Resident challenges use of property

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By John Barnhart

According to Ruby Wells Dooley, Bedford County is violating the terms of an 1832 deed, using the property it owns in violation of that deed.

"I have in front of me a copy of the 1832 deed and plat," Dooley commented, speaking before the Bedford County Board of Supervisors at its Monday night regular meeting.

The deed, dated Aug. 25, 1832, records the sale of 283.25 acres of land to the county. The county nursing home and group home, the Sheriff's office, the PSA office, Falling Creek Park and other facilities are now located on this piece of land.

The deed records the names of 20 men named as acting justices of the peace. According to the deed, "at the regular March term of the County Court 1832 a majority of the aforesaid acting Justices being present" three men were appointed to find a suitable site to build a poor house.

According to the deed, the three men, David Saunders, Samuel Hancock and Samuel Mitchell, selected a tract belonging to James and Susannah Jopling. After negotiations, the county agreed to pay the Joplings $1,133 for the land, making the payment in three annual installments "out of the county levies."

The document is handwritten in a very even hand. The Joplings' names are written at the end, in the same hand as the body of the deed, each name is followed by initials, possibly of the clerk who wrote out the deed. There is also an "X" with the Joplings' names with a note "his mark."

Dooley claimed that a section of the deed indicates that the land was acquired to build a poor house and work house forever.

"It has been 176 years since the county obtained and restricted the land by judicial order," Dooley said, stating that the land has since been developed contrary to the terms of the deed.

She called for the supervisors to take action that night to stop all construction on the site.

"Will your ordinances and resolutions be honored like this 1832 court order?" asked Jerry Raymond, who also spoke before the supervisors.

After this, the supervisors voted 4-3 to award a $47,000 contract to develop a new county recreation plan. According to Kathleen Guzi, the county administrator, county staff is recommending a new plan because a great deal has changed since the current plan was developed in 1993. Dooley's comments figured in this discussion.

"The question has been raised about what we can and cannot do with the property at Falling Creek Park," said District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek.

Cheek wanted to delay a decision on developing a new recreation plan until the question Dooley raised could be resolved.

District 1 Supervisor Dale Wheeler noted that, according to Dooley's interpretation of the deed, the nursing home and other facilities would have to close down. He believed that the current board should not be bound by this 1832 document.

"I just want some clarification," Cheek responded.

"I'd like that from an attorney, not a supervisor," he added.

Guzi said that developing a new recreation master plan was a separate issue from what can and cannot be built on the land on Falling Creek Road.

"I have read this deed on several different occasions," said County Attorney Carl Boggess.

Boggess said that there is nothing in the deed that affects the recreation master plan. He told the supervisors that he would write a legal opinion on the deed after talking to the supervisors in closed session. This closed session came at the end of the regular meeting.

In discussion on the contract to develop a new master plan, Wheeler said that the current plan is skewed in favor of youth and organized sports. Guzi agreed that the 1993 plan is focused on youth sports and does not adequately provide recreational opportunities for all county residents.

District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard, however, felt that the county should stick with its current plan, noting that circumstances will change again in the next 10 years.

"I'm in favor of completing the three parks we already have going," she said.

She felt that the county should delay a new recreation master plan until it has the money to start new projects. Wheeler agreed with Pollard that the county needs to complete the parks it has started. But, he noted, the county may not have the money to finish them.

Neither Pollard, nor Board Chairman Steve Arrington, nor District 4 Supervisor John Sharp, liked the idea of spending $47,000 to develop a new plan. Nevertheless, Sharp pointed out that the current plan calls for spending more money than anybody on the board is willing to spend.

"We can't afford it," he said.

Sharp said that the supervisors need to look at what makes sense today.

Sharp, District 7 Supervisor Gary Lowry, Wheeler and District 2 Supervisor Chuck Neudorfer voted to award the contract. Pollard, Cheek and Arrington voted in opposition.

Another contract passed unanimously. This awards a contract for $614,483 to a firm for road improvements on Perrowville Road. The improvements, which run from Perrowville's intersection with Hooper Road to just past the new bus loop at Jefferson Forest High School (JFHS), are part of the JFHS renovation project. Work is slated to begin on June 9 and is expected to be completed on Aug. 25.