About 50 people who had hoped to speak to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors were turned away.
The county’s top elected officials held their meeting in a small conference room on Tuesday, September 15. The room was outside of the eight-member board’s regular meeting chambers, and due to coronavirus restrictions, seating inside the conference room was limited to less than 20 people.
Meanwhile, dozens of mostly Hispanic residents who stand to lose their homes due to the planned four-lane extension of Godwin Drive in Manassas — which would create a bypass around the heavily-congested Route 28 — say they were shut out.
“We were cut off,” said Chris Griffin.
Residents who wanted to speak to the Board of County Supervisors were allowed to put their names on a sheet of paper. When the meeting began at 2 p.m., residents said the paper was removed, and the window to sign up to speak closed.
About 10 residents addressed the Board, voicing opposition to the $300 million bypass road, which would lead to the demolition of about 54 homes. The road is slated to be built through a swath of wetlands in the Bull Run Regional Park, and that would need approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.
If built, the road would carry drivers four miles, from Prince Wiliam Medical Center in Manassas to Bull Run on the Fairfax County line.
Residents thought the bypass project was dead when, on August 4, the Board of County Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of widening Route 28 between Liberia Avenue to Fairfax County line. On September 8, county leaders cast a 5-3 party-line vote reversing their action, with Democrats favoring to bring back the bypass road.
Yesterday, when those on the speaker list had finished, Ann Wheeler, Chair At-large did not call for any additional speakers as she normally does. PLN has received no response from Wheeler’s office as to why she chose not to call for additional speakers.
Republicans on the board had hoped to convince their Democrat colleagues to move the meeting to the regular Board Chambers so that more people could particpate, but that motion failed on a party-line vote. They also failed to win their support for a revote on the bypass road.
“Today was our only shot for reconsideration,” said Yesli Vega, while addressing the largely Hispanic crowd of people that stand to lose their homes.
“And none of them would allow it?” shouted Sharon Jones, who lives in the path of the would-by roadway.
“You saw it with your own eyes,” replied Vega.
Many residents were frustrated and cursed at Vega, who is their representative on the Board of County Supervisors, and demanded to know why the board reversed its decision on the project, and what type of compensation they will receive for their homes.
County Transportation Director Rick Canizales told PLN none of the affected homeowners have received offers for their property. If they do, those offers will be based on fair market values similar to offers made to business owners affected by the ongoing widening of Route 1 in Woodbridge, about 20 miles east of the proposed bypass project.
“We won’t know for about two years whether or not they’re going to take our house,” said Carol Blaser.
During that time, the county will spend some of the $89 million awarded to it by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to design the bypass road. About halfway through the process, it will submit the design to the Army Corps of Engineers for approval.
Many of the Hispanic residents urged their neighbors to continue to come to the Board of County Superviosrs meeting to speak out agains the board’s deicsion. “Don’t let your immigration status keep you from attending the meeting,” a Spanish-speaking woman shouted. “You saw they tried to silence you.”
Leaders in Manassas this week also reversed their decision on supporting the bypass project. After failing to endorse the project in July, the City Council threw its support behind the project on Monday, September 14.
That was after Loudoun County Chair At-large Phyliss Randall on September 8, who also serves as the chair of the regional transportation authority, threatened to pull a portion of the $89 million in funding from Prince William County and allocate it to other projects in the region. Shortly afterward, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors changed its position and voted to move ahead with the bypass.