Administrator Doug Stanley said in January that the goal is to build the project in phases with available funds and at least complete the bus drop off by the time school begins this year. It took about five years to build the facility on Dismal Hollow Road. Civic groups raised money for the playground and shelter.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com