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Friday, January 18, 2013

Evans Spring property owners face another agonizing wait

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Planning Commission members Kit Hale and Chad Van Hyning listen to speakers.

As Roanoke area residents wait for VDOT to alleviate the confusing half completed Valley View Interchange so do the affected owners of the property adjoining the 100 acres of vacant land that will become accessible for development.

VDOT is to begin work on the interchange this year with completion expected in 2015. It is currently in the design phase said Senior Planner Frederick Gusler.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing Thursday as heavy rain turned to snow. About 20 residents made the trek to the Municipal Building but other concerned residents did not.

The public hearing was held anyway so those that did brave the elements could voice their concerns. The Planning Commission agreed unanimously to delay the vote to incorporate the Evans Spring Master Plan into Roanoke’s 2001-2020 Comprehensive Plan until February12 so other residents could be heard.

The acreage that the VDOT interchange opens up will consist of mixed use development (residential and commercial), residential only and areas of preservation. VDOT will acquire four to five properties on Norris Drive.

Meetings with the neighbor started in August and and continued to October of 2011. Focus groups and executive  meetings followed with the neighborhood leaders of Fairland, Washington Park, Melrose-Rugby, planning staff and owners of the vacant land. Those meetings culminated in a conceptual master plan that was presented to the public at William Fleming High School in October of 2012.

At that meeting Joe Ramsey, a realtor who owns one of the parcels at Hershberger Road said no one yet had approached his family with interest in the property. “We are not developers,” he said. Ramsey has attended every meeting said Gusler.

Senior Planner Frederick Gusler

Senior Planner Frederick Gusler

The overview illustrated two slightly different street layouts that would depend on VDOT’s designed endpoint. He emphsized that “the concepts were all general.” The two vacant parcels are separated by residential streets. The owners have agreed to cooperate in a connection possibly through an existing street.

Increased traffic, the introduction of commercial development, increased flooding in an already flood prone area and the impact on property values was the majority of resident’s concerns.

The plan includes continuation of the Lick Run Greenway and preserving Fairland lake. Restoring the lake is not what the city has in mind explained Gusler. In October 2012 staff said that Lick Run may have to be rerouted and the lake may be used as a water collector or as a natural “water feature.” The Greenway will primarily follow Lick Run Creek.

“The design build firm will determine how they handle rechanneling the creek,” said Gusler.

The Evans Spring Master Plan conforms to all aspects of the city’s Comprehensive Plan said Gusler. At this preliminary stage every street is a potential connection he said. The goal is to have streets connect to evenly disburse traffic.

Rupert Cutler

Rupert Cutler

Environmentalist and former council member Rupert Cutler was one of seven speakers. In his remarks he said that “Fairland Lake should not be treated as a stormwater retention basin.  It looks fine to me in its present wild condition and should not be dredged or have its margins cleared or be otherwise manipulated.”

Stephen Niamke President of Melrose-Rugby Neighborhood Forum wanted further study for other uses beyond commercial.

Conservation Chair of the Roanoke Sierra Club Dan Crawford said they want to see the property preserved as a natural wetland.

Theresa Gill-Walker who said she lives a block from the proposed interchange was concerned about the type of commercial use that would be introduced to the neighborhood. She asked the Planning Commission to “hold the city responsible for making sure that our community does not go by the wayside and become downtrodden.”

Planning Commission meetings were changed from the third Thursday of every month to the second Tuesday of every month. Work sessions are held on the first Friday of each month.

Evans Spring plan still fuzzy on concepts

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