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Friday, August 9, 2013
Once again, Southeast Roanoke residents must rise up and band together in a struggle to protect themselves from the unwanted intrusion of an ill-conceived proposal that ultimately would deal a devastating blow to Southeast’s future as a viable, livable neighborhood.
There is a long-standing disappointment and apathy with many of the older, longtime residents of Southeast. Many have long since given up on believing that city hall cares anything about them and where they live. They have good cause to believe this, particularly those who live in the Belmont neighborhood (wedged alongside Interstate 581 and the railroad) that has been so negatively impacted by the never-ending growth and expansion of the Rescue Mission operations.
But there is hope on the horizon. There is a strong new activist mood in Southeast owing to a mix of an awakening of current residents and the introduction of new residents flowing into the neighborhood. Our struggles often seem endless, a sort of “one step forward, two steps back” scenario. The large volume of rental properties is and has been our greatest single challenge, and will continue to be into the future. Plans to address this particular problem are in the works.
However, we have one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring sections of the greenway that runs along the Roanoke River, offering unparalleled views of our mountains, streams and nature; you could easily forget you are in a city. Possibly unknown to many Roanoke Valley residents, the undeveloped land along the Roanoke River known as Buzzard Rock possesses one of those awe-inspiring, panoramic views. This is sacred land, as stated on the historical marker near the 13th Street Bridge. The opening inscription reads:
“The archaeological sites on the extensive floodplain nearby represent at least ten thousand years of periodic use by Native Americans. The artifacts and evidence from one site suggests that separate villages were occupied there some six hundred to one thousand years ago.”
This sacred land should not be desecrated by inappropriate development.
There could not be a more ill-conceived idea to destroy all this and the future of Southeast as the proposal to rezone this land from light industry to heavy, allowing for the construction of a propane and butane gas storage terminal that would place more than a half million gallons of explosive gas on this property next to neighborhoods, schools, the river, other business and local roads. Such a rezoning would open the door for even more heavy industry. Interestingly, in 2005 the city rezoned this property from heavy industry to light, thereby preventing such unwanted development.
As city planners met with us recently, informing us of the process they are going through, they admitted they have never dealt with anything like this before. Few of us have, and we hope we will never have to again if government responds and acts as it should in upholding its ultimate responsibilities to protect its interests and the safety and welfare of its residents.
It is incumbent upon all those who are elected to represent the interests of city residents to help foster a vision that is in sync with the community. Wherever we live and regardless of our socio-economic status, city leadership has an obligation, through zoning and other tools, to help communities look forward to viable, healthy, safe and sustained neighborhood development.
As I write this, our nation is under a “high terrorist alert,” as it is the federal government’s ultimate role and responsibility to protect our sovereign lands and interest around the world. Likewise, Southeast residents will be calling upon the members of the planning commission, and ultimately the mayor and city council members, to make the proper decision to protect us all from the unwanted invasion of a project that could forever instill the fear and terror of having to live anywhere near such a facility. Clearly, the city should vote no on rezoning land in Southeast in order to accommodate such a development.
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