Rural Retreat, VA station update
NW Mailing List
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Sun Jul 17 01:00:49 EDT 2011
RR depot move in the works
Published: July 15, 2011
By AMANDA EVANS/Staff
The whole process has been like a slow-moving train, long and black.
And Jack Weaver has decided to leave the station, figuratively speaking.
He’s finally pulling up his stake in trying to preserve the train depot in Rural Retreat.
“My love for it is the only reason it’s still here,” Weaver said.
This isn’t the first time Weaver’s threatened to demolish or move the depot. This struggle over ownership, property rights and historic designation has been going on for years.
It appears, though, he’s as serious as he’s ever been.
He’s already paid more than $30,000 in advance to have the depot moved, he said. Within the past week or so, crews have begun digging earth from under the decrepit building, supporting the structure with steel beams.
The only hang-up now, Weaver said, is waiting to meet at the end of next week with engineers to discuss the feasibility of moving electrical and telephone lines along West Lee Highway so the tall building can be moved to the property he owns just a few miles away.
Once he can get the details from the engineers, the move will begin promptly, hopefully in August.
It will be moved in two parts, Weaver explained, the long narrow part and then the square front section.
“If, for whatever reason, it can’t be moved,” Weaver vowed, “it will be destroyed.” Salvage crews will take any usable pieces from the depot and reuse them in historical restoration projects.
Even if the town were to acquire the land before Weaver finished moving it, he isn’t sure he’d consider selling it to them at this point. The legal battle for ownership in 2009 and 2010 left a sour taste in his mouth.
After a heated public hearing in 2009, the town decided to condemn the depot in an effort to try and restore it, which is what many people—including Weaver and council members—ultimately wanted to see happen.
The action of the government seizing land under the guise of eminent domain was ruled illegal by Judge Josiah Showalter in Wythe County Circuit Court a year later.
“The Town of Rural Retreat cannot condemn this property for historical purposes,” Showalter wrote in his ruling. He deemed the building Weaver’s personal property that “can be removed/transported anywhere or relocated to another place.”
Weaver, who has owned the building since the late 1980s said he might consider selling the depot if the town agreed to pay him for everything he has invested in the building, which Weaver said totals about $135,000. It was appraised at $6,000 at the time, according to Wythe County tax records. Weaver declined the town’s offer of $30,000 for the depot in March 2009.
What it really comes down to, Weaver said, is being sick and tired of bureaucracy. For years, he said, he’s been trying to determine if the depot is eligible for an official historic designation since he doesn’t own the land it sits on. Norfolk Southern Railway Corporation owns the 0.3 acres of land the depot sits on, leased on a year-to-year basis at $660 per year.
He’s also trying to get a guaranteed mortgage to restore the depot. Letters, e-mails and phone calls to state officials, elected leaders and department heads requesting guidance and clarification have largely gone without answer.
And he’d love for the town to get historical tax credit for the building,
he said, but he’s not going to just give them the building.
“The red tape is entirely around the depot,” Weaver said.
So that’s why Weaver said he’s finally come to these measures—move the building onto his personal land to begin an herbal winery business or demolish the building and take his herbal winery business plan elsewhere.
“After two decades, I’m ready for [the depot] to go out or down.”
Amanda Evans can be reached at 228-6611 or aevans at wythenews.com
As of: July 17, 2011
More information about the NW-Mailing-List