Lexington Council Votes To Remove The Dam

By: 
Kit Huffman

Lexington City Council voted 3-0 Thursday night to accept the proposal from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to remove the dam at Jordans Point.

The vote followed a public hearing in which the majority of speakers asked that the dam remain in place.

Council members Michelle Hentz and David Sigler recused themselves from the hearing and vote because of conflict of interest.  Just the day before, Council had received a letter from Virginia Military Institute offering to assist with maintaining the dam.  Hentz’s husband, James Hentz, is a professor at VMI, and Sigler is an employee of VMI.

Also missing from the vote was Patrick Rhamey, who had informed Council several weeks earlier that he would be out of town.

Arguments from the public to leave the dam in place came from representatives of historical groups like Historic Lexington Foundation and the Rockbridge Historical Society, who want to preserve the millrace near the recently restored Miller’s House, now a museum, and from people who enjoy the recreational and aesthetic aspects of the long stretch of impounded flat water upstream above the dam.  Local property owners on the north side of the river in the county also argued against demolishing the dam.

 Arguments in favor of dam removal were that the dam is dangerous and that it’s failing. Some also said that the Maury River, after dam removal, will have better access for swimmers and boaters from Jordans Point.

The motion to remove the dam came from Chuck Smith, with a second from Leslie Straughan.  They, as well as Alexander, provided detailed reasons for their decision, including the city’s liability as owners of a hazardous and damaged structure.  They all said the decision had been difficult. Addressing VMI’s “11th hour offer,” Alexander said it had come too late to sway her.  Straughan said that even if the dam were repaired with VMI’s assistance, the city would still own a structure that would require ongoing maintenance.

For more on this story, see next week’s edition of The News-Gazette.

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