Nelson County Residents Battle Power Company Over Access to Land

July 10, 2014

Nelson County residents fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline out of their backyards claimed a small victory Thursday. Dominion Transmission, Inc-the transmission subsidiary of Dominion Power-has agreed to stay off private property in Nelson County, unless given permission by the property owner or by obtaining a court order. The agreement comes one day after five county residents filed a lawsuit in Nelson County Circuit Court against Dominion, arguing the company did not have the authority to clear pathways on private property for the pipeline and the company did not give due notice before beginning surveys.

"Shocking" is how Kathy Versluys has described the pipeline project. She and her husband have owned and operated a rural retreat center called The Acorn Inn in Nelson County for nearly three decades. A Dominion official stopped by the Inn last week, after the couple learned the natural gas pipeline could run directly through their property.

"This is something that will happen through the whole county and it's just upsetting," Versluys said. She worries the pipeline could ruin their business.

"I certainly don't want it because it will mess up my business completely and prevent me from ever extending my business and doing what I love best and providing people with a special place to come," she said.

Versluys joined four other landowners in filing the lawsuit to temporarily keep Dominion off their properties, but it's not a long-term solution. Virginia state law allows gas transmission companies to survey private properties.

"This case didn't take issue with that statute," said Neal Walters, the attorney representing the landowners in the lawsuit. He said the suit argues Dominion has not complied with the statute throughout the process. But Walters also hints more litigation could be in the future.

"Certainly there are larger issues out there," he said. "Does the government have the right to give a private, for-profit company the right to come on peoples' land? That wasn't an issue in this case, but it could be an issue down the road."

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