City Wants Land for Road Project

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The owner of a house says it's a historic part of Harrisonburg dating back to the Civil War, and it should be left alone. However, city leaders say they need the land the house sits on for a road extension project that's long overdue.

The city is planning to extend Lucy Drive to Reservoir Street and it's considering condemnation as an option for taking the land.

A few weeks ago, Andrew Shields found a lot of construction material outside his house on Reservoir Street.

"All the concrete barriers were down there at the end of the driveway. No warning, no notification, no letter, no courtesy knock on the door letting us know, 'Hey, by the way, you've parked there for about three years, but not today, not anymore,'" says Shields.

Eddie Warner leases the house to Shields. Warner bought it a few years ago and discovered the house's history dates back to the 1800s. He did some work on the foundation a few years ago and even found bullets believed to be from the Civil War.

Now the home is bordered by a new set of townhouses.

"The city, through the developer, is taking private land to let a developer build more places," says Warner. "The developer had plenty of land to run the road there. Why didn't they do that?"

City Manager Kurt Hodgen says, when engineers studied the project, they found drainage and other land issues if Lucy Drive wasn't extended straight out.

"I think they did look at trying to veer away. But, from an engineering perspective, it wasn't going to work without significant extra cost," says Hodgen.

Hodgen says the road extension would provide better access for the fire department on Lucy Drive. There's also Gold's Gym and the townhouses providing more traffic in the area. Hodgen explains the city's been looking at the extension project since at least the 90s.

Warner's been in negotiations with the city for more than a year. He says keeping the house is essential to preserving local history.

"It doesn't matter if it's a western city or an eastern city or southern or northern. You got to keep some heritage of your place," says Warner.

On Tuesday, the Harrisonburg City Council was supposed to vote on whether to put condemnation on the table as an option for getting the land for the road project.

However, it delayed that vote to try to reach an agreement with Warner. The council will take up the issue again March 24.