February 5, 2016

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All of the terms of the settlement were not immediately disclosed, but as part of it, Winchester-based R&L Foods plans to demolish the existing Wendy’s down to its building footprint and rebuild to better align with a new rear entrance to be constructed off of the town of Culpeper’s Col. Jameson Boulevard, according to attorney Charles Lollar, representing the franchisee.

“With the roundabout pushed right up against its exit, traffic couldn’t circulate and it killed the business,” he said Monday.

As part of the settlement reached earlier this month, VDOT will build the new entrance into Wendy’s, and provide “just compensation,” Lollar said, for the .118-acres of North Main Street property frontage the highway department took as part of its ongoing widening of route 229, linked to the elaborate roundabout configuration completed a year ago.

R&L Foods hopes to have the new restaurant in place within the next 12 months, according to the attorney.

The franchise company originally sought more than $1 million from VDOT for taking its land, the roundabout impact and the reported negative effect of a median that now prevents left turns into the Wendy’s, according to court documents.

“The restaurant’s ability to move customers through the drive-thru,” exiting into the roundabout, “was a big issue,” as well, Lollar said.

VDOT had valued the land it took for its project at $176,000 while the town condemned another .75-acres for Col. Jameson Boulevard. The recent settlement will resolve both condemnation matters, and is expected to be finalized next month, according to court documents.

The town had proposed to build a rear entrance to Wendy’s as part of its recent construction of the less-than-mile long commuter route that was funded half-and-half by the town and state. The additional access never came to fruition, however, due to the pending litigation.

The side-by-side road projects rendered the existing access to and from Wendy’s not conducive to a business depending on “convenience and impulse purchasing,” according to court documents, and better suited for “a destination location.”

R&L Foods had sought to prevent evidence about the town’s proposed rear access road from being presented at the condemnation trial previously scheduled to begin Tuesday in circuit court and for which 20 jurors had been summoned, saying the two matters were separate.

VDOT contended that the two matters were related and that the new entrance would improve access to the Wendy’s with direct frontage off of Col. Jameson Boulevard.

Judge Susan Whitlock ultimately would have allowed both matters to be heard at this week’s now-canceled trial, according to court documents, though she had earlier ruled with R&L Foods on the issue, initially ordering that evidence would be excluded regarding mitigation or enhancement caused by the boulevard.

VDOT agreeing to build new access at the back of the Wendy’s property, as was originally proposed by the town, contributed greatly to the condemnation case being successfully settled, said Lollar, and will allow a reconfigured Wendy’s to “align itself up in a functional manner.”

Heather Pritts, with VDOT’s right-of-way division, declined comment when contacted Monday.

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