Monday, March 11, 2013

Vandalism at the Countryside Dump

Tennis building hole on the right.

Tennis building hole on the right.

The accumulation of trash dumped, downed limbs, beer cans, tires and condoms is a disgusting sight in a neighborhood that was once proud of the best laid out golf course in the region. Since the city bought it for $4.1 million in 2005 and closed it in 2010 trash and vandalism have plagued the well manicured homes surrounding the once well groomed landscape.

The tennis building has been broken into so many times the layers of plyboard are bulging. Glass is strewn here and there. Grass and limbs grow through the parking lot. Again last week the tennis building has two gaping holes cut in it as seen in these pictures that are yet to be covered.

Monday city council held another closed session on the sports complex with negotiations that have been going on for years. Northwest Recreation Club and Roanoke Valley Youth Soccer will take 12-acres behind and one third of the central part of the 139-acre property. I suspect as developers shy away from guiding around a sports complex the master plan will be amended and the entire area will become a sports complex.

Look what happened to the promises to the Huff Lane neighborhood – no more encroachment from Valley View Mall years ago only to now lose 5.3 acres to hotels.

Hole on the left of tennis building.

Hole on the left of tennis building.

No matter how you look at it the park is not built, the sports complex lingers with ongoing negotiations and the neighborhood becomes a trash dump with deteriorating buildings and vandalism.

Would any other neighborhood be subjected to this in other parts of the city? The entire Northwest area is becoming an “urban renewal” story. The original idea was to improve on the above average diverse housing that surrounded Countryside golf course. The most diverse area in the city said then city manager Darlene Burcham – a model for the entire city that she envisioned making better. Be careful when a local government says how well your neighborhood works but we will make it better.

The end result as the neighborhood predicted is a “broken” neighborhood. It is a $5 million dollar plan that fizzled. The increase in the city’s tax base from upscale housing has turned into a sports complex. As developers shy away from an area in decline with a noise stadium, soccer tournaments and housing assessments declining, it is a certainty that all the central area will be amended to accommodate a sports complex.

Tires dumped of Mattaponi Drive.

Tires dumped of Mattaponi Drive.

There will be no new residential housing, no town center and no library as promised. Just sports tournaments, parking problems and traffic and noise where once was a calm, quiet diverse above average neighborhood.

The area is declining already and the new park or partial greenway will not save it. Nor will the city recoup the millions they paid for land that is not buildable. The bragging that half the 139-acre will remain undeveloped is a ploy to justify and excuse the lack of due diligence when the golf course was purchased. Half the land was never buildable due to flooding, inaccessibility, narrow fairways, terrain, airport noise contour and the Runway Protection Zone. The neighborhood pointed this out to deaf ears in 2005.

Northwest is getting the shaft. It started with Countryside and then Dorchester/Grandview Court and hotels where Huff Lane school closed. To follow will be Evans Spring. The dollars will flood in but Northwest will barely get a trickle. It trickles to downtown and “the improvements” that will make the city better.

Mayor Bowers was right about dissension. The North against the South all over again.

A huge pile of broken glass beside Mattaponi Drive.

A huge pile of broken glass beside Mattaponi Drive.

Do you really think this trash dump would be tolerated anywhere else? This stinks and we are tired of it. These wounds will never heal with Countryside, the Huff Lane neighborhood and eventually Evans Spring will face the same fate.

The forgotten money shell game: Lest we forgot the Roanoke City paid $4.1 million for the golf course plus over $1 million of interest before refinancing the bank loan with bonds. That doesn’t mean the city is not paying for it anymore. It is just hidden in with all the other city debt. Then there is the $1.5 million of bond issued last year for the park. That is the same amount that was needed to replace the golf course irrigation system for continued operation by the management company.

That was nixed and now the city’s costs to maintain the abandon golf course has far exceeded and continues to exceed the investment that would have kept the golf course operating.

Besides the $1.5 for the park the city has spent three years maintaining what otherwise the golf course management would have been responsible for. The mowing and tree removal, police surveillance and patch after patch from vandalism the cost would be at least $50,000 a year. Ongoing maintenance of the park will cost $45,000 according to the CAFR. This doesn’t count staff time spent with all the meetings, planning a proposal negotiations that went nowhere.

Not one penny of revenue is in the near future. The sports complex is slated to be leased or bought by a nonprofit expecting free use. I imagine that is the gist of the current negotiations. Of course the neighborhoods surrounding this (just like Huff Lane) has no idea what is going on. It harkens back to the Darlene Burcham era where finding out anything took a FOIA request or a detective.

Another dumping of speakers, printer and other junk off Mattaponi.

Another dumping of speakers, printer and other junk off Mattaponi.

The Countryside neighborhood spent an entire year waiting for Victor Foti to come up with a development plan only to have it rejected in the end. Investigation identified the developer and the neighborhood took it upon itself to converse with them. All the while the city kept it a secret.

It is happening all over again. Keep the neighbors in the dark until WE decide what to do and WE tell you what it will be and YOU will like it come hell or high water just like we did to Dorchester and Grandview.

Don’t think we don’t know we are getting screwed. Don’t think we don’t know some (especially one) appear at neighborhood meetings acting all “caring” when in reality it is a shame. Showing up means nothing when you screw them in the end. Some neighborhoods are having to learn the hard way. I can spot a BSer a mile away. Fool me once shame on you – fool me twice shame on me.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary


Comments (1)


March 11th, 2013 at 4:55 PM    

We were never fooled more than once. What happened to Countryside was a watershed moment in my life. Like you, I just couldn’t rationalize in my head why the city wanted to destroy one of the most fantastic gateway attractions in the area. The golf course was HIGHLY visible both from the AIR and from the major land artery. Yet, they FRITTERED it away right in front of the nearest vested stake-holders. Shame! I’m saddened every time I drag myself to drive by. I’ve always felt like that Native American on the Keep America Beautiful commercials back in the early 70’s (late 60’s).

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