Friday, October 7, 2022

JCC begins process to abandon part of Jolly Pond Road over dam; road to potentially permanently close

In recent years, Jolly Pond Road over the dam has gradually deteriorated, culminating in a void developing beneath the roadway and rendering part of it unsafe for travel. (WYDaily/Courtesy of James City County)
In recent years, Jolly Pond Road over the dam has gradually deteriorated, culminating in a void developing beneath the roadway and rendering part of it unsafe for travel. (WYDaily/Courtesy of James City County)

Update 1:45 p.m. May 22: James City County will close the roadway across the Jolly Pond Road Dam starting Thursday, May 23.

The closure comes as the Board of Supervisors considers abandoning the roadway because of safety concerns — if abandoned, the roadway will no longer be public property.

The process has been initiated, but the abandonment has not yet been voted on.

“We apologize for the suddenness of this closure but believe it is in the public’s best interest to stop traffic from crossing this dam immediately,” the county wrote in a news release Wednesday.

Those with questions should call Rick Koehl, the county’s capital projects coordinator, at 757-259-4080.

Original story:

With safety and liability being of the utmost concern, James City County has decided to begin the process to abandon a section of road traversing the Jolly Pond Road Dam.

The abandonment means the road will no longer be public once the process is finalized, and the dam’s owner said Tuesday he will likely close the road to through traffic.

In recent years, Jolly Pond Road over the dam has gradually deteriorated, culminating in a void developing beneath the roadway and rendering part of it unsafe for travel.

The 675-foot-long earthen dam has existed since the 1700s, said Rick Koehl, the county’s capital projects coordinator. The road over the dam is owned and maintained by the county, while the dam itself is owned by William Kane.

“We know it’s a traveling hazard to the public,” Koehl said.

While County Attorney Adam Kinsman is beginning the process to abandon the road, the issue will come back to supervisors for official approval or denial as an agenda board consideration item after “not less than 30 days.”

Until then, there will be notices posted along the road, at the courthouse and twice in the newspaper, Kinsman said. There will be a public hearing only if a person petitions to have one.

During the abandonment process, the county may put temporary road closure barricades on the dam.

The consensus Tuesday is the latest issue of several involving Jolly Pond Road in the last two decades.

The section of the road was originally owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. In 2009, VDOT closed the road because of safety concerns.

Two-and-a-half years later, the James City County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution asking VDOT to abandon the road and allow the county to take over maintenance of the road.

The county did some smaller repairs and reopened the road to traffic, as the public voiced a desire to have it open.

Kane, the property owner, said he was trying to be a good neighbor by working to fix the dam and reopen the road after James City County took over the road maintenance.

Permitting has become another issue in getting the road and dam fixed: Koehl said the dam’s permit from the Department of Conservation and Recreation expired years ago.

The county would need to get an alteration permit from the department. Kane would also need to get an operations and maintenance permit as well from the DCR.

The county and Kane met with DCR officials in September 2018 to figure out the permitting process — since then, Koehl called the situation a “holding pattern.”

“It sounds like we’re just playing bureaucratic standoff with them,” Supervisor Jim Icenhour said of the DCR permitting process.

If permits are properly given and Kane gives permission for the county to work on his property — which he said he likely would — the project could still top $2 million, Koehl said.

While some supervisors acknowledged the road’s permanent closure could negatively impact the day-to-day lives of those who live near the dam, safety was the ultimate concern.

“I wish there was a better way,” Supervisor Michael Hipple said.

County Administrator Scott Stevens said the county is at-risk of liability if there was an injury or crash resulting from road failure on the dam.

“I drove across it yesterday,” Stevens said. “It’s an uncomfortable feeling.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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