Town Won't Sell Streets To Longwood

Published 3:04 pm Monday, December 31, 2012

FARMVILLE – Longwood University's bid to purchase town streets has run into a dead-end.

The Town of Farmville doesn't want to sell.

A desire by LU to rent parking spaces on other streets found itself in a similar Town-paved cul-de-sac.

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“We'd gotten an offer from Longwood to buy some of the streets,” Town Manager Gerald Spates told The Herald, “and then to lease parking on some of the other streets and, basically, council didn't want to give up control of those streets.”

The Town also plans to take over selling parking decals to Longwood students, faculty and staff to park on town streets, collecting revenue now going to LU, which has been selling parking space on certain town streets.

Longwood wants to own streets in the interior of its campus where it owns property on both sides of the street so it can continue converting pavement into green space, according to a statement issued to The Herald.

Spates praised the bond between the university and the Town but feels, in this case, the Town and its residents are better served by maintaining ownership of the streets and deriving the revenue from the sale of parking decals on streets taxpayers pay to maintain.

“We've got a good working relationship with Longwood and I think we tried to address this the best we could,” he explained. “We just feel it's not in our best interests to lose control of those streets.”

Longwood, Spates said, wanted to buy a section Madison Street and Redford Street. “You know, where they dead-end at Brock Commons. And then they wanted to buy a portion of Race Street and a parking lot that we have on the corner of Wynn Drive and South Main Street,” he said.

The university was also keen to acquire the road that semi-circles the house of its president off Johnston Drive. The Town not only refused to sell that road but asked Longwood to remove the “private drive-no through street” signs where it twice intersects Johnston Drive.

There has been no mention yet of what name the street will bear but the Town believes it must assert its authority or risk any town resident, acting on precedent, demanding the street in front of their own house be declared a private drive closed to through-traffic.

“I'm asking that they take those signs down,” the town manager said. “Our attorney feels that it sets a precedent that any resident could ask that we put 'Private Drive' signs up on their streets and this is, the road around the president's house, is a public right of way.”

Based on discussions during Town Council work sessions and meetings, it appeared the Town would have been happy to simply share in parking decal revenue generated by Longwood on Town-owned streets.

Spates explained that in negotiations with Longwood “all we wanted to do was share in the revenue, if we were maintaining those streets and we owned them. In the past, Longwood has sold parking decals on those streets and collected parking tickets on those streets. Effective with this next school year, we're going to do that. So they won't have any control over the parking on those streets. We'll sell the decals.”

And get the revenue.

In a letter to LU's interim president, Marge Connelly, Spates wrote, “the Town respectfully declines the University's offer to purchase and/or lease certain streets. Effective with the next school year, the Town will mark and post signs for those streets we presently own. We will sell parking permits on those streets to faculty, staff and students. The Town of Farmville Police Department will enforce the Town ordinances on these streets and Longwood tickets will not be permitted.”

Regarding the road around the president's house, Spates tells Connelly the “private drive” signs “need to be removed. This is not a private drive and by the Town allowing these signs to remain could have recourse for other residents to request the same.”

The town manager concludes his missive to Connelly, telling her, “I am sorry we could not work out a satisfactory arrangement.”

The Town awaits a response from Longwood, and the removal of the “private drive” signs.

LU's Associate Vice President for Marking and Communications, Sabrina Brown, provided the following statement to The Herald:

“Longwood University submitted a proposal to the Town of Farmville to purchase streets located in the interior of the campus where the university owned the property on both sides of the street. The proposal included granting the Town a utility easement so that it would have access to water, sewer and electrical lines running under these streets.

“Longwood also proposed leasing the parking spaces on interior streets where the university does not own the property on both sides of the roadway.

“The university fully recognizes that these streets and parking spaces are a Farmville Town asset, and that the Town would like to generate value from that asset. The university's proposal took that perspective into consideration while, at the same time, moving Longwood in the direction of its long-term desire to convert interior streets to green space to create a completely pedestrian campus.

“We are very disappointed that the university and the Town of Farmville were not able to work out an agreement,” the statement forwarded by Brown states.

Longwood has not responded to the Town, or publicly, to the Town's directive to remove the “Private Drive” signs at the president's house.