Sunday, September 19, 2010
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Roanoke City Council to hear briefing on Countryside land

Possible uses for the former Countryside Golf Course parcel will no doubt generate debate.

The Roanoke City Council will return this week to one of its stickiest and most divisive issues over the past five years: what to do with the land once home to Countryside Golf Course.

Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill will present the council with a half-hour briefing on the property during its 2 p.m. Monday meeting at the Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building.

"Really, it's the whole community that's the audience for this," Morrill said.

The briefing will cover the results of a series of meetings with neighborhood and stakeholder groups over the past several weeks. City planners divided the 209-acre property into eight "sub-areas" and evaluated each based on a variety of factors.

The council approved the city's purchase of the land in 2005 as a way to increase the city's stock of upscale housing. That plan fell through, however, leaving the city in possession of the property with no immediate plans. It leased the land to Meadowbrook Golf, the Florida-based company that sold the land to the city, to continue running it as a golf course until earlier this year, when the council decided to shut it down.

During an open house meeting at Countryside in late August, neighbors around the course insisted that the city continue to maintain a golf course on the land. Some council members are still open to that idea.

However, the presentation that Morrill will give to the council seems to discourage that particular option, noting that the average taxpayer-financed subsidy among 16 Virginia governments that run municipal courses is $302,000 annually. According to the presentation, the number of Roanoke Valley golf courses increased by 50 percent -- from four to six -- during the 1990s, while the population grew by only about 5 percent.

So what do city planners see going on the property if not golf?

It varies by each named subarea:

n Ranch/Mattaponi, 16 acres and Mattaponi/Countryside, 17 acres, both on the property's west side: single-family housing, open space or, more likely, both.

Portland, 12 acres, also on the west: a town square

Laurel Ridge, 21 acres on the north: town houses and a natural area.

Frontage areas of 15 and 14 acres, to the east: commercial office space and also a storm water management area.

The airport's runway protection zone, 72 acres, right in the middle of the property: commercial agriculture, a community garden, greenways, trails, open space or even a solar power array.

Central, 42 acres, on the south side: a recreation/sports complex.

City officials' recommended plan going forward will be to take six months to develop a "master plan" that includes all eight subareas.

Online: roanokeva.gov/countryside.

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