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Countryside: Master Plan Unveiled

The old Countryside pavilion

The neighbors adjoining the Countryside Golf Course property miss aspects of the old property that it offered at different times and in different seasons – both the pastoral peace of the grounds as well as the activity of golf carts moving methodically across the fairways. Many say the neighborhood will “simply never be the same.”

Now they are faced with making the best of the situation. The course has deteriorated beyond repair. Only the layout of the 18-hole championship golf course remains along with the $3 million still owed on the city’s loan. The city paid $4.1 million for it in 2005 and will make principal and interest payments for 15 years at 6.25%.

The boarded up clubhouse and the dejected pavilion remain. The swimming pool was filled in years ago and the ability to salvage the tennis building is now questionable. Roanoke City’s Master Plan will attempt to spare the barn and silo located near I-581 that is a welcoming icon to drivers heading home down I-81.

Monday evening city council watched as Planning Administrator Chris Chittum unveiled the Master Plan for the property. It was the culmination of six months of Planning Commission work that included sessions in which neighbors were allowed to participate. City council in September had charged them and the Planning Department to devise a Master Plan that could then be marketed to developers.

James Riddle, who lives on Laurel Ridge, sighed as Chittum pointed to a road that would skirt his home near his bedroom. Riddle said he is hoping to purchase enough of the property to prevent any “bedroom peeping.”

The other property off of Laurel Ridge at the small dead end street of Sioux Ridge is the only high spot in the flood plane. Houses or townhouses are planned to the rear of Eddie Wallace’s house but he says that on three occasions the water has risen into his backyard.

City Manager Chris Morrill nodded when Valerie Garner, President of Countryside Neighborhood Alliance asked that the $1.5 million slated for Parks and Recreation Projects go toward the “greening” of the Countryside property. “Not only will it make the property more esthetically pleasing to developers,” said Garner, “but it will also go a long way in healing the wounds of the neighborhood.”

When Councilman Sherman Lea asked, “Is this what you want?” Garner replied, “Yes, but the proof is in the pudding.” She explained that since 2005 the property went back and forth from being a golf course with improvements to something else – a gut wrenching process that ended with a sudden closure of the course last year. “All the neighbors want now,” said Garner, “is certainty and as much natural area as can be spared.”

Mayor Bowers commented that the neighbors “should have the same certainty as those in Old Southwest have with Highland Park.”

The Planning Commission ultimately concluded that many of the areas are not suited for residential development either due to flooding, the airport’s runway protection zone, flight path noise or terrain. The path for Phase III of the Lick Run Greenway will make use of these areas with feeder trails that wander throughout the newly designated undeveloped natural areas.

The next step will be to incorporate some additional changes and details followed by a public hearing and final Master Plan. It is expected to come back before council for adoption into the city’s comprehensive plan sometime in June.

– Stuart Revercomb

(RSS contributor and Neighborhood Activist Valerie Garner contributed information for this story.)

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