Courthouse accessibility issues
Published 1:55 pm Thursday, June 16, 2016
The Charlotte County Board of Supervisors faced more criticisms regarding the current architectural plans for the future secondary courthouse building to be connected to the historic Jeffersonian courthouse during Tuesday’s monthly meeting, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Over half of the citizens who spoke during the allotted public comment period offered their perspectives on the courthouse. Kathy Liston and P. K. Pettus represented different options for the courthouse’s design, all from the same Charlottesville-based architects, Warren Byrd and Sharon Nelson.
The conversation shifted from protecting the history housed in the original clerk’s office and the Courthouse Square to the importance of accessibility for handicapped individuals. Both discussed how the current plan allots three handicapped parking spaces and incorporates a skywalk to connect the additional courthouse structure to the current.
“This is not about views or appearance, this is about access. This is about getting people in vehicles conveniently, safely into the building and moving around space,” said Pettus. “A courthouse deserves an approach that is stately and dignified, it also deserves an approach that is convenient and accessible.”
Liston displayed a third design option featuring a connector between the two courthouse buildings on the ground versus in the air, and incorporating 10 handicapped spots, 50 regular spots and an arrival lot — an area designated for drop-offs.
“This has the connector. We still maintain we don’t need it, but this is a compromise that allows greater mobility and greater accessibility,” she said.
Following the comments of Liston and Pettus, Charlotte County board member Garland Hamlett described his experience as a temporarily handicapped person after going through surgery on his foot.
“Believe me, no one’s persuaded me to say what I’m saying, but I think the current location, the way this court’s going to be built, those people that have disabilities, that are handicapped, are going to be compromised,” said Hamlett to the rest of the board. “I’m exhausted, I’m physically exhausted … I’m not saying this for sympathy. I’m not doing this for sympathy. I just want the board to know that when we build this thing, we just need to make sure it’s accessible.”
Liston pushed for Byrd’s new design during her allotted three minutes, noting that the board was ahead of schedule with the plans for the courthouse as the court order doesn’t require finalized construction plans until Aug. 31.
“We’re actually ahead of schedule on this, we do have time to make this change,” said Liston. “We are really asking on behalf of not only the historic entities, but the people of this county.”