Change to Tomato Festival traffic upsets residents

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Dirk Warner- email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT)- There will be more parking at this year's Hanover Tomato Festival.

Wednesday night the Hanover Board of Supervisors approved a plan to use Tate Lane for additional parking, but that's not sitting well with the owners who live on and maintain the private gravel road.

Under an agreement made with the county 15 years ago, only residents and county vehicles are allowed to use it. The board voted only to allow parking on Tate Lane in 2010 so it's not permanent. The county will also build a fence to create a buffer from the neighborhood.

The Hanover Tomato Festival had a record attendance last year.

Fifteen years ago, Sherry McCarthy and her neighbors signed a deal with Hanover County.

"That has been forgotten by the county, but not by the residents," said McCarthy.

McCarthy says the county's current plan violates the pact. When county officials said they wanted to open Tate Lane to public traffic during the Hanover Tomato Festival, it did not sitting well with homeowners here.

"There's a privacy concern -- we're very private back here," said McCarthy. "There's also a safety concern. There's a concern with the maintenance of our road."

But the county says the change is necessary. Last year, the Tomato Festival drew a record 42,000 visitors -- tying up traffic, and raising safety issues, according to Parks and Recreation Director Greg Sager.

"Often when we have accidents or injuries, we need to transport them out by vehicle, and Tate Lane is the only other access in and out of the park other than the two lane access road," said Sager.

As for the agreement between the county and Tate Lane residents, Sager says it's still valid.

"We're not looking at superseding the agreement as much as clarifying that for one day a year, it would be allowed to be used for a county special event," Sager said.

Sherry McCarthy and her neighbors think the county should shoulder the responsibility of repairing the road.

"If the County wants to use this now, according to our original agreement, the county picks up the tab," she said.

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