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Monday, February 18, 2013
I grew up in Roanoke and one thing has been constant. As Roanoke goes, so goes the valley, with no disrespect to other localities.
Roanoke has had some divisive issues and made tough decisions to better position the city for the future. The rezoning of Huff Lane and development of Evans Spring will require more tough decisions. But the potential is great for the region.
Decisions on how to use the raw land of Evans Spring for development could help broaden the city’s tax base, which helps keep real estate tax rates down while providing steady revenue. This area could create jobs and keep options open for our children to live and work in Roanoke.
In considering Huff Lane and Evans Spring, city council has a record of making tough decisions. That list would include renovations to Elmwood Park that will provide for better use of the park so that more folks will enjoy it. Council scaled down the project’s size and saved $10 million of tax money.
The City Market Building was renovated. We don’t know yet how it will turn out because it is still in its infant stage.
City schools faced funding cuts and unfunded mandates. Council stepped up to make sure the children were not shortchanged. An additional local meals tax was levied and made temporary while the schools adjusted, and as promised, the tax was removed. In its place, council acted to better fund the schools; 40 percent of the city’s local revenue is dedicated to education.
The City Market is scheduled for changes. Vendors and businesses most affected seem willing to sacrifice to make these changes a reality and also to address storm water issues.
There is a hotel planned for downtown, as well. The downtown area is changing dramatically with more folks making their homes there.
Now, the Huff Lane project has created the need for more tough decisions.
I grew up there and played on those Huff farm fields as a boy. I went to that school. But think of all the tax dollars Valley View Mall brings to Roanoke. Those fields now help to finance the quality of life we enjoy and have come to expect in Roanoke.
We have a good quality of life here because we have adjusted to changes in this valley over many decades of growth. And more changes will come.
Unfunded storm water mandates from the federal government are looming. Regional cooperation on this issue is a must. Our valley leaders will have to address this with a regional approach.
Think how we survived the massive loss of plant closings in the late ’50s: American Bridge, American Viscose, layoffs at Norfolk and Western after the merger with Virginian Railway.
Then came Crossroads Mall, Towers, Roanoke Salem Plaza. Downtown Roanoke died. The hotel closed, Norfolk Southern moved and Dominion Bank was bought out.
Each time, big changes happened. Look now at how those same malls changed to adjust to the new Tanglewood and Valley View malls. All have new tenants and thriving businesses. Downtown is booming. And the hotel is a great asset again.
Roanoke survived. The taxpayers stepped up. And forward-thinking people worked outside the box and made tough decisions on how to move forward.
President Kennedy said, “Great things don’t just happen. They are made to happen.” So have we been lucky in Roanoke or have we made good decisions?
We have some great folks on city council. They work hard, listen and have to look at the whole city and decide how to move forward with the assets we have available to work with.
Now it seems Roanoke City Council will have to make those tough decisions again. It has worked well so far. So we should expect it will continue.
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