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City Council to decide on Roanoke apartment proposal

Council is set to make a decision on a proposed apartment complex

ROANOKE – Roanoke City Council is set to make a decision on a controversial proposed apartment complex. The proposal is for a 54 unit building in Wasena, at the corner of Brandon Avenue and Main Street.

Many people who live in the Wasena area say they're opposed to the plan, with neighborhood groups, petitions and Facebook groups all working against the idea of the new apartments. The groups say their concern is over increased traffic in an already confusing intersection and the loss of nature and green spaces to enjoy.

Taylor Blackford works at BANG! Hair Studio and says she's concerned about what additional traffic in the area will mean, especially for customers trying to get into her salon.

"The intersection there with Main Street is already a very complicated intersection," she explains. "To add another complication with traffic would be a problem for anyone trying to navigate through there. There's also an elementary school right there and that would be a safety problem with kids as well."

Last week, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposal. City planners say the property in question is currently zoned for single-family residential homes. It's enough space for about 34 single-family homes, which would bring the potential for 13 driveways and even a separate street for the additional traffic.

Ian Shaw, the planning administrator, says while the number of vehicles in peak traffic would be slightly more with the apartments, overall the impact would be similar.

"Just looking at the multi-family property and the immediate proximity to our Village Center space made sense," he says. "Certainly we were looking at how that would impact traffic in the area, but it seems to be consistent with the City's comprehensive plan."

It's an increase in traffic that some believe could have a positive impact on the nearby businesses. If approved, the apartments would rent for $850 per unit with an emphasis on bringing young professionals to the area.

The project is one of two new apartment proposals in the southwest area of the city that have people in Roanoke concerned. A much larger apartment proposal-- which would include more than 220 units, is also being discussed. The proposed area for that is a 17-acre portion of woods beside the old Shenandoah Life Building. That's property that's now owned by Carilion Clinic.

The first decision comes tonight, as City Council decides whether to approve or deny the Wasena area proposal.