When is a driveway a public road? Apparently, when that driveway is part of a county-owned right of way.
In Lorfax Heights, a community of about 125 houses off Hooes Road in Lorton, a small stub street about 30 feet wide is creating a rift among neighbors who are debating whether the street should be developed, left alone or vacated.
"Talbert Road is a right of way that runs to the back of the development, back to Ridgely Drive," said Tracy Rogers, a resident of Lorfax Heights who would like the road to be paved.
"Most of us feel it's time that the road be developed. People in the back of the development would be able to get in and out easier," she said. "Right now, school buses can't turn around easily they have no room. The roads are too narrow, there's no sidewalks."
If emergency vehicles needed access to homes on the far end of the community, she said, residents toward the front of the neighborhood are block from leaving their homes.
At the intersection of Talbert Road and Ridgely Drive, John Fedorshik and his family have been using part of that right of way as their driveway since moving into their home in 1995.
"When we built the house, the county staff and the builder arranged for me to use the right of way as a driveway and suggested that I could submit a vacation request for the road," Fedorshik said.
IF THE ROAD were vacated, it would no longer be eligible to be paved or turned into an official road, something that has been the source of frustration with some of the neighbors for several years.
"Many people in the community want this road," Rogers said. "People who live along the right of way don't want it, but you can't hold a community hostage because of a few people."
The Talbert Road right of way is only 30 feet wide, Fedorshik said, which is at least 20 feet too narrow to become a road by Virginia Department of Transportation standards.
"If lot owners along Hooes Road all donated 20 feet of property, there'd be room," he said.
According to Ryan Hall, a VDOT spokesman, the width requirment of a road varies depending on whether it is a public or private road.
"The county can use immenant domain to take property to build a road if it needs to," Hall said.
Curbs, gutters and sidewalks that were not required when Lorfax was first developed in the 1940s may mean additional space is needed if a road is developed, he said.
"If the county built the road and it was to VDOT standards, we'll maintain it, but it has to meet our requirements," he said.
Hall was not aware of Talbert Road prior to a phone call on Tuesday afternoon but said it was "not included on the VDOT six-year plan."
Fedorshik said he'd be more than willing to give up the piece of land he's been using as his driveway should the county decide to construct the road.
The situation has been a "stalemate" for years, Fedorshik said, who added that Virginia state law requires homeowners to have access to their homes from a road.
"If we had to choose between doing nothing and getting a road, we'd take the road," he said. "Everything we've ever heard from the county is that there won't be a road here."
When building his home, Fedorshik said he had to pay $8,000 to the county use the road as a driveway in 1996, in addition to posting a $6,500 bond as part of his site plan approval process.
Fedorshik said he and his family have tried to appease neighbors, offering to vacate 20 feet of the road and leaving the other 10 feet to be turned into cul de sac for buses to turn around in or children to ride bikes on, but those suggestions have not been approved.
Rogers said the idea of a bike path for children was "a good idea to get kids off the road," but she said it didn't offer a solution to what she feels is an urgently needed roadway.
LORFAX RESIDENT Karen Yoon said she hopes the Board of Supervisors will listen to the community and deny Fedorshik's request to vacate the road.
"It's a public right of way, it should be preserved for the future growth of the community," she said.
A petition has been circulating in the community and "probably 75 percent of homes have signed it," Yoon said. "The majority of the community would like to keep the right of way preserved. Some want it the way it is, some want it made into a bike path."
Currently, there is "only one main road into Lorfax and one main road out," she said. "We don't have curbs or gutters and the visibility for kids riding their bikes isn't that great because there's hills," Yoon said.
She also disagrees that the 30 foot wide right of way is too narrow to be made into a road.
"The road is 26 feet wide in front of my house," she said. "I know most roads need a 50 foot easement, but we want to preserve the access."
Concern over the vacation of the road is "not personal," Yoon said, but about the safety of the neighborhood.
"Why is it so important to vacate the land," she asked. "It's clear many of the neighbors want to leave it alone."