Residents of Botetourt County who came to a public hearing on a special use permit for a proposed 300-unit apartment building were disappointed to learn that the meeting would not be held. When the board agreed with the developer, Thomas Builders of Virginia, and moved the hearing to its meeting in March, dozens of people in the audience booed and jeered at the decision.
Invest Properties LLC and Whisper Hill LLC possess land near Lord Botetourt High School and the Daleville Cemetery on a stretch of US 220 between a Freedom First Credit Union and the highway. The builder needs two SUPs or special use permits. Two amendments were proposed, one to increase the maximum density to 13.99 units per acre, and another to increase the maximum construction height to around 55 feet.
Nevertheless, Daniel Cyrus, a spokesperson for Thomas, said that the firm requested further time from the county before presenting its case to the board so that it could address some of the issues locals had at a planning commission hearing on February 13. According to the county records, the planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend approval of the density permit and 5-0 to recommend approval of the height permit.
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“We’ve heard some comments we feel like we can help address to create a better project … the main item we’ve heard that we can address is the traffic,” Cyrus said.
According to him, “paid for by Thomas at no additional costs to taxpayers,” his company hopes to collaborate with VDOT to address traffic congestion by perhaps building off of traffic improvements already in the works. At the moment, Cyrus says, there are plans for two entrances to the complex and one exit. Greg Rieley, a local of Botetourt, expressed worry to the project’s proponents about the impact on a cemetery he claimed had been in use since the late 1800s.
“That is a great piece of history in the county, and I’m not sure if they [developers and county officials] really care about its significance,” he said.
Thomas has promised to fence in the land next to the cemetery using easements on the about 21.5-acre site so as not to intrude on the cemetery’s property, as Cyrus has stated his company has done. As many as fifty residents went up to voice their discontent with the developer’s decision to reschedule the meeting for “upscale multifamily buildings” on Tuesday.
From the balcony, a woman yelled at the supervisors, “you need to go, you’ve messed up the county for the last 10 years,” to cheers from the audience. The same woman also referred to the managers as “chicken crap,” which was heard by everyone in the building. Supervisor Amy White for the Buchanan district, who is also the board vice chairwoman, acknowledged the disappointment of the audience but deemed postponing the meeting until the following month to be the best option.
“What I would ask them is to be patient and not rush this process,” she said. There will be a better option if we wait one month. It’s not a race. I’m in no hurry to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. White apologized to the attendees, noting that the county had not known of the request for the delay until Tuesday. Those who wanted to speak before the postponement were told by White that there was no use in doing so because Thomas could return with an entirely new idea in March.
She added that she had certain reservations about the proposal.
“I think there are some valid concerns. There are some things being talked about that I’m not as concerned about. I feel like our schools are not at full capacity as has been stated,” she said, citing a recent study by the school board. I am concerned about [traffic] safety on 220.
“I think for me transportation is the biggest of my concerns. I am thankful for the time to work things out. But I understand the frustration. It comes with the territory.”
The next gathering will be held on March 28 at 57 S Center Drive in Daleville. Cyrus has stated that he does not believe Thomas will ask for another postponement of the public hearing.
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