Blacksburg council approves town homes on 'Rugby Field' site – Roanoke Times

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A new Rugby Field housing development was given a go-ahead by Blacksburg Town Council.
BLACKSBURG — The town council has given a developer the green light to build close to 100 town homes on property behind the Kroger on South Main Street, an area known as the Rugby Field.
The council, on a 5-2 vote this past Tuesday, approved a conditional use permit that will allow the developer to put residential units on the ground floor.
The project is going on property covered by general commercial zoning, which restricts residential units to the upper floors and basement levels of buildings without such a conditional permit.
Council members John Bush and Jerry Ford Jr. voted against the permit issuance.
The permit is another step in longtime developer Jeanne Stosser’s plans to further develop the Rugby Field area. The town home project will involve the construction of 97 units — 277 bedrooms — on 8.4 acres of land at 203 Country Club Drive Southwest, which is part of the greater First & Main development site that includes a movie theater and several shops and restaurants.
Stosser’s Diversified Investors group has already made progress elsewhere on the Rugby Field land. A Home2Suites By Hilton hotel and the Blacksburg South KinderCare day care have already been added, and the town homes fulfill the residential component that the developer had previously talked about.
The recent conditional use permit request was made possible due to a 2018 amendment Blacksburg made to its general commercial district.
The change “created the option for a wholly residential project component [in the district] if the proposed project is part of a larger mixed-use development,” reads a portion of a Blacksburg staff report on the townhome project. “The criteria for such a [conditional use permit] are intended to ensure the residential component in a mixed-use development is not the principal use, the project components are integrated and the residential component uses the principles of the infill guidelines and is walkable and street-oriented.”
In terms of acreage, the town home development accounts for about 21% of the First & Main development site’s approximately 41 acres, according to the staff report.
Still, some found the project to be inconsistent with the overall site.
“I’m not crazy about taking general commercial property and turning it into residential,” said Bush. “You’re taking apart your future tax base.”
Bush continued: “Nothing is holistic about that. There’s nothing that’s been designed that actually makes sense from one property to the next property … It doesn’t relate to it.”
Bush also voiced some concern about the project being too dense and about whether it’s truly designed for families — although he clarified that he’s not saying the developer didn’t do everything they thought they could do to address that issue.
Stosser previously said retail behind a Kroger would not do well. She said town homes are desirable, but many aren’t being built close to shopping and related services. On the project itself, she said she hopes it can be brought in at a cost that is affordable to first-time home buyers or “downsizing homeowners.”
One measure that the project’s representatives have talked about is the drafting of a marketing plan geared toward young professionals and people who work at Virginia Tech, two groups other council members say they hope sales of the town homes are directed toward.
Councilwoman Susan Anderson said she believes a better product was crafted as the townhome proposal went through the various channels, including the reviews by the planning commission.
“I do think we’re in desperate need of this kind of housing,” Anderson said.
Stay up-to-date on the latest in local and national government and political topics with our newsletter.
Yann Ranaivo covers local government and politics in the New River Valley, including Christiansburg, Blacksburg, Radford and Montgomery County.
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