By Remington Hinshaw, Chuck Garst, Glenn Gilmer and Matt Prescott
Hinshaw is chairman of the Salem Avenue Business Association. Garst is vice chairman, Gilmer is treasurer, Prescott is secretary.
We are writing to express our concerns over the city’s proposal to build an outdoor bus terminal for the Greater Roanoke Transit Co. and regional facility for Greyhound on the 300 block of Salem Avenue. Our neighborhood is made up of small business owners and more than 300 residents within a block of the proposed site. Fifteen homeowners live directly across the street from it. Since the public announcement in January, no one from the city manager’s office, mayor’s office or city council has made an effort to reach out and address our neighborhood’s concerns.
From what has been reported in the media, the city plans to put a makeshift, temporary GRTC terminal and regional Greyhound station on the site while it awaits financing and constructs a permanent one. The City of Roanoke Zoning Ordinance shows a bus station is not an allowed temporary use. Furthermore, a bus station is not permitted in the D District unless approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals as a Special Exception. Requirements for a Special Exception specifically state its “outdoor activities” must be compatible with the neighborhood. A Special Exception must also comply with Roanoke’s Comprehensive Plan.
An outdoor bus transfer station would become the dominant feature of our small-scale, federally protected historic neighborhood. Its outdoor activity, featuring a non-stop parade of buses every day from pre-dawn through night, is not compatible with our surroundings. It shares no features or attributes with our neighborhood’s size, scale or character.
We also are concerned about crime. During a six-month period in 2018, the block surrounding the current GRTC and Greyhound facility was home to 79 arrests. This compares to four in our neighborhood, from 2nd to 5th Streets on Salem Avenue.
The City’s Comprehensive Plan states, “Roanoke will identify, preserve, and protect its historic districts, landmark features, historic structures, and archaeological sites.” The size, scale, outdoor activities, noise, pollution and crime history of the proposed GRTC and Greyhound terminal will cause irreparable damage to the Salem Avenue Commercial Historic District and the Transportation Museum. Should federal funding be required for the project, as publicly stated, we believe Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources will reach the same conclusions when it performs its Section 106 review. There is no reasonable way to mitigate the proposed development’s damage.
Should federal funding, licensing, permitting or approval be required for this project, we wish the record to reflect our request to be recognized as a consulting party in accordance 36 CFR §800.2(c)(5), regulations implementing Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended. Further, in accordance with 36 CFR §800.2(d)(2), we wish the record to reflect our request that the GRTC and responsible federal agency(ies) provide information to the public regarding the proposed project as soon as possible so that project planning can be informed by a full and meaningful consideration of alternatives to avoid effects to surrounding historic properties.
The Salem Avenue Neighborhood Business Association is opposed to the proposal for a temporary or permanent bus terminal on the 300 block of Salem Avenue. City leaders, GRTC and Greyhound should abort its plan immediately and abide by its Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan.