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Salem City Council Vote on Hope Tree Property Disappoints Majority of Salem Residents

   Despite the majority of Salem residents’ opposition, on Monday, June 10, the Salem City Council voted 3, (including Mayor Renee Turk), out of 5 for rezoning and developing the Hope Tree property, Planned Unit Development (PUD).

    Council members Randy Foley and Bill Jones believed that rezoning this property would benefit the City of Salem and bring more tax revenue. According to the developer 50%  of the property will be residential with the other half consisting of a coffee shop and other commercial businesses.

     Vice Mayor Jim Wallace and  Council member Hunter Holiday believed that the plan is against Salem Citizens interest and would not benefit the City. Mr. Holiday said that from Lake Side to Beverly Heights, which is East Main to West Main Street, he counted 51 vacant commercial properties. He believes that it is unnecessary to build more commercial buildings while there are existing vacant properties that need to be utilized.

     Mayor Turk sided with Council members Foley and Jones to make the majority vote and approve the rezoning. Mayor Turk believed that this plan would help Salem bring in tax revenue, housing, and population. Notably, Mayor Turk focused on the population of Salem, as she expressed her concern that it is not rising.  Mayor Turk said, however, that she spoke to Salem residents from both sides who oppose and support the plan. Yet, no one in Monday’s meeting was in support of the proposal that was passed.

     Speaking to the attendees, one resident mentioned that such a plan would definitely affect the residents, adding that many residents do not mind building about 130 houses on this property but not 340 houses. The same speaker said that some Council members, (without mentioning any names) might benefit from this plan through their connection with real estate in the area but after searching for such a connection, the only tangible evidence found was that Mayor Turk’s biography shows that her son Daniel is a realtor and works for Re-Max in Salem.

     Furthermore, Donna Crotts, a Salem City resident expressed her concern regarding the traffic and safety that the plan would cause. The proposed development of Hope Tree property “… is surrounded by residential single family homes with no main arteries, such as I-81, US 11, or US 460 connecting to the property.” She said.

     Ms. Crotts also expressed her concern about the cemetery located on the property that does not have any documented boundaries. She also noted that the number of orphan children buried there is unknown. “ How do we know this property will be absolutely protected in the future without known boundaries?” She said.

     Ms Crotts said that according to Hunter Holliday’s informal survey in the neighborhoods of Academy and Broad Streets as well as Carrolton and Mt Vernon Avenue, “ 88.24% of the constituents oppose the Hope Tree proposal and 4.20% approve with 7.56% undecided. For every one person that supports the development, 21 oppose it.”

     However, as the Hope Tree property rezoning was approved, the residents of Salem were disappointed in their majority of City Council members.

– Serwan Zangana supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S Army translator before coming to the U.S from Kurdistan, Iraq in 1997 to seek political asylum. He was granted asylum status and years later proudly became a U.S citizen. He currently serves as a correction officer in Roanoke.

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