Roanoke City Council unanimously approves amending zoning ordinance, paves way for new bus station

Roanoke Valley News

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — During Monday night’s meeting, Roanoke City Council members unanimously voted to alter the city’s zoning ordinance, which brings the Star City one step closer to establishing a new downtown transit station.

This vote came after the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted 2-5 in August to not move forward with approving the plan to relocate the old bus depot to the current Brandon Parking Lot near the Virginia Transportation Museum.

While the Greater Roanoke Transit Company (GRTC)/Valley Metro and the City of Roanoke decided not to appeal the BZA decision back in August, the Roanoke City Council directed staff to initiate actions to ensure the continued location of the Campbell Court station in downtown Roanoke, which included initiating amendments of the city’s zoning ordinance to permit a downtown transit station facility.

The effort would feature appropriate design and development standards for such facilities, public notice on the proposed amendments, and public hearings to be heard before the Planning Commission and city council.

The ordinance addressed by the Roanoke City Council on Monday, Nov. 16, amended the zoning code in order to allow a transit station to be built by right — instead of requiring a special permit — almost anywhere downtown.

All nine members of the public who spoke at Monday night’s city council meeting voiced their support for the amendment. In addition, officials say they received 20 emails from citizens in favor of the amendment.

Councilman Bill Bestpitch, addressed the concerns about lack of transparency following the BZA’s decision to reject relocating the old bus depot in August, adding that councilmembers had an obligation to do what was right for the people of Roanoke.

“BZA did have the power to deny this application,” said Bestpitch. “We have the power to amend the zoning code, and using the power that we have to do what is right is really the responsibility that we all assume when we accepted our offices.”

“I know that this rezoning tonight will allow the new bus station in the downtown corridor, whether it’s on the Brandon lot or it’s on any downtown [inaudible], and I think it’s important that our bus station be accessible, that it be a center piece of transit for our facility, and that it is something that our citizens are really excited about,” said Councilwoman Michelle Davis.

In addition, Mayor Sherman Lea spoke out against the idea that the members of the council focused on the zoning amendment just to get their way, adding that in order to look at anything downtown, they had to come back to address rezoning.

“We’re committed to getting a bus station that all of our citizens can utilize and deserve,” Lea said ahead of the council vote.

Every member of the Roanoke City Council voted in favor of the amended zoning laws. However, there is still lot of work for the City of Roanoke to do on the transfer station project, such as design completion, environmental review, and the opportunity for the planning commission to inspect and the public to comment on the final designs.

To watch the city council’s discussion about the zoning amendments, start at approximately 1:25:30 in the recording of Monday night’s meeting below:

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