New Roanoke County LewisGale ER clears planning commission despite neighbor objections

Neighbors argued traffic, noise and other factors impacting their lives

The Roanoke County Planning Commission recommended approval for a rezoning to build a new LewisGale free standing emergency room in the Bonsack area despite objections from neighbors who've fought development in the past and welcome the facility, just somewhere else.

Neighbors along West Ruritan Road at US 460 say the corner of land at the entrance to their neighborhood is not the right spot, but an attorney for LewisGale said it was the best possible location. That led to neighbors feeling deja vu in many of the comments they made to the planning commission, just like when they fought the Chick-fil-A that was approved five years ago, also at the entrance to their neighborhood.

The land immediately along the road is designated as transitional, with the county's goal to see it put to better use than many of the old residential zoning. But even with that in mind, many of the neighbors walked out feeling steam rolled by the countty.

One by one the neighbors pled their cases against the proposed facility. The 9,000 square foot facility would be like the one at Tanglewood Mall, open 24/7, with an average daily patient load of 40 people.

"We were lead to believe that the Chick-fil-A wasn't going to cause that much traffic, they said just put in that one little turn lane," neighbor Nancy Miller said. "It's horrible."

The area unsuccessfully fought the Chick-fil-A opening five years ago and the restaurant was mentioned in nearly every comment. But Virginia Department of Transportation studies showed minimal impact on backups and crashes since then, although neighbors claim traffic as their biggest concern, followed by distrubances during and after construction.

"If this happens it would be great for the neighborhood in another location that would be appropriate, but if this happens, we're going to suffer," neighbor Sharo Karkenny said.

Many people suggested on the facility be built on the other side of 460 next to already existing commercial sites, but LewisGale's attorney said being on the westbound side of 460 was critical to make it easy for people coming from Bedford and Botetourt Counties to the east.

"Having it on the westbound side of route 460 is a great bonus, so that is what has drive this selection and what makes this site really ideal for this facility, " attorney Dan Layman said.

The planning commission highlighted the fact that the corridor is designated as transitional, and it has been in the plan for nearly two decades to put the land to better use. They also noted that since Chick-fil-A was approved and now operating, the precedent had been set and that the proposed project would put less stress on the area than the restaurant does. The boarded recommended rezoning to commercial with a condition that contractors not blast away rock during construction.

"This corridor is becoming more and more congested and whether we would choose to rezone anything along this corridor, my suspicions are the situation is going to continue to become exacerbated." commission vice-chairman James said.

The request goes before the board of supervisors for final approval at the end of the month.


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