City offers arbitration to settle Ragged Mountain strife

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer revealed over Twitter on Thursday morning that the city has offered Albemarle County the opportunity to enter binding arbitration to settle a dispute regarding their conflicting ordinances, which regulate how the trails at the Ragged Mountain Natural Area may be used.
Following a City Council vote Monday on a new trail-use plan for the natural area, city officials, including the mayor, said mountain biking is now allowed on open shared-use trails at Ragged Mountain.
County officials, however, say that activity remains prohibited at the city-owned park in Albemarle County.
When asked Wednesday about the city’s decision to permit biking at the site, Diantha McKeel, chairwoman of the county Board of Supervisors, said the board had not been notified that city officials were saying the park is now open to mountain bikers.
In an April 4 letter addressed to McKeel, Signer said the council is willing to enter arbitration as an “alternative to litigation.” “We believe that option has the potential of resolving the competing claims in a more efficient and cost-effective manner,” Signer said in his letter to McKeel.
“Each councilor remains committed to working in a collaborative and constructive manner with the county on all of our other outstanding issues, regardless of how this particular issue is addressed.” For several months now, county officials have said that the city’s decision to allow biking on shared-use trails at the park violates a county ordinance that prohibits that activity.
In December, the council requested that the county amend its ordinance, but McKeel said in a letter to the public in February that the county will enforce its ordinance that restricts what activities are allowed at the natural area.
Brown said the county’s regulations are “arbitrary and capricious” and that they have little to do with “water pollution, and instead [are] a thinly veiled attempt to control which uses are allowed” at Ragged Mountain.
In her letter, she said the dispute is not about cycling at Ragged Mountain but is instead a “fundamental issue” about whose regulations control what activities at the natural area.
Parks officials have been working for more than a year with stakeholders and community members on how to map new shared-use and hiking-only trails that will complete the circuit around the reservoir at the natural area.

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