Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Concept plan for Huff Lane Elementary school property emerges

Hotels replace school on left with enhanced park on right.

UPDATE: Mayor Bowers, Vice Mayor Trinkle, City Manager Morrill and Chairman David Carson comment on the Huff Lane property plans:

In a phone call Mayor Bowers said, “it’s an old building and that just lends itself to some other solution. I appreciate the work Court has done on it. As in all matters the council is not the executive. It ought to be sent over to the executive.”

In an e-mail Vice-Mayor Trinkle wrote, “We have all been working and supportive. The primary concern for me is If we sell the property it has to be at a price that is worth it for the city to lose the land and worth it for the school system along with that it be done in a way that preserves or improves the park and the neighborhood boundaries.”

City Manager Morrill in an e-mail said, “I did have our staff work with Council member Rosen and the school folks to come up with some concepts to share with the neighborhood in the hope we could get kids out of temporary classrooms at Round Hill and make improvements to the park by selling Huff Lane for development that would not impact the neighborhood.”

In an e-mail Carson wrote, “I did see the conceptual plan, but am also appreciative that at this point, it’s only a concept. i am ok with the limited parcel being sold, particularly because green space/park space is being preserved and potentially upgraded for the neighborhood and because all proceeds from any sale will go to the school system to help with round hill. as you know, we have children in trailers at round hill and i would like to get them out of trailers to the extent possible.”

“I am appreciative that as evidenced by his appearance and presentation at the neighborhood meeting last night, court has reached out to many, many people about what the city is doing and why. i am also appreciative that this is the beginning of a process that is being conducted in the public eye and that necessarily will include public input as this proceeds.”


Councilman Court Rosen’s plan for the Huff Lane property would portion off the 5-acres that encompasses the school building, playground and basketball court – leaving the two ball fields, tennis courts and surrounding green space.

Roanoke City Council assigned Rosen along with David Carson, Chairman of Roanoke City School Board to figure out what to do with the Huff Lane Elementary school property. The school was closed last year and students were incorporated into Round Hill Elementary for the 2010-11 school year. The goal was to reduce costs and have all elementary schools kindergarten through fifth-grade explained Council member Anita Price at Tuesday’s Dorchester Court Neighborhood meeting.

Carson said in an e-mail, “At this time, the only thing we have done is to advise Council that we don’t intend to use Huff Lane.”

With the Roanoke City Public Schools having no use for the building city council will decide whether to market all or a portion of the 16-acre property that includes two ball fields assessed at $2.5 million. Roanoke City owns all school property but have made a commitment that any proceeds from relinquished property be funneled back to the school system.

Rosen explains division of Huff Lane Property

Rosen has been working with City Manager Chris Morrill, Chairman Carson and everyone on city council. “I’ve met with a ton of people in commercial real estate … school facilities people, the building facilities people and talked to neighborhoods,” said Rosen.

The plan envisions low-impact hotels but that use is not a certainty. He assured there would be a protective dirt berm and no outlet to the neighborhood.

“None of the usable park that you have is going to be taken,” Rosen told the neighborhood Tuesday evening. The basketball court and playground would be relocated.

The Parks and Recreation Department provided drawings of a building with restrooms, pavilion and concession facility. These amenities would be added to the Capital Improvement Project list.

“The neighborhood is a key stakeholder but the neighborhood is not the only stakeholder. The schools have something at stake with what happens here,” said Rosen.

He said currently there are 74 5th grade students in trailers along with physical fitness facilities at Round Hill. The proceeds of the sale of the property would be used to expand Round Hill.

Amy Cosner, President of the Dorchester Court Neighborhood Association presented a letter from neighborhood members stating that they wanted to keep “the ENTIRE property as a park.” The school building could be converted into a community center.

“The City has the opportunity to right a wrong committed here. The wrong was closing a school … the neighborhood needs a park, not a strip mall or hotel,” said the letter.

Rosen said, “it’s not in shape for a community building … we fiscally can’t keep them open.” Parks and Recreation is trying to juggle what they have currently. Bestpitch added that as old as the building was that there were probably asbestos issues.

By walling off the commercial plot “there will be no chance of more commercial encroachment into the neighborhood … it’s a 70-foot buffer,” said Rosen.

Bestpitch agreed with Rosen saying, “it certainly shows that it is possible to erect a couple pretty good size buildings and actually add to the green space.”

Rosen stressed that this was only a conceptual plan and may not be the only buildings occupying the 5-acre site but in talking with the city manager “he believes that a motel would be perfect for out here in terms of traffic.”

Dorchester Drive resident Ray McKee who years ago fought against the Valley View Road extension apologized for his publicized comment that “they don’t give a rat’s ass about this neighborhood” and praised Rosen for his efforts. McKee will hold their feet to the fire for completion of the amenities.

Emotions ran high on vote to close Huff Lane School


Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Education, Roanoke City Public Schools

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (11)

Amy Cosner

March 9th, 2011 at 1:57 PM    

This is not what the neighborhood wants AT ALL. I brought a writing to the meeting and passed it out to everyone. When I reported that to the neighbors who helped me write it this morning, they asked me if I needed a petition.

Amy Cosner

March 9th, 2011 at 2:07 PM    

The neighbors don’t want to keep the school, that is not the issue. The neighbors want the ENTIRE land as a much needed PARK. The city wants to sell HALF the already tiny park, taking the basketball court and other land for commercial purposes! The city can use tax money for Round Hill school. It doesn’t need to take more land to pay for Round Hill and deprive the kids of their future. We don’t need another hotel or Costco or another unsuccessful building there. This land is also landlocked property unless the City circumvents law to grant the developers a way onto it. Do we need a petition or are we just all going to be stupid about this? We already have no sidewalks in the neighborhood. I heard someone say, “It (the commercial property) is inevitable.” Well it REALLY isn’t. It doesn’t have to be.

Amy Cosner

March 9th, 2011 at 2:46 PM    

It doesn’t matter how many neighborhoods you talk to. Our neighborhood is the only one that matters here because the Park is in our neighborhood. We are very disappointed with how this one-sided “dialog” is going. “We build, you swallow it?” Is that the “dialog?” Where is this dialog? As far as “commercial” property we don’t really have a say over that either because it will flip also, once that is proven unsuccessful, and then it will be too late to get a Park back. :(

Amy Cosner

March 9th, 2011 at 3:06 PM    

It also needs to be stated here that Ray is not the soul spokesman for our Neighborhood, although he does live in the Neighborhood and is welcome to come to the meetings. As President of the Neighborhood Watch Association I need to remind others that we have by-laws and rules of conduct to go by and our meetings are sometimes closed to only those who live in the Neighborhood and the policemen who protect them. When we want City Officials and others to come to the meetings, we invite them as we have invited Court Rosen twice and made these meetings open. So far, Court Rosen has attended these two meetings. In the future this decision will be made on a case by case basis.


March 9th, 2011 at 4:52 PM    


Thank you for making your stance clear. I hope you and your members present your feelings to the powers that be.

From our phone conversation you summed it up as you felt like you were railroaded rather than it being a dialogue.

Christina Koomen

March 9th, 2011 at 5:19 PM    

I have recently discovered this neighborhood and consider it a hidden gem, so even though I don’t live there (yet), I want to see something good happen with the Huff Lane site. I like the idea of preserving the existing park space, but I think any type of commercial building would be TOTALLY out of place at this location. (No offense to Mr. Rosen.)I also think the school is oversized to be a community center, but I do think some kind of neighborhood structure would be appropriate. My oddball little idea would be a nod to the area’s past — tear down the school, restore the soil, and develop the city’s first urban farm. Make it a demonstration project for raising crops, and maybe even a few small animals like chickens and goats if the neighbors don’t object, to show what can be done. The resulting products could be used in the schools, and the farm could both employ local people and be used as an educational resource for students. The new neighborhood center could also have programming that ties in with the farm. Food for thought…

Amy Cosner

March 10th, 2011 at 8:01 PM    

Amen Sister Christina. Why don’t you show up at our next neighborhood meeting, which is Tuesday, April 11th at 6 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church in which we will be entertaining OTHER ideas for the Huff Lane park as this is not, by any means a done deal. Of course the school will be razed, but others have rolled around ideas like rec centers, concession/rest room facilities, etc. Half the Park is just not enough room to play frisbee and all of that. If half the Park is given up to commercialism there will be absolutely no room with tennis courts, 2 ball parks, etc. On the news tonight it showed the play ground–that would not be there–it is included with the commercial property. The Parksters would not have access to the commercial property. The commercial property is not going to happen. Sorry Court. Not in my lifetime. :) You will have to find OTHER sources to fund Round Hill school, like our huge tax base. Valley View has tons of restaurant turning over monthly–use that space, but don’t take OUR park. One thing the Council failed to do was get THE NEIGHBORHOOD’S opinion on this thing. That hurt. All of a sudden, there was a plan for a hotel. What is to keep another business from coming in there when the hotel fails? It’s just poor planning.

Amy Cosner

March 10th, 2011 at 8:05 PM    

In addition, driving down Valley View Blvd. all of a sudden there is a niche to pull into a hotel? Next to a neighborhood park where kids play? That is what is known as a NIMBY (Not in my back yard) That’s creepy.

Bubba Greene

March 12th, 2011 at 4:43 PM    

I donno…maybe an extension to Valley View shopping would be nice. A nice oriental place, greek place and maybe the Texas Tavern, WEST would be nice too. Then add a really BIG gun store/pawn shop and some bars. WINNER!!!!!! for the neighborhood

amy cosner

March 16th, 2011 at 1:45 PM    

@ Bubba. You make me laugh. Obviously not from the neighborhood.

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