Railroading Gainsboro Part II

Spent today working on  my letter to the Roanoke City Planning Commission.  Why don’t you write the Commission and ask for neighborhood commercial zoning for Gainsboro.  Here’s my draft:

TO: Roanoke City Planning Commission

FROM: Beth J. Wellington

RE: Suggested Change to Proposed Downtown Zoning for Gainsboro to Neighborhood Commercial

DATE: September 3, 2005

I hope the Commission will amend the Zoning ordinance to map Gainsboro’s commercial district as “CN” (Neighborhood Commercial–as is the case for the Grandin Village) and not “D” (Downtown). It does Roanoke no good if the comprehensive plan supports neighborhood planning and then zoning defeats it.

Senior Planner Chris Chittum advised me that “D” is virtually the same as “CN” and that Gainsboro was previously zoned “C-3” anyway. He minimized the importance of differentiated zoning (including the restriction on building height) to encourage conformance to the plan. According to the City’s website, zoning regulations and districts:

established for the general purposes of implementing the comprehensive plan of the city…and [specifically to] protect and enhance the character and stability of existing neighborhoods, and to protect against destruction of core encroachment upon historic areas contributing to the character of the city.

Roanoke’s comprehensive plan, “Vision 2001-2020” continues the 1985 plan, “Roanoke Vision” which

declared Roanoke a “City of Neighborhoods.” The plan advocated the preservation and enhancement of the city’s existing neighborhoods and recommended that city ordinances and efforts support neighborhood revitalization and preservation. A major recommendation of Roanoke Vision was to develop neighborhood plans for each neighborhood. Neighborhood and area plans are official documents that are adopted by City Council and become part of the City’s comprehensive plan.

Gainsboro’s  neighborhood plan  shows the commercial area as “Village Center” on its Future Land Use map.  It states:

The Future Land Use plan on the following page is the most important  recommendation  of this plan. It specifies how future development should take place. Zoning is the principal tool that is used to implement the future land use plan. Some of the current zoning is not consistent with the future land use plan, so the plan recommends changes…[Roanoke should i]nitiate a comprehensive rezoning to encourage desired development patterns in accordance with the Future Land Use map.

The current new zoning ordinance ignores these recommendations. It allows downtown to encroach on what is left of Gainsboro after the ravages of urban renewal, which also are acknowledged in the Gainsboro plan:

Like many inner-city neighborhoods in America, the Gainsboro community continues to deal with the consequences of the urban renewal programs of the 1960s and 70s that displaced many families and businesses. The general sentiment today in America, and in Gainsboro, is that urban renewal was something done to the community instead of with the community. One of the main purposes of this plan is to ensure that the community is involved in determining its own future and that the community’s goals and interests are reflected in future development, ultimately leading to a better and more vibrant Gainsboro.

This vibrant Gainsboro includes the village center concept, best typified by the Grandin area:

Henry Street will become a major village center that will be the focal point of the neighborhood. It should have uses that serve the surrounding neighborhood as well as those that appeal to broader markets. First floors of buildings should be dedicated to higher intensity commercial uses and upper floors should be dedicated to lower intensity uses such as offices and residences. Buildings ranging from 2-4 stories should be the norm. In some cases, buildings taller than four stories may be appropriate, but should be carefully considered in order to preserve important vistas into and from downtown. Henry Street should include a central square as a community gathering place. The village center can also include some high-density residential development in appropriate locations.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.


By the way, Dana Nottingham, who served as consultant developing the Gainsboro plan and others has moved from his position as head of Nottingham and Associates to be the Executive Director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

My previous entry on Gainsboro is here:

Railroading Gainsboro

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One Response to “Railroading Gainsboro Part II”

  1. Railroading Gainsboro | The Writing Corner Says:

    […] For more information, see:  Railroading of Gainsboro Part II […]

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