Ramblings: Evans Spring Master Plan To Go Before Council; Tax Bills Go Up with Real Estate Values; Drug Clinic Proposed

What are Ramblings? Ramblings are a collection of short items that have caught our attention for one reason or another.

What are Ramblings? Ramblings are a collection of short items that have caught our attention for one reason or another. We’re on the lookout for tidbits related to money in politics, data, business, civic engagement or interesting events. Think you know of something that could be a Rambling? Drop us a line at editor@roanokerambler.com and we may well write about it. Happy reading!

Bill Mechnick, a consultant on the Evans Spring master plan, left, listens to resident Michelle Gaither (in Navy blue jacket) during a community meeting in March 2023. ROANOKE RAMBLER FILE PHOTO

Evans Spring master plan heads toward Council

Roanoke City Council is slated to decide next month whether Evans Spring development plans should be incorporated into the city’s guiding land-use document.

The planning commission voted Monday to hold a public hearing Feb. 12 on the now-completed master plan, which would then go before Council on Feb. 20.

The plan proposes commercial and residential development at the 100-acre-plus Evans Spring woodlands across Interstate 581 from Valley View Mall. Many nearby residents have long opposed proposed development at the site.

“What is the city doing to work on the empty space at both Valley View Mall and Crossroads Mall?” resident Teresa Poole asked commissioners Monday. “Here we’re building more retail nearby that’s only going to add to the empty space.”

On Thursday, the city’s Equity and Empowerment Advisory Board passed a proposal that planning commissioners and City Council hold off on taking action on Evans Spring before hearing a presentation from Theo Lim, a Virginia Tech professor whose students have explored how nearby residents are coping with rising urban heat.

Though moving forward with advertising a Feb. 12 public hearing, planning commissioners floated the possibility that a vote on the master plan could take place later to allow for more input.

Chair Sarah Glenn requested a second meeting with city staff to talk about Evans Spring; that Jan. 18 meeting is open to the public. She also asked that members of the Equity and Empowerment Advisory Board attend that meeting.

“There was not a lot of positive feedback,” Glenn said of the draft plan. “Most of what I read were concerns.”

Chris Chittum, who leads the city’s planning department, acknowledged that attendees of a mass meeting at last March opposed any development. But he said city policy, dating back to 2013, calls for development and the meeting was intended to find out what kind is palatable to residents.

“The message was ‘don’t develop the property,’” he said. “But that’s not what we were there for.”

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Roanoke property values tick up

Increasing property values are leading to higher tax bills for many Roanoke residents.

The city projects a 6.9 percent increase in real estate tax revenue next fiscal year, which begins in July. That follows an overall average increase of 9.7 percent in real estate revenues the year prior.

Property owners have begun receiving new assessments this month in the mail.

“I know no one likes to see values increase, because they all know that it ultimately means your tax bill is going up,” City Manager Bob Cowell told members of City Council last week. “The flip side of that is it's showing how much the values of our homes and our businesses, our industry, all continue to increase in value. …. So this is a very good indicator of the strength and resiliency of our local economy.”

Property taxes make up a large part of the city’s total budget, which next year is projected to total $375 million. The latest increase in property values translates to an increase of about $7.8 million for the city.

The city says anyone with questions about their property values can contact the Real Estate Valuation office at 540-853-2771. Any appeal of the evaluation must be made by Feb. 2.

Addiction, mental health center proposed

A proposed mental health and substance abuse clinic on Williamson Road has prompted some neighborhood resistance.

Roanoke’s Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 1 p.m. today (Wednesday) to determine whether to allow an outpatient clinic from Tennessee-based Acadia Healthcare at 1529 Williamson Road.

Acadia proposes a licensed treatment center open weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Clay McClintock, president of the Noble Neighborhood Watch group, said he and other residents question the location of the proposed site in a former bingo hall.

He noted the property is near an ABC liquor store, and wondered whether other areas of the city hit hard by the opioid epidemic couldn’t benefit more from a clinic.

“Why does everything come to the Williamson Road area?” McClintock said. “It’s like they’re turning Williamson Road into the catchall for clinics and drug rehabs.”

A message left with Acadia was not immediately returned.

In 2021, Roanoke allowed Brightview LLC to open a drug treatment clinic less than half a mile away from the Williamson Road property, at 1345 Plantation Rd. NE that serves about seven people at a time, according to a city report on Acadia’s proposal.

“The facilities are small enough in footprint and located in far enough proximity to avoid a concentration of service providers,” the city’s report says. “Additional mental health and substance abuse clinics within 0.5 miles of these facilities are discouraged.”

In 2022, 112 people in Roanoke died of drug overdoses, a rate of 113 per 100,000 residents, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Virginia's rate was 29.

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