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“Sportsplex” and Co-Op Proposed for Countryside

by Valerie Garner

In a closed session this past Monday, Roanoke City Council chose Northwest Recreation Club, Roanoke Valley Youth Soccer and Roanoke Natural Foods Co-Op for further consideration to occupy  part of the former Countryside golf course property.

The Northwest Recreation Club proposes a soccer complex that takes up most of the central area available for development. The area set aside for recreation in the Master Plan adopted by City Council allowed for up to a maximum of 13 acres. Northwest Recreation Club is asking for 17.5 acres. The remaining three acres of residential mixed-use property is adjacent to the Runway Protection Zone (RPZ) which receives considerable air traffic noise.

Councilwoman Anita Price’s husband Charles Price is a Northwest Region I football coach. Price and Northwest Recreation Club President Clay Dawson have been lobbying for the property for a year.

The proposal includes four full-size soccer / multipurpose fields with an additional smaller practice field. One soccer field can also be used for football. At least one field could have artificial turf and multiple fields would have lighting. The tennis building would be expanded to twice its size and used for locker rooms, restrooms and office space.

For the recreational investment by the club, the city will not receive any monetary compensation. As a nonprofit the city will not receive any tax revenue. The club anticipates that their investment will generate collateral tax revenue from out of town teams. The city paid $4.1 million for the property and is still paying on the debt. NWR asks for a 20 to 40 year lease.

A letter of interest from John Lipscomb of L & M, LLC, a group interested in the property, proposed purchase of the tennis building and 2.5 acres. It was rejected in favor of NWR. Lipscomb offered $100,000 for the property that would have established a   tennis camp featuring a well know national pro. The for-profit entity would have generated tax revenue.

The Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op letter of interest is a lease-purchase offer. The lease for the 12.2 acres would start at $100 annually in the first year, with an option to purchase the parcel for $90,000 by the end of the tenth year. They propose crops, orchards, chickens, and a donkey (to deter predators) along with 22,000 square feet of loop tunnels used in the early production of crops.

In addition, a 2000 square foot office and produce packing structure would include retail space for community shopping two days a week. Roanoke Regional Airport owned the parcel before a land swap agreement transferred ownership to the city. The land was occupied by homes in the 1980s. The homes were relocated when the airport was expanded. The property is located in the direct flight path of runway six.

The original purpose for purchasing the golf course property was to increase Roanoke’s housing stock and tax base. That proposition fell through years ago and the city has been struggling to offload the property ever since.

In a design yet to be developed, the neighborhood will get an investment of $1.5 million in capital improvement funds for trails and natural areas.

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