City council postpones vote on selling portion of park

Local News

The Roanoke city council has postponed a vote to sell a portion of Fishburn Park to a private citizen hoping to restore a historic home there.

With people from both sides of the debate at Monday night’s city council meeting, the council chose to vote on the sale September 18 to take more time to consider the decision and obtain more information about the potential sale.

The caretaker’s cottage has been standing along Brambleton Avenue since the 1820’s. With peeled paint and split woodwork nearly 200 years later, many people, including city officials, agree it’s in need of a facelift.

“I’ve always loved the house from the time I was a little kid, and I just wanted it to stay a house,” said Lora Katz, who lives in Roanoke.

But there’s disagreement on how it should be done. Katz is trying to buy the home and 1.4 acres of Fishburn Park around it to restore the building and make it a place for her to live in.

“It’s a piece of the historic fabric of our community,” she said. “I’d really like to see that continue.”

According to officials, the city would sell Katz the property for $10 dollars in exchange for restoring the home. Katz said she would make sure the land would remain open to the public to continue to use as a park.

But not everyone approves of that idea.

“To that neighborhood or that group of neighborhoods, it’s the main area for recreation,” said William Sweet, who lives near the park.

Neighbors like William Sweet argue the property should be left as a park and not sold to a private owner.

Leaders of groups like the Grandin Court Neighborhood Association have said they would be interested in fundraising to restore the building themselves.

Sweet said he’s worried what a sale could mean for the rest of the park’s future.

“Once a precedent is set, others will use the same precedent to come in and try to buy public park land,” he said. “And we don’t buy public park land every day. It’s a rare commodity.”

If the city council gives the sale the green light, the next step in the process would be approval to rezone the property for residential use, Katz said.

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