Wed08202014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Supervisors nix trees from Dominion Power at Ralph Bunche

The Board of Supervisors last week agreed to nix an offer from Dominion Power to plant trees in front of the historic Ralph Bunche high school property.  

The discussion took place at last week’s meeting on Oct. 15, sparked by an agenda item that brought Tim Smith, county director of Parks & Recreation, to the podium to talk about the landscaping offer from Dominion Power.

Formal action to include refusing the trees is expected to be taken at a meeting next month.

But, in the meantime, Supervisors asked if they might be provided a range of other alternative options that might be forthcoming from the power company instead of trees.

That was a suggestion from Joe Grzeika, which got agreement from other members of the board.

That decision was also in concert with the Ralph Bunche Advisory committee, which had discussed the topic at each of its last two monthly meetings.

Smith explained the reason for the tree planting offer by Dominion Power is to lessen the visual impact from the historic Ralph Bunche school building from the company’s new power lines and poles.

The new lines and poles are planned to be installed as part of the company’s new transmission main line. Those lines are to be located on the opposite side of US 301.

But, county supervisors and the committee don’t want the trees, since planting two clumps of three trees each in front of the historic building would also screen the public’s view of the building from US 301.

Smith also said the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association had also weighed in against the tree screening idea.
The Ralph Bunche Advisory committee had been established by Supervisors over a year ago at the request of the alumni group.

The committee is charged to make specific recommendations to the board for future uses to be put to the former school building.

After uses are recommended to Supervisors, a final use plan is adopted, and the building gets a needed renovation. All involved want the building to be visible to the public as a historic building, and also to those in the future who wish to visit it or attend events held there.

BACKGROUND
According to Smith, a representative from Dominion Power had contacted Travis Quesenberry, county administrator in August.

It was referred to Smith as a county member of the committee.

Smith subsequently met with Dominion Power representatives at the school site and talked about what the power company had in mind to lessen the potential visual impact to Ralph Bunche School.

Smith said the power company had wanted to take the action to offer trees due to a Department of Historic Resources environmental assessment of the new transmission main’s impact on Ralph Bunche, which is designated as a historic site.

Dominion Power had indicated to Smith, and with representative photographs provided at the meeting, that two of its new transmission main poles will be closely visible from the school.

Smith said he has continued talks with Dominion Power and said they had offered to consider other mitigation offers.

It was agreed that Smith be allowed to continue discussion with Dominion Power to see if they can come to an agreement about an alternative offer. Smith is expected to offer up another suggestion next month for a final decision.

Phyllis Cook

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