Monday, August 30, 2010

Countryside property plans again on the drawing board

12th Fairway - Left: Summer 2009 - Right: Saturday August 27, 2010 after farmer's second hay cutting.

A quick chronological recap of the Countryside Golf Course debacle that actually began as early as 2002 with a study conducted by The Lawrence Group. 

In October 2002 then city manager Darlene Burcham corresponds with Ed hall who advises her to make sure that the 40-year lease of the airport authority is not renewed (fairways reside on airport property). 

Burcham communicates with airport director Jackie Shuck concerning the lease. Burcham also asked to buy the airport property but was turned down. 

A lull in time occurred when Meadowbrook advised Burcham that the property was not for sale. 

A letter composed through several drafts between Burcham and Ed Hall and Associates (who received the commission for handling the sale) pointed out to Meadowbrook that the lease on airport property would not be renewed as well as other detrimental aspects of the property. 

Negotiations picked up with asking price at $4.8 million but final settlement was $4.1 million. Meadowbrook thought it was going to remain a municipal golf course and offered their services to manage it. 

It was about this time that the swimming pool was closed. During this period homes continued to be built and sold around the golf course to unsuspecting buyers. The more expensive lots laid between fairways on Mattaponi. 

In e-mails between council members in early 2005 there was trepidation by some members on whether to go ahead with the “option” to purchase. The shocked neighborhood first heard of it on May 3, 2005 in The Roanoke Times. 

Then councilman Brian Wishneff and Sherman Lea with then director of planning Brian Townsend came to a neighbor’s home to meet with residents. Angry neighbors greeted them. 

While both Wishneff and Lea (mostly Wishneff) attempted to get the neighborhoods input other council members and Burcham would not hear of it. On July 25, 2005 a meeting of surrounding neighbors were invited to William Fleming High School. Input was asked for but denied. “We don’t want to inhibit a developer’s creativity,” said Burcham and Townsend. 

The purchase went forward in November 2005 with again trepidation from some council members over lack of a “project plan.” Lea in e-mails repeated that he was against the purchase but eventually caved. Both Lea and Wishneff said to not forget about the neighbors being involved (which was ignored.) 

A request for qualifications (RFQ) went out in September 2005 with Toll Brothers responding (sight unseen) and Joyce Graham (Colonial Green). Toll Brothers was chosen over Graham. 

In the interim a VP from Toll Brothers surveyed the property. Shortly after  a letter followed dated February 17, 2006 to the Planning Department. It said they were not interested and that their high-end product line was not a fit. The housing bust was just beginning. 

Another request for proposal (RFP) went out with no response. Another went out. Victor Foti was the only responder. A master plan deadline kept getting extended. Finally one plan was presented to the public in April 2007 that was unacceptable. 

In August 2007 a year since the RFP was issued Burcham rejected the developer. That was the last RFP attempt. 

It lay in limbo during council transition(s). This council is the third grappling with the property. Lea is the only remaining original member who voted to purchase the course. 

In August 2009council decided to give the golf course a go and was willing to invest $1.2 million into an irrigation system and cart path repair. The three respondents dragged on until the end of the year when Meadowbrook was selected. 

The last week of Burcham’s tenure in February 2010 after the money was pulled from the project council voted to shutdown the golf course. Execution of a contract with Meadowbrook fell apart without the $1.2 million investment.

That brings us to another new council and new city manager. Five neighborhood meetings and at least 5 stakeholder meetings (realtors, developers, etc.) 

Tuesday, August 31 the community will get to see three different plans for the property. Just how much neighborhood input will be on display is a contentious issue with the neighborhood. 

After five years the neighborhood is understandably sour and bitter. It is a primarily a senior citizen retirement neighborhood as would be expected around a golf course. Five years of their “golden years” have been spent. Years wasted on indecision. Many just want to move away but finances prohibit. Realtors advised several neighbors to remove their homes from the market due to the indecision surrounding the property. Five neighbors have died.  

To this day Scott Beasley, VP of Operations at Meadowbrook is willing to negotiate revitalizing the golf course.

A few of many comments left off the online notes: 

In three different stakeholder meetings (Economic Development focus group, realtors and a developer) it was asked why couldn’t an 18-hole golf course remain and enhanced with other recreation. Recreation can be an economic development tool. 

Others scoffed at the threat of “fencing off” the runway protection zone should another terrorist attack occur. One developer quipped “yea they could lock up the terrorists in it.” 

The touted Colonial Green projected was lamented as a failure. The project keeps being presented as a “success.” The problem is the homes are too expensive and the commercial layout was not well thought out. 

On that thought I attended the Colonial Green Open House in 2006 where the builder said that city planning wanted the townhomes even closer together. Another failed project mentioned was in Daleville. 

Commentaries and articles on Countryside: 

Activists, by necessity

Countryside neighbors blindsided again 

City council discusses future of Countryside 

 Countryside Golf Course: Staying the course

More days ahead for Countryside?

Chipping away at Countryside

Preserve green space in Northwest

“Airport Land Use: Airport director warns land will be noisy”

Editorial: City gets second chance on golf course deal

Plan called below par

Roanoke land tract targeted as priority

Roanoker Magazine on Countryside 

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community

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