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Deyerle Plan Overruled

Councilman Ray Ferris

At Monday evening’s Roanoke City council meeting, fifteen speakers signed up either in support or opposition to rezoning an APCO encumbered parcel of land. The 2.2 acres sits behind LewisGale Medical Center off of 419 at the intersection of Keagy Road and Crestmoor Drive.

This part of Keagy Road is used as a cut through from 419 to Apperson Drive and sits on the boundary with Salem City. It is mostly a grassy field where at dawn or dusk deer graze, oblivious to humans and traffic.

A large section of the parcel has an APCO power line easement that requires it to remain vacant.

In 2007 Frederick “Chip” Thomas, Jr. of Balzer and Associates applied to build four small rental homes. The Planning Commission and neighbors rejected that project. Thomas now requests that the 2.2 acres be rezoned from residential to mixed use to accommodate a medical office complex.

The Planning Commission on a 1-4 vote rejected rezoning the parcel, finding it inconsistent with the Greater Deyerle Neighborhood Plan. The neighborhood also voted in opposition to the rezoning. Neighborhood President Braxton Naff objected to the project saying, “there is already an excessive amount of underused office space along Electric Road.” He added that the neighborhood would prefer that the entrance at Crestmoor Drive be closed.

The first speaker, Lee Wilhelm of Belle Aire Circle said that, “to think that the best use for property does not change over time is unrealistic … the property in question is isolated from the surrounding neighborhoods by large power transmission towers and wires.” He thought that this impediment made residential housing economically unfeasible. He supported the use of the property for medical office complex, as did most of the other residents of Belle Aire Circle.

Bob Caudle, former president of the Greater Deyerle Neighborhood, said he and six neighbors had spent 60 hours preparing their council approved neighborhood plan. Caudle, a member of the Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates reminded council that commercial use of the property was not in their plan. He asked council to “live up to the word that we have developed between the neighborhood and the city … if you approve this project to me it’s like giving us a pink slip and saying we don’t need you.”

Many of the speakers came from other parts of the city to support the project, claiming the need for tax base and jobs. E-mails were read from Deyerle residents in favor of the project who were out of town.

Councilman Ray Ferris has lived in the Greater Deyerle neighborhood for 26 years and is a member of the association. Ferris reassured Caudle that “we appreciate the service that you have provided to the neighborhood association.” Ferris added the need to recognize that “neighborhood plans are not static. There comes a point and time when you have to decide whether a piece of land is going to remain empty … that is not the highest and best use of that property.”

Ferris then added, “we’re not going to sacrifice the neighbors for tax dollars … that is not what this is about.” Ferris noted that there were over 1500 households in the Deyerle neighborhood and the organization’s vote of 17 opposed to 7 in favor didn’t represent the totality of the neighborhood. He recognized that the parcel was either going to be developed for rental housing or a medical office complex. In the best interest of the neighborhood he believed the medical complex design was esthetically more favorable.

The other members of council agreed with Ferris and the vote was unanimously in favor of rezoning the parcel to accommodate the medical office complex.

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