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Roanoke City Council Votes "No" on Brandon Avenue apartments

The proposal would have added more than 50 apartments

ROANOKE – Roanoke City Council says no to a controversial apartment complex.

The  proposal would have put more than 50 apartments at the intersection of Brandon Avenue and Main Street.

The Planning Commission approved the plan, but Monday night, after listening to angry residents, Council refused to approve a re-zoning request that would have paved the way for the development.

The new development would have generated more revenue for the city than the patch of woods that has become an unofficial park, but at the end of the night, council felt residents had made their point.

Outside City Hall, victorious residents were happy that they had fought and won.

"We're delighted, we've fought this thing since the end of December. It's been a long haul, everybody pulled together," said Cathy Greenberg, who lives near Brandon Ave.

"It would have resulted in traffic patterns that no one would want to live with," said Sharon Burnham, who also lives near Brandon Ave.

"Thank you City Council, we love you! We'll vote you in again," said Ginger Morris, who also lives near Brandon Ave.

Earlier they had told council why they thought apartments just weren't right for the area.

"We're not against development, we're just against that level of density," said John Harlow, who also lives near Brandon Ave.

Harlow doesn't want to see his neighborhood change.

He argued single-family homes and apartments don't mix.

"People want to come here, but they don't want to come here for density, they want to come here for the character that Roanoke has, and we as a neighborhood really don't want to see that change," said Harlow.

But developer Robert Fralin made his case as well, saying single family homes come with their own issues.

"There could be 13 driveways on Brandon Avenue, and i just can't imagine a scenario where that is a better traffic pattern than what we're proposing," said Fralin.

In addition, Fralin showed how the complex would bring a needed tax boost for a city facing a budget deficit.

"This project does take it from a two thousand dollar a year tax base to around a sixty thousand, based on a five and a half million dollar project," said Fralin.

But Harlow didn't buy it, and neither did members of Council. 

"I know people who are behind economic development. No one has said to me gosh we don't have a place to house all these people. That's not what we're really focused on, yet somehow, having 54 apartments is being presented as the future of economic development in Roanoke," said Harlow.

Fralin said he wants an explanation why his proposal was denied, because the Planning Commission voted unanimously to pass his plan.

But opponents say that's because they claimed the development would abut village centers.

They say the few stores nearby hardly qualify.