Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Table for two for the party of “no” on Roanoke City Council

Roanoke City Council members Gwen Mason and Court Rosen

Roanoke City Council members Gwen Mason and Court Rosen

With Councilwoman Gwen Mason running for the 17th District House of Delegates seat and Councilman Court Rosen the “conservative’s conservative” it becomes apparent that moving forward or even “maintaining” Roanoke is not on their agenda. Monday’s vote on $1.5 million of maintenance on city-owned Counryside golf course got their “no” vote.

They’d rather see it rot – neither had an alternative. So with the lack of 5 votes we’ll get to hear their resounding “no” again on October 22. Both Councilman Dave Trinkle and Rupert Cutler realized there was no other option. Cutler was on council originally when he along with Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea voted to buy the property at the city manager’s recommendation. It was going to be high-end housing, retail and commercial stuck in the airport’s runway six flight path.

Evidently both Cutler and Mayor David Bowers met with former Salem Mayor Carl E. “Sonny” Tarpley who said he wished he had a golf course like Countryside for Salem. Tarpley said Salem had tossed around building one in 1996 but decided it would be too costly. The point Tarpley made was that the city has one already and should make the most of its uniqueness. Councilwoman Anita Price echoed the same sentiments.

With Price showing up last minute at least it passed on a first reading.

Here are some inexplicably incoherent irrelevant comments made by both Rosen and Mason.

On one hand Mason compares it to Victory Stadium and on the other not wanting to spend $1.5 million to maintain the city-owned golf course became a bit confusing. Not only that she basically accused her colleagues who were voting “yes” of “doing so because we don’t want to make a neighborhood mad” – opining it as a poor decision. She evangelized on the state budget, cuts in core services, … yada, yada, yada.

Then Mason hit the coup de gras – “this would pay 8 teachers salaries.” It was more than obvious she was using the council dais to make a stump speech. She ventured even further into the 1970s when the city built too many tennis courts now full of weeds.

Rosen then chimed in and assured Mason she was “not alone.” He could not quite get the idea that the funds were already baked into the $13.9 million CIP bond resolution passed in September. Money for Countryside maintenance along with Washington Park pool improvements were lumped into the Parks and Recreation Fund as a part of the $13.9 million yet to be allocated. “Only a few hundred citizens” use the golf course said Rosen. (I guess he stood at Countryside and counted them while asking where they lived in his spare time.)

I’d hate to think only city citizens used the civic center or came downtown to shop – Roanoke city would surely be broke then. Maybe we should put up barricades around the city and not allow any citizens from the surrounding jurisdictions in … I’m sure we all could do with a little isolationism.

He also said “a few thousand people are going to have to pay for a 100 residents and that’s fundamentally unfair”…. Huh?

Not only that he then proceeded to compare it to the storm water fee. Councilman Dave Trinkle and Rupert Cutler both debunked that absurd comment.

“Another traditional Roanoke political saga,” said Trinkle who confirmed he was voting for it. He admitted that it was probably not a wise purchase years ago but now “we have no other options.” Trinkle called it the responsible thing to do and said let’s “give it a shot to see if it does work … we’ve already tested the market to try to sell or develop the property.”

Price then said, “Countryside Golf Course is something that is unique to Roanoke City – something we’re all very proud of.” She made clear that she did not believe it was just for a neighborhood and that it can become a regional golf course that is “uniquely ours.”

Trinkle pointed out that it was not an “either/or” as far as storm water management or schools as Rosen and Mason alluded. Storm water management is a much, much bigger and much more ongoing type of issue.” We haven’t given it a chance [to be a golf course] exclaimed Trinkle. He then pointed to the lack of longevity of the management contracts saying, “no business can operate not knowing if they will be here in six months or a year.” Trinkle also said that he didn’t see this taking away from supporting the schools either.

If there was any question on the divide between Trinkle and Mason it became clear as Mason jumped on Trinkle’s “it’s only $1.5 million.” Mason took that opening to ensure that all 17th district constituents were clear on her conservative values saying “only $1.5 million frankly gives me the chills because people really work hard for their money.” (You’d have thought it was the floor of the General Assembly and if you closed your eyes you could almost see Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (no offense Morgan).

Cutler then chimed in admitting he and Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea were on Council and voted to purchase the property in 2005 to be converted to mixed-use development.

Cutler said he and Vice-Mayor Lea were at a reception in Salem and ran into former Mayor “Sonny” Tarpley. Cutler said Sonny came right up into my face and said “we’d love to have a golf course in Salem like Countryside.”

“We have one in our ownership right now,” said Cutler. Cutler wished the 2005 plan to develop had worked out. But he said, “I am willing to listen to our colleagues from our sister city of Salem that have done such a good job in sports development – see if we can make something out of Countryside Golf Course that we would be proud of … let’s see how it goes.” He wanted it added to the parks system. Cutler also agreed that storm water is a different ball game. The only way to fund that is through a continuing stream of revenue.

Burcham did her best to stifle the city of Salem’s 1996 venture into a possible golf course then said something odd. She said Ms. Garner said (me) that I said I wanted tennis course and swimming pool. (I never said that. I did suggest when I spoke to council – that listening to their briefing on a Fallon Park multi-gen center and 50% increase in cost to add in a competition pool that the property where the Countryside pool had been would make an excellent location for a competition pool – next to William Fleming HS and stadium – use of that parking lot for parking during competition – location near I-581 as well as the abundance of adjacent hotels.)

Rosen could not let debunk of his storm water analogy go … “a dollar’s a dollar” said Rosen. I won’t bore you with more on that … suffice it to say capital dollars into a nice to have – yada, yada. He thinks the RFPs for development were restrictive – on the contrary they were wide open and the neighborhood had no say – Assistant Manager Brian Townsend and City Manager Darlene Burcham told us that “we do not want to inhibit their [developer] creativity.”

With Rosen it’s personal – I won’t say more except that when someone knows you can see right through them they don’t like it or you.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: , , ,

Comments (9)


October 6th, 2009 at 11:00 AM    

From Facebook:

Thomas Ryder
As a person who supports and has actively endorsed (RCEA-PAC) Gwen’s bid to take Mr. Fralin’s seat, I’m disappointed in her Countryside position. It’s myopic at best.


October 6th, 2009 at 11:54 AM    

Ms. Garner, I applaud your activism in the interests or your neighborhood. But the logic behind keeping the land as a golf course makes little sense for a city in our financial condition and with our population. Your arguments are not coherent – your argument for open space (which is essentially to protect your house value) can be accomplished by means other than a golf course and would likely increase your values even greater.

The argument to keep it a course because we have no other options is in point of fact very myopic. Golf course waterline replacement vs. city waterline replacement. Capital money for paving cart paths vs. capital money for paving roads. Stormwater dollars vs. clubhouse dollars. These are all one-time expenditures.


October 6th, 2009 at 5:29 PM    

Hello James,

First, it was not idea for the city to buy the golf course, which they admit, was a bad idea. One reason we are getting a new city manager.

Second, preserving the golf course by Council’s own admission there are no other options at this time.

Third, it is not just about our neighborhood but those who use it – more than 100 as Rosen claims.

Fourth, if it were not profitable you would not have 3 bidding to manage it.

Fifth, it never was developable land for what they planned as local developers clearly stated in the Roanoker Magazine article.

Sixth, we never had any input into the development as emphasized by the consultants who studied the property in 2003. They actually did not think it a very good idea.

Seventh, the airport RPZ has now been widened in a land-swap with the city making it even less desirable for development.

Eighth, the land lays in an airport “noise contour”, floods, etc. making very little of the land available (if any) for development. A golf course is a recommended land use (for safety reasons) by the FAA. No residential or large gatherings of people, lighting, etc.

More but I’ll stop here.


October 6th, 2009 at 11:28 PM    


6 of your 8 points in retort to James are either points I believe Ms. Mason and Mr. Rosen have been making or are points that are simply incorrect. The seventh I am not qualified to respond to, and the eight is simply a fact.

I also appreciate your advocacy for your neighborhood and for people who play Countryside to continue playing it. But you’re judgement is entirely clouded and your reasoning unreasonable. You’ve made this personal because of the course being in your back yard. It’s at that point you lose reason.




October 6th, 2009 at 11:44 PM    


You’ll have to be more specific on “incorrect” or points.

Not really a retort but since I don’t know who James is I was passing on information he may not be aware of.

There are no options this late in the game with the lease ending Oct. 31 unless you want the city to have to maintain it costing even more.

One point is that the city did no due diligence on it continuing as a golf course for any period of time or they would have known all these things needed fixing. They were banking on a quick turn around with no option “B”. Speculators always have an option “B” to fall back on but the city had no business speculating (gambling) with city tax dollars.


October 6th, 2009 at 11:52 PM    

True that if I did not live next to it I would not know as much about it.

There are many things I only know the surface of … I do my best to find out more before making assumptions.

I assumed the city would involve the neighborhood in their plans but it took a FOIA request to find out what was going on.


October 7th, 2009 at 8:45 PM    

Thanks for responding Val. There is no reason for me to list the inaccuracies as I know that you have personal feelings involved that would cloud things. Appreciate your time.


October 8th, 2009 at 2:15 AM    

Greg not your real name but that’s OK. Your comment was held because of past comments under another name.


October 9th, 2009 at 2:23 PM    

To all those who wondered, yes, I recognize that I am a nasty, nasty person.

Comments are not moderated. Notify any abuse at info@roanokefreepress.com put ABUSE in the subject and the offensive post.

Leave a Reply