This post was updated on March 6th to reflect the start of actual work on the pipeline.
If those traveling up or down Route 664 look out into the woods opposite Wintergreen mountain's gatehouse, they can now see small signs on the property owned by the Wintergreen Property Owners Association. They were posted last Wednesday by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Tree work on the property began on March 6th.
Jay Roberts, Executive Director of WPOA, said in an email to property owners sent Friday afternoon that ,"The courts do not allow Wintergreen Police to choose which laws to enforce and law enforcement is considered neutral in all circumstances, applying the law of the land equally and fairly," Roberts stressed. "For the Wintergreen Police to enforce laws at individual homes or condos, they must also enforce the law on all WPOA “open space” which includes the Dominion easement."
Below is the text of Robert's email March 2 to Wintergreen property owners:
On Wednesday, a Federal Court in Lynchburg ruled in favor of the ACP and against landowners fighting the ACP’s early access to their property and Eminent Domain. On the advice of legal counsel, WPOA did not participate and instead focused on pursuing mediation, a FERC rehearing and other legal/political options to protect our community.
As many of you know, WPOA has contested Dominion's right to seize our property for over two years and will continue the fight to be made whole for all current and future damages. Determining fair compensation will take time, however construction will not be delayed during this process. Construction will likely commence and owners should anticipate tree cutting could begin any day.
Public opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is significant and is likely to include protests on or near Wintergreen. Because WPOA has its own police department which is recognized by Virginia Code 9.1-101 we are placed in a very tenuous position.
For many owners, it may come as a shock to hear that our police department would be called to enforce the peace during protests. The courts do not allow Wintergreen Police to choose which laws to enforce and law enforcement is considered neutral in all circumstances, applying the law of the land equally and fairly. For the Wintergreen Police to enforce laws at individual homes or condos, they must also enforce the law on all WPOA “open space” which includes the Dominion easement.
This situation presents uncharted territory for all of us. We anticipate there will be some protesting and WPOA respects everyone’s constitutional right to peaceably assemble and to exercise free speech. If, however, there is an infraction of the law, Wintergreen Police will work with the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office and the State Police to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth. Although ultimately up to the Sheriff, owners should anticipate there will be verbal warnings, court summons, and arrests if necessary.
Challenges associated with the ACP will not prevent our police from fulfilling their ongoing responsibility to property owners. The Wintergreen Police Department and its members will perform their duties in a professional, dedicated and dutiful manner and I ask all of you to please give them your support.
WPOA is committed to sharing information with the community about the ACP project and will provide updates using email along with the WPOA website www.wtgpoa.org. Next week, please be on the lookout for an update on Inverse Condemnation and WPOA's efforts related to negotiating with ACP, communicating with elected officials, legal and regulatory options, etc.
Thanks again for all of your support.
Jay Roberts, Executive Director
Wintergreen Property Owners Association
ACP's compensation offers vary widely
A February 27 article on the ACP pipeline by the News & Advance's Emily Brown covered a wide range of news, including the decision by Will and Lilia Fenton, owners of the Fenton Inn, to take an approach to the pipeline on their property similar to that of WPOA's.
The reporter was at the court hearing on the ACP last week and noted that, "In addition to detailing the land acquisition and appraisal processes, ACP also presented final offer letters sent to Virginia landowners who are being sued because they did not agree to the compensation amounts outlined in the final letters.
"Three letters presented Monday show that ACP’s final compensation offers in... three instances were 3.5 to 12 times as much as the appraised value. One example on the higher end was a property assessed at $7,180. ACP’s final offer was $86,607."
Read the article HERE.
Compensation cases could take years
Also, in a March 1 article in the News & Advance, Emily Brown reported that the court's opinion last week said just compensation cases could take years, which was why the court was granting ACP immediate access on several Virginia properties.
“As the court process enters the next phase, we remain committed to fairly compensating all landowners,” Aaron Ruby, spokesperson for lead ACP developer Dominion Energy, told the Lynchburg newspaper. “We will be responsible stewards of their land, and we’ll continue working with them to minimize impacts on their property and daily lives.”
Read the article HERE.
"Self-described pipeline resisters" sitting in trees
WPOA's concerns about pipeline protesters coming to Wintergreen comes in part from what is being reported in other parts of the state.
The Roanoke Times' Laurence Hammack reported on Wednesday that pipeline protesters are sitting in trees along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Read the article HERE.