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Valley View Residents Receive Few Answers

Fred Gusler, Roanoke City Senior Planner gives details.

by Valerie Garner

There was a different twist to the second meeting on planning the future of the Evans Spring property last Thursday evening at Lucy Addison Middle School.  After senior city planner Fredrick Gusler gave an overview of why the land is targeted for development, he broke the crowd into four separate groups. The previous meeting in July was crowded and it was difficult to hear questions and answers. The smaller group with Gusler still had all hands raised at once and Gusler had a hard time keeping up with the order.

Council members Ray Ferris, Court Rosen, Sherman Lea and Anita Price were in attendance. Price and Lea stayed with Gusler’s group.

Courtney Penn said that Evans Spring was a place where “this community was born [and] there is something [here] that needs to respect that – it should speak to the Valley’s history and tradition … we need to maintain our history and maintain our heritage.”

The difference between the Countryside property and Evans Spring is that the city owns the $4.1 million defunct golf course. The property surrounding the unfinished Valley View Interchange is privately owned by four individual entities and the ultimate control is in the zoning.

The four owners are forming a partnership and Gusler admitted that there is a break in the connection between the property at the Hershberger Road ramp and the property at the new Valley View interchange.

A realtor was already trying to buy up property on Brooklyn Street closest to I-581. Brooklyn would connect the two properties. Kirkland, Fairland and Aspen are close by and would be caught in the middle of the two parcels.

Alfred Dowe, Sr., president of the Fairland Civic Organization asked what kind of connection they had in mind through his neighborhood.

Gusler said,” I think that’s why you had those realtors coming to see you – just a guess.”

Five homes on Norris Street directly face the “dead end” of the overpass ramp. Lick Run will have to be rechanneled. These homes will be purchased by VDOT, leaving an uncertain future for other Norris Street homes. Bishop Edward Mitchell, president of the Roanoke chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, has his home on Norris, not far from the interchange.

Though Mitchell’s house would be spared, he felt certain there would be a connection to Norris that would take traffic from Valley View through to Andrews Street and Roanoke Academy for Math and Science Elementary School. “It would only make sense,” said Mitchell. Gusler said he could see no reason for a connection. Mitchell was not reassured.

The bulk of the vacant property is not part of any current neighborhood plan. The purpose was to create one to preempt development and get neighborhood input. “We are developing a plan that will specify a future land use map – how the property should be used – we will then have general policies and design principles in that,” said Gusler.

Gusler assured residents that the surrounding neighborhoods would be considered in the design principles. “There will be more traffic, there is no doubt … it is highly unrealistic to say there will be no commercial development … there’s going to be some dirt flying,” he said. Norris and Top Hill would likely get the brunt of the “flying dirt” and noise.

Addressing traffic concerns, Gusler explained that narrow streets are the norm now in residential areas. “It keep speeds down,” he said.

Gusler admitted that the Evans Spring design would not be as specific as Countryside since they did not own it.

“Plans are flexible to a degree,” admitted Gusler. There could be an amendment to the Fairland plan to accommodate connecting the two separated parcels.

Council member Price asked how the four separate property owners were communicating? Gusler said, “some of [the property owners] were ready to come out to do the public meetings.” Gusler said he told them that “we don’t have a plan for this area” and “they don’t have concrete agreements in what they are going to do.”

Gusler stressed that with the planned completion of the interchange in 2015 and the state of the economy, it could be a long time before development takes place.  “We’re talking about development that is going in for future generations – if you have kids or grandkids, they may live and shop in this area,” he said.

“No one is going to be happy with everything in this plan,” said Gusler. The final product will be a culmination of compromises.

In the next several months the Planning Department will work on a draft plan for public review.

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