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Sunday, March 24, 2013
On Monday, developers are expected to release their latest proposal for the former Blacksburg Middle School property, premium land that has lain fallow for too long.
Montgomery County and Blacksburg officials need to crank down the heated rhetoric a notch, or even several notches, and start making serious progress toward a compromise that will benefit both.
Years of bickering have taken a toll. One potential tenant has given up hope and found a home elsewhere; another company has scaled back its plans and now intends to rent space instead of making a permanent commitment to a project that is still in search of a tangible vision.
Blacksburg officials would be naïve to rubber stamp a rezoning request for the 20 acres and give up on long-sought goals for a mixed-use project with open space at the gateway to their downtown. But continuing to air grievances about the county’s mishandling of the development, even if they are accurate, will do nothing to stop this project from sinking ever deeper into a ditch.
Town leaders should instead invest their energy into making sure they get commitments in writing for the details they deem most crucial for Blacksburg’s future prosperity.
Both sides have a stake in ensuring that the development is successful. The county, which owns the land, needs new revenue to help pay for two new high schools and renovations to a middle school. A well-executed mix of residential, commercial and open uses could be an enhancement and serve as a model for the town’s future development.
The developer promises to restore some open space that was previously dropped, to the town’s chagrin, and is offering flexibility on residential components to address Blacksburg leaders’ desire for housing that caters to retired adults. That sounds like a movement in the right direction, but past experience demands that the town get all promises locked down tight.
The best way to cure old grudges and avoid future hard feelings is to make sure everything is in black and white.
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