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Ashland Town Council voted Tuesday night to proceed with capital improvements in the College Park neighborhood they hope will resolve drainage issues while setting a “green” precedent for years to come. All told, the upgrade is estimated to cost $853,332 and follows on the footsteps of the eco-friendly municipal parking lot project in the center of town.
Mike Davis, director of public works, said the project has been waiting in the wings for a while now.
“We’ve been talking about this project for several years now, many years, really, in terms of starting to fund this way back in the 1990s,” Davis said.
He added that the project had its own capital project fund and it had moved to the top of Ashland’s list of capital priorities following the completion of other projects.
“This has been the next priority of council for a few years,” Davis said.
The project entails laying down pervious pavers and a bioretention facility to store stormwater runoff while installing a storm sewer system, curbs and gutters and sidewalks on one side of the street within the project area. The grade of the road surface will also be lowered “by 2 to 6 inches” in areas plagued by sub-par drainage during rain events, according to Davis. Overall, the project helps prevent stormwater runoff cited as a main source of upstream pollution that trickles down to the Chesapeake Bay and a main target in the federal-level “total maximum daily load” pollution guidelines.
Vice mayor Dr. George Spagna called the project “forward looking” and said it sets an example for what the town envisions for future development.
“Coupling this project with the parking lot, I just want to commend staff for essentially hitting two home-runs in a row,” he said. “I think the planning and engineering on this is forward-thinking instead of, ‘Well, let’s just slap some asphalt down and be done with it.’ I think it’s a great way to go.
“It sets a pattern for the town going forward,” Spagna added. “It sets a pattern for new development. For people that want to come in to develop properties, we can point to what we’ve done and say, dare I say, ‘This is one of the things that makes Ashland, Ashland.’”
Davis said most residents in the neighborhood are onboard with the project.
“We’ve met most everyone there on several occasions,” Davis said. “All they want to do is say ‘do something, we’re tired of waiting.’ That’s kind of the consensus. They’re generally satisfied with the compromises and the project that we’ve presented and are just looking forward to the town moving forward.”
Though it wasn’t a public hearing, Mayor Faye Prichard allowed College Park resident Sheree Hedrick to address council regarding her concerns with the upgrade.
“My biggest issue was I have kids so I wanted to make sure that bikes could ride on it,” she said.
That concern was settled after visiting the town parking lot where gaps between the pervious pavers were not an issue for bicycle tires.
“My other biggest concern was the trees, to try to save as many trees as possible,” she said. “That’s why we love living in Ashland, why we love that neighborhood.”
Tree removal was an issue that Prichard seized on, as well.
“Trees are my big issue. Are we losing a lot of trees and are we losing many trees that people are worried about losing?” Prichard asked Davis.
He responded that he didn’t think they would have to take out many trees that residents would miss.
“We’ve had one or two say we really want the trees along our house to not be there anymore and they happen to be right in the middle,” Davis said. “We have others that probably want to keep the trees, so I think it’s coming out to a good balance.”
The work will be carried out by the town’s annual contractor Tally & Armstrong and should be finalized by the end of June.