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Petition to stop the sale of land in Fishburn Park now has more than 600 signatures

Planning Commission member Lora Katz wants to renovate a historic cottage

ROANOKE, Va. – People in Roanoke's Grandin Court Neighborhood are getting ready to bring their concerns to city council Monday.

The city is considering selling a piece of Fishburn Park and a historic cottage on the land to a member of the planning commission who wants to renovate and live in the building.

People use the land in the park every day as both a park and a space for overflow parking. If Katz moved in, some of that would go away, but she says the trade-off would be the renovation of the cottage that dates back to the 1800's.

Katz says that renovation is all she really wants to do. That's why she decreased the amount of land attached to it from 1.4 acres to 0.75.

"I've come back with a proposal that basically says hey, somewhere around a half an acre, a little more, just to make sure that I can get a garage in," said Katz.

Katz says she's also working with a historical society to make sure the work is done right.

"We've come up with a list of historical features in the home that will be preserved," said Katz.

But more than 600 neighbors in the area have signed a petition saying they don't like the proposal.

"We're concerned because our community and the community at large has not been involved in the process. They have not involved the Roanoke neighborhood advocates or the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board," said Grandin Court Neighborhood President Freeda Cathcart.

Cathcart and others are also concerned because they say the city is basically giving the land away for under $200, but Katz says it makes sense.

"The house is, it needs so much, and for the square footage of the house, it just doesn't make sense to pay a lot of money and then put a lot of money into it," said Katz.

Another neighbor, Owen McGuire, lives right next to the park and has made his concerns more visibly known, with a sign reading "Stop Lora Katz" in his front yard.

"We're concerned that the sale of this land could set a precedent across the city that any city park, be it Eureka, be it Preston Park, Fallon Park, Wasena could be developed by a private developer for their own personal gain," said McGuire.

Katz says, she's surprised to see so much opposition, but hopes it will all be resolved Monday night.

"I hope it moves forward, and that my neighbors, instead of putting signs up against me will come over and welcome me over to the neighborhood if it works out," said Katz.

Katz says if she moves in, people will still be able to walk their dogs and pick chestnuts here on the land, but she says the overflow parking would be eliminated. The public hearing at city council starts at 7 o'clock Monday night.