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Monday, February 18, 2013
Tuesday, Roanoke City Council will vote on whether to deny the rezoning of the Huff Lane school site from institutional to commercial large scale. In regards to community involvement and neighborhood preservation, this is one of the most important votes in recent city history.
If council chooses to ignore the wholesale opposition of the neighborhoods affected and the unanimous rejection of the application by the planning commission, then no neighborhood is safe from decisions of this nature by this council, and its methods of justification.
Just because a parcel of land is in a location that can be developed commercial, as most every parcel in actuality is, does not mean it is a benefit to the citizenry that it should be. I understand that due to Virginia law, cities have been locked into the confines of their existing boundaries. Thus all land should be used and reused to maximize the benefit potential.
One way of achieving that goal is to confine certain development to existing zoning. Great examples can be seen nearby of these benefits, such as the motel going up right now at Valley View where the developer demolished two fairly new restaurants to reuse the parcel, or the new Cook Out and Steak ’n’ Shake restaurants at Crossroads Mall, adding commerce back to a locale that not so long ago was in decline.
One could assume those developers would have preferred access to the Huff Lane site, just as it could be assumed a developer would like access to the ball fields that adjoin it, or Elmwood Park for that matter. But just because Elmwood Park is the only open developable area downtown does not mean we should put it, or a piece of it, up for sale to the highest bidder and build an office tower there. Ergo the Huff Lane school site.
From the school building down to the tennis courts, this is our Elmwood Park. That is why the residents of Dorchester Court and Grandview have been adamant in their opposition to this plan. Only about one-third of the site has a building on it, a building 29 1⁄2 feet in height, whereas the proposal will develop almost the entire acreage into three buildings and parking areas. Two of the buildings will be 55 feet in height. This is not a minor redevelopment. Nor will it have a minor impact on the community.
I and almost every person in these neighborhoods I have spoken with and attended meetings with, are completely opposed because of the potential negative impact it will have: the projected decline of property values, the visual and physical imposition of these structures, the noise that accompanies restaurants and motels, etc.
A city is only as healthy as the neighborhoods that constitute its being. Allowing this kind of development to further encroach on Dorchester Court and Grandview will adversely affect them in a manner akin to the sickening of a body, and as we are a part of the body whole of Roanoke, the whole of city is sickened. Conversely, if this site is redeveloped with the intent of contributing to the wellness of these neighborhoods, the whole city is healthier.
In addition, this is the only green space we have (coupled with that which surrounds the tennis courts), precious open park space that is irreplaceable. It helps to insulate us from the busy commercial Valley View Mall, has always been an integral part of the community and should stay as such.
Once council has voted down the rezoning application, we welcome our elected and non-elected representatives to sit down and start anew the process of finding the best use for the Huff Lane school site in regards to the neighborhoods’ needs, and to help facilitate our community’s future well-being. And please understand, we are not fighting against council, we are fighting for the welfare of our neighborhoods. We are fighting for the city.
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