Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tom’s Creek Developer Was Interested in Countryside Property

Countryside Golf Course

Countryside Golf Course

Joyce Graham, Managing Member of Tom’s Creek Investors, L.C. in Blacksburg and Colonial Green, L.C. in Roanoke City had expressed an interest in developing the Countryside property.

In a September 5, 2005 submission of qualifications for the Countryside property Graham outlined her “past and current experience working with City staff … and welcomed the opportunity to explore the project … enthusiastic about the possibilities this project may provide.”

Accompanying the letter were details on the Village at Tom’s Creek and the qualifications of Progress Street Builders, Inc. The Tom’s Creek development just celebrated its 10-year anniversary of success as reported in The Roanoke Times.

Two parties submitted a response to a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) shortly after the option to purchase the property was announced – Joyce Graham and Toll Brothers, Inc. Toll Brothers is a national company listed on the NYSE (TOL).

Toll Brothers was selected over Graham. In a letter dated October 4, 2005, Senior City Planner, Chris Chittum responded to Graham saying:

“After evaluating your Statement, we are not able to identify Tom’s Creek Investors, L.C. as a Qualified Developer for the purposes of the Countryside Development project. The primary reason for this determination is that the components, so we are seeking a developer with extensive experience in developing a broad range of land uses. The City did not see the requisite range and depth of previous development experience in your project team that will be required for the successful redevelopment of a tract of land such as Countryside.”

The rest is history – in a few sentences Toll Brothers in February, 2006 wrote to the City that it was no longer interested, as its product line (very high-end housing) would not be a fit for the property.

Wrong turns everywhere you look at the City’s handling of the property. Property that all agree now was best left out of the City’s hands – all except City Manager, Darlene Burcham, and Assistant Manager, Brian Townsend that is. 

Not only did the City ignore the Lawrence Group Study performed in 2002 that listed the detriments to developing the parcel; they ignored the study’s recommendations on how to proceed that included the expectations of the surrounding neighborhood. Repeating – “include the expectations of the surrounding neighborhood.”

All members of Council at that time were aware of the financing on the $4.1 million price tag. It was a non-issue then. Now in hard times and a million dollars of interest payments later it becomes an issue. It is a 15-year loan with Carter Bank at 6.25% interest – LINK IS HERE TO DETAILS.

Basically the City never had a qualified response to a Request For Proposal (RFP). I don’t count the year courting Victor Foti as anything but a very strange stall tactic that kept me at bay and the neighborhood anxious.

We will never know had Joyce Graham been selected over Toll Brothers during the RFQ process if Graham would have followed through with a successful design. Tom’s Creek sure is doing well. Colonial Greens seems to be moving slowly but surely – Countryside not so much. 

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Roanoke City Politics

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