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Van Voorhis property owners still seeking answers over widening project

MORGANTOWN — Like a grade school math teacher, Kevin Trembush and other Van Voorhis Road property owners would like the West Virginia Department of Highways to show its work.

In particular, they would like to know how the right of way lines for Van Voorhis Road shifted, seemingly overnight, to line up with the DOH’s plans to widen Van Voorhis by taking property from them on the west side of the road and not the bank property on the east side — bank property that everybody, including the DOH, previously believed was sitting on state right of way.

That was until December, when Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston said a new map had been located indicating the bank is not, in fact, on state right of way.

Wriston’s letter was a topic of conversation during the Dec. 15 Monongalia County Commission meeting.

“That’s a little surprising, because for over two years we’ve been talking about that property and how it sits on the right of way — and that’s information provided by the department of highways,” Commission President Sean Sikora said at the time.

Trembush, who owns Advantage Health & Wellness at the corner of Van Voorhis and Burroughs Street, said it came as a bit of a surprise to him as well.

“All the sudden, the right of way is where they want to build the road,” he said. “It’s either complete incompetence, or fraud.” 

Trembush is one of the property owners between Killarney Drive and the W.Va. 705/Van Voorhis intersection who will have land targeted by eminent domain proceedings from the state in order to add an additional southbound through lane on Van Voorhis.

Trembush said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding the project to the DOH in August, to no avail.

Now he has additional questions about the new information provided by Wriston.

Attorney Jason Sites filed the FOIA on Trembush’s behalf. He spoke during the most recent Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board meeting.

“The newest plan shocks my conscious … You can’t just draw up a map. It doesn’t conform to West Virginia code where it’s signed by a surveyor and has a date. It’s nonsense. It’s a fraudulent-looking document,” Sites said. “There’s no proof of any recording of it in the records that can be found.”

Sites said he also questions Wriston’s claims that the expense of relocating utilities helped inform the DOH’s project design using property on the west side of the road, suggesting the cost should fall to the utility companies as they’re within a state easement.

Ultimately, Trembush said he just wants all the information before his business is dramatically impacted by this project.

“This just all feels very shady. I just don’t understand who the big guy is. Why does somebody care so much about it being put where they’re projecting it that they’ll go through all this,” he asked. “And why won’t they give me the information?”

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