MORGANTOWN — Direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the natural, physical, socioeconomic and cultural environments are not anticipated to be significant.
That was the determination of the West Virginia Division of Highways and the Federal Highway Administration regarding Green Bag Road improvements that will result in a pair of roundabouts.
Garrett Richards begs to differ.
Richards said his children represent the fifth generation to call their Kingwood Pike farmhouse home. The 100-year-old house was built by his great grandfather, JD Anderson.
He said the roundabout planned for the intersection of Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike/Dorsey Avenue will become his new front yard under the existing plan.
“We’re not looking to relocate, move or sell. It’s not really an option for us. But they’re going to take part of a half-acre parcel that I own in order to put that traffic right at my front door — traffic, light and noise,” Richards said. “I feel like I have more skin in the game than anyone. I don’t want to see Ted [Hastings] lose any land, but at the end of the day, he won’t have to live beside it. This is something we’ll have to live with.”
The Hastings family has, to this point, led much of the pushback against the state’s plans for Green Bag Road over the last three years or so.
They own land at the corner of Kingwood Pike and Green Bag Road that supports Joy and Hemp Universal hemp farm, Mockingbird Hill Farm and the Conscious Harvest Cooperative community garden.
The project will claim 1.7 acres of family farmland to build one of the traffic circles.
Ted Hastings said his family intends to continue to oppose the project. He said a group of landowners is attempting to get the ear of transportation officials in Charleston. His sister, Mary Hastings, has formed a GoFundMe campaign in the event legal funds become necessary.
“I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it because it’s hurting my feelings. I’m tired of it because I have money invested in growing food for Healthy Kids, Inc. I’m not going to make a lot of money off that,” Hastings said. “People like me, with land like that farm, are able to grow food and sell it cheaper than US Foods or Cisco. I can sell it cheaper than the biggest corporations in America because I have land and I can do that if I want.”
The DOH has said it will work to support community gardens. A proposal for a community garden pilot program submitted by the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization, in conjunction with the West Virginia University Center for Resilient Communities, has been accepted by the DOH and Federal Highway Administration.
“I consider it insulting for them to say they’ll go protect some other land or farm because they’re going to destroy ours,” Hastings said. “You’ll notice they’re not going to give us a new garden. It’s an insult.”
While the MPO, the Monongalia County Commission and Morgantown City Council support the project, both Hastings and Richards point out that public input has opposed the roundabouts.
In fall of 2020, the DOH received 959 comments on the project. Of them, 751 expressed concerns and were not in support. In May 2019, 263 comments were received by the DOH. All but 19 expressed concerns about the design and necessity of the project.
Further, a petition circulated by landowners touting “Option G,” which featured dedicated turn lanes on Green Bag Road instead of roundabouts, garnered 1,115 signatures, but was ultimately passed over by the DOH, which said it wouldn’t adequately raise the level of service for all movements, approaches and overall intersection operation
The Roads to Prosperity Green Bag project is estimated at $19 million — including $3 million in right-of-way improvements in fiscal year 2024 and $16 million in intersection construction in fiscal year 2025.
It will impact 1.65 miles of Green Bag Road between Napa Auto Parts and Aarons Creek Road and will include a widening of Green Bag Road ,as well as roundabouts at the intersections of Green Bag Road and Mississippi Street and Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike/Dorsey Avenue. It will also add various pedestrian and stormwater upgrades to the area.