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Stadiums and an amphitheater were built, but something of more value emerged: communication.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Roanoke City Council held a public hearing Monday before lifting a particularly odd zoning restriction on a vacant parcel near one of the city’s busiest intersections, Orange Avenue and Williamson Road. The restriction required the 17 acres to be used only for a municipal stadium.
At one time, there wasn’t a Roanoke resident who didn’t have something to say about plans to turn that land into a complex that would replace Victory Stadium. But by Monday, nearly a decade after that plan was scrapped, there wasn’t a resident who had anything to say about lifting the restriction in order for the city council to sell the land for slightly more than $1 million to a car dealership.
While time hasn’t necessarily healed all Victory Stadium wounds — on occasion someone still will claim an egregious wrongdoing — the passing years have softened the raw public passion that inflamed the debate for far longer than was good for Roanoke.
For seemingly eons, Victory Stadium shadowed every political debate, every decision and indecision — no matter how remote the matter at hand was to a crumbling stadium fit, at its end, for nothing more than the ghosts of yesteryear.
Like time, cities — if they are to thrive — progress. And Roanoke has. The building of two high school stadiums, the renovation of Elmwood Park and its new amphitheater, and the improvements along Reserve Avenue certainly have eased the chronic pain some felt in the razing of Victory Stadium.
More so, though, than any bricks-and-mortar project, those now leading Roanoke have laid a better foundation for the process of making decisions, and sticking to them. Lessons learned from the prolonged Victory Stadium debate gave rise to city council members who finally acknowledged that the public must be given information, early and often, and, as important, feel that it is heard.
The trend toward transparency and open communication between the governing and the governed is the legacy of what once seemed a never-ending debate. It is a concept worth protecting as Roanoke places a punctuation mark on the final fragment of the city’s Victory Stadium chapter.
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