When Chester Taylor built his home at 7054 Hooes Rd. in Springfield, Va., back in 1935, the sparsely traveled road was made of dirt. It was called Bone Mill Road then, and none of the houses alongside it had electricity or telephones.
"We got a petition together to get lights out here, about '45, I think it was," he said.
Today, Taylor, 75, and many of his neighbors face a drastically different problem, one they believe a petition would be powerless to solve. Set in motion by the growing urbanization of West Springfield and most of Fairfax County, a major highway known as the Springfield Bypass soon will cut through their neighborhood. Taylor's home, and the houses of roughly 50 other families, stand right in its way.
As a result, the state will be making these families an offer that they literally cannot refuse -- to buy their homes at fair market value so they can be torn down and paved over.
While Taylor and the others along the 35-mile highway have yet to receive official word that their homes will be razed -- the bypass' design plans officially are only 25 percent complete -- officials leave little doubt that most of them will have to go.
"Until the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation Board approves this design expected to be sometime early next spring , it's all subject to change," said Dewey Litton, the state's project manager for the road's design. "Right now, we're trying to fine-tune the alignment all along the way to minimize the impact on property."
Residents will get a chance to air their opinions at public hearings before the Department of Highways and Transportation, tentatively scheduled for October.
But Litton and other officials acknowledge that most of the 56 homes will be taken through eminent domain, as the road's route likely will not change more than five to 50 feet in either direction.
Adding to residents' distress over the likelihood of losing their homes is the drawn-out process through which the bypass' fate has been determined.
First included in the county's master plan a decade ago, the proposed bypass follows a a slightly different alignment than when its environmental impact statement was approved three years ago. Several homes built since then now fall in the path of the updated route, and residents of other new homes thought to have been shielded will find the bypass crossing alongside them.
Residents whose homes will not be razed worry about drastically lower property values, as well as the noise and unsightliness the new road, while many of those who will be ousted are impatient for the process to begin so they can get their lives in order.
County voters last fall approved funds for the first 2 1/2-mile stretch, which begins just east of Rolling Road and will provide direct access onto the car-pool lanes of I-95, and for a six-mile segment west of Reston from the Dulles Access Road to Rte. 50. But officials say it will be 18 months to two years before construction begins on those segments and generally about a year before ousted homeowners receive compensation. When, or even by whom, the rest of the bypass will be funded is still uncertain.
Taylor, a former carpenter and county school-bus driver, is one of those anxious to get on with the process. Because his wife, Myrtle, is in a wheelchair, suitable homes are hard to find, he said. "I've got a house in view now, but I can't get it until I have some money together. We want to get going as soon as possible so we can get settled down," he said.
The rest of his family, though, has mixed feelings. Myrtle Taylor, one family member said, would "just as soon pitch a tent and stay here with the road," while others dread a move that will mean living apart from children or grandparents for what, for most of them, would be the first time in their lives.
Taylor's son Robert now lives next door to his parents, in a three-bedroom home at 7048 Hooes Rd. His wife, Betty, was raised by her grandmother at 7042 Hooes Rd., a two-bedroom home now lived in by their daughter, Teri Adams, son-in-law, Mark, and 1-year-old granddaughter, Sheri. Mark Adams' mother also lives nearby, in a house just behind the others and owned by Chester and Myrtle Taylor.
Although state officials promise to help ousted residents find comparable homes, 25-year-old Teri Adams knows life will never be quite the same. "How many times do you find four houses right in a row?" she asked. "It's going to be hard to adjust to not going out your door to your mom's or your grandparents."
And for Chester Taylor, who grew up on a farm behind the house he built 51 years ago, the impending moves will mean the end of an era. "This is our homestead for our family -- practically four generations have been raised right here in this one particular place. . . . It'll be kind of lonesome," he said.
Taylor's neighbor to the south, Iva Blankenbaker, also has spent more than half a century in her home at 7060 Hooes Rd. The Springfield she moved to as a young bride in 1933 was much different.
"Things were cheap then," she said, remembering how her late husband, Clevie, was making only $2 a day as a carpenter when they built their two-bedroom home.
But prices are not all that have changed, and Blankenbaker, 72, concedes that the quiet country road of her past is now overloaded with traffic. The new bypass is probably needed, she said, but she has doubts that it will solve the problems that necessitated its construction for long.
"If they build 10 lanes, they're going to fill 'em up," she said, observing that the county seems to keep approving one subdivision after another.
"It's a shame if you build up a home and be here so many years and they take it away from you. . . . But there won't be no use to my saying nothing against it, because I can't stop 'em," she said.
Sheldon and Kathleen Richman, who live a few miles southeast in one of the new subdivisions Blankenbaker complained of, don't think that what the county and state are doing is a shame. They think it's out-and-out theft.
"I know they pay you and everything, but it's like they're pointing a gun -- I can't refuse," Sheldon Richman, 36, said.
The couple and their two young daughters moved into their newly built home at 8503 Innisfree Dr. in February, learning only a few weeks ago that they'd have to move again when the bypass comes through their area in about three years.
"When we moved in, the route was on the other side of the woods behind their house , so we figured we were insulated from it," Richman said. "I'm angry, although I guess I'm not really surprised -- these plans are never fixed in concrete, and the government's always stepping on someone."
Because the bypass will be on their side of the woods, however, Richman said he is glad that his house is directly in the way. "Our choice was to have it taken rather than be the house on the side of the road, and we do not want to live next to a construction site," he said.
Their neighbors across the street are not so lucky. Barbara and Philip Lamneck moved into the four-year-old subdivision in January, choosing to build their house on the private cul-de-sac off Innisfree Drive precisely because it was so quiet. Theirs is the only one of the four on the private street that the state is not planning to buy.
"We definitely would not have moved in had we known it was going to be as close as it is now," Barbara Lamneck, 41, said. In addition to being concerned about the noise from building and traffic on the new road and what it will mean for the safety of her two young children, Lamneck worries about the economic fallout of living next to a major highway.
Because her husband is in the Army, the family likely may need to move again within the next few years, and their home's "selling value might drop off because it's so close," she said.
Such concerns are not unwarranted, say neighbors of a family who moved away last week from a house off Pohick Road just south of Burke Centre. After months of trying to sell the house, the family finally settled for about $40,000 less than an identical house sold for a few miles down the road, in an area that will be unaffected by the bypass.
"Prospective homeowners don't want to speculate with all these things happening around here," said Robert O'Such, of 6300 Karmich St.
O'Such, a colonel in the Air Force, and his wife, Joan, closed on their five-bedroom home in August 1984, unaware that a highway was going to be built alongside and in front of their property. Like the Richmans, they blame the county for allowing so many homes to be built while the bypass was still on the drawing boards.
"The county allowed builders to build these homes while they were fooling around with all these plans, and now that they're sold, everybody's going haywire," Joan O'Such said.
But, she added, "the sad part of it is, you're not safe no matter where you live in Northern Virginia. They're going to get you."
The Wilkins family shares a similar sense of futility. Knowing that it will be only a few years before they have to move from their four-bedroom home at 4707 Flemingwood Lane, which they moved into only 1 1/2 years ago, they have decided not to hang wallpaper or put in the deck they had planned.
"It's sort of frustrating not doing the things you want to do," said Skip Wilkins, a Secret Service agent whose wife, Susan, is expecting their first child soon. "I wish if they were going to do it, they'd do it tomorrow, so we could get our life in order."
Their plans? "We may move farther south," he said. "Wherever there's not going to be a road."