Blacksburg housing proposal withdrawn after opposition emerges
After 270 people signed an online petition that opposed the building of an off-campus student housing complex in northwest Blacksburg, the site’s owner has withdrawn an application to the town that would have served as the first step in materializing plans.
The application would have reclassified sections of the 48-acre land north of Glade Road as low density, instead of very low density, making a larger development possible on the parcel.
The landowner, Glade Heights LLC, no longer has a contract with Georgia-based Landmark Properties Inc., which had proposed the building of 192 student homes on the vacant land, planning to call the complex The Retreat.
Current town planning documents state that the land allows for one unit per acre, or 48 single-family homes.
On May 4, Glade Heights sent an application to the Department of Planning and Building that requested rezoning sections of the land to permit up to four units per acre.
According to a June 26 withdrawal letter sent by Eric Sallee, the managing member of Glade Heights, the request for reclassifying the land was rescinded out of respect to “nearby neighbors and other citizens who have expressed strong concern over the application.”
Sallee declined to comment on the opposition voiced by local residents. A representative from Landmark Properties could not be reached.
After learning about the proposed student housing plan, nearby landowners formed Toms Creek Responsible Development, an opposition group that raised concerns about over-development in the area, circulated the petition and held citizen meetings.
Clay Hodges, who lives adjacent to the land, said the withdrawal of the application was not completely unexpected.
“I think that once they saw how much opposition there was at the citizen input meeting, there was a realization that it may be better to withdraw and regroup rather than risk being denied the reclassification outright,” Hodges said.
While Hodges is worried about over-development, he said his main concern is keeping Toms Creek environmentally sound.
“Of course, the best thing for the creek would be to reforest the site, but that is unrealistic,” Hodges said. “The second best thing is to do nothing and leave it as a field — again, unrealistic. The third best option would be to develop as a R-1 project with clustering to preserve large amounts of open space and provide significant buffers to the creek.”
Hodges said he fully expects that the site will be developed one day, but he said he hopes it is developed in accordance with current zoning, as R-1 single-family residences.
Andrew Dolbin-MacNab, who lives in a nearby neighborhood, said that even though the proposed housing would not be in his back yard, he became concerned when he learned of the plans.
“Glade Heights was asking to nearly quadruple the density,” Dolbin-MacNab said. “It’s on the headwaters of Toms Creek, it’s adjacent to Glade Road, which has traffic problems already. They made it seem like a situation that would be good for Blacksburg when, in reality, it seemed it’d just be good for them as landowners.”
Dolbin-MacNab said residents will have to keep a close eye on the area in the future because development pressures in Blacksburg are increasing. Like Hodges, Dolbin-MacNab said he would not oppose development that followed the allowed density.
“I’m really not going to comment on our future plans,” Sallee said. “We had a contract with Landmark, that contract has been cancelled, and we don’t have any comments about future plans. We have been through a lot of issues.”
Andrew Warren, zoning administrator for Blacksburg, said that the application was just the first step that Glade Heights and Landmark Properties had to take. It didn’t necessarily guarantee that the student housing complex would be built, he said.
According to the withdrawal letter, Glade Heights “remains convinced” that increasing the allowed density on the property would best serve the community.
The letter said that it is “inconceivable” that local residents would support “residential sprawl,” stating that properties near services and transportation should be “developed more fully, deliberately, and sustainably.”
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