Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Countryside improvements not moving fast enough for some

Chris Chittum, Anita Price, Court Rosen (background)

Chris Chittum planning administrator with Roanoke City was pleased by the response he received to the initial sketches of the park, trails, natural areas and location of a section of the Greenway around the old golf course. The $1.5 million of Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds were earmarked to make improvements on part of the city-owned Countryside Golf Course.

Tuesday evening 60 anxious residents convened at William Fleming High School. City manager, Chris Morrill started off by explaining that the input meeting in September 2011 had yielded an overwhelming consensus for a park and trails.

It has been over a year since the neighborhood began working with the Planning Commission on a Master Plan that would eventually be adopted by Roanoke City Council.

The city purchased the golf course for $4.1 million in 2005 for development about the same time the housing market went bust. The city hired Meadowbrook Golf, Inc to operate the course. At one point city council voted to keep it open for 10 years until things turned around. Ultimately the city closed it on March 1, 2010.

The past two summers the grass grew tall and a farmer baled hay where once green fairways were home to golf carts and challenging greens. The pool was closed and filled in, the indoor tennis building vacated and the clubhouse was boarded up.

The patio homes on the 10th, 11th, and 12th fairways were built and touted by realtors as golf course villas. The entranceway “Countryside Cottage” signs posted there once proclaimed it so.

After the 2010 closing the fairway homes devalued. A pole of patio homeowners showed a reduction in assessments from 11 to 13 percent for 2011. Their hope is that the improvements will bring pride back to the neighborhood said resident Rosanne Saunders.

Following the original golf cart paths will be linear walking trails that will wind through areas of wildflowers, shrubs and trees. The trails will have fitness stops for the more active adult. The natural areas will be low maintenance for ease of maintenance by the Parks and Recreation Department. Maintenance will be limited to pruning, bi-annual wildflower cutting and some mowing along the trails.

Underwood said the trails and Greenway would follow the typography. No neighbors wanted any bulldozing or leveling of the natural areas that are home to huge oak trees. The park area at Lewiston and Ranch Road will have diagonal parallel parking. “Folks of any age and ability can use it,” he said.

The ADA accessible trails will connect to the Greenway though it will be stand-alone to Ferncliff Drive for now. It will wait to connect across Hershberger Road when the Evans Spring area is developed. That will be after the Valley View interchange is completed sometime in 2015.

The pavilion will have restrooms, be lighted, have good visibility and the design will fit the neighborhood explained Underwood.

Spectrum Design’s John Garland and Alta Planning and Design out of Davidson, North Carolina teamed up and were selected to design a final working plan. The city is still negotiating the cost with the team.

City council members and Police Chief Chris Perkins were there. Perkins and the neighborhood community resource officer Billy Wood were requested by the neighbors to look for safety improvements.

Chief Perkins took notes on lighting needs. There are no streetlights and the city turned off what lights there were at the golf course clubhouse and parking area.

The sticky notes pasted on the display boards will help refine the design, city council and the planning commission will be briefed and final plans will be brought back to the neighborhood in May. Construction documents will be ongoing through the summer.

Steve Boucher, director of Parks and Recreation and Donnie Underwood took questions and suggestions. But all in all everyone was pleased.

The only real vocal complaint was that it is not moving along fast enough. “Get it done … get started,” said Sharon Blevins of Countryside Drive. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of this year.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Local Events

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