Response to November 4, 2015 Commercial Appeal Article “TraVure On Hold…” by Jane Roberts

Ray Gill:

Your article is incorrect on several points. You have failed to connect the dots. 1. Fogelman does not own the Forum and Atrium, Highwoods owns them. Highwoods develops office space. They are competitors to us. They want less competition not more.  2. Fogelman did not spearhead the Western Gateway, Germantown did and he was skeptical from day one. I was on the committee and paid for the plan just as the other owners did along with the Germantown government on a prorate basis. Fogelman sold the site for International Paper expansion to Highwoods, so they have a business relationship. 3. Nottoway and Fogelman have had 3 years to respond to the Western Gateway and 2 years to respond to our plans. 4. Hilton and Desai Hotel Group purchased a site in TraVure that would be served by a traffic signal and a terminated vista from Poplar. Now at the last minute a few days before we ask for final approval, they use politics, emotion and subterfuge to try to derail our development.

Our team of 14 professionals including civil, structural and traffic engineers, architects, land planners, attorneys, landscape architects, graphics and pr people did not plan in a vacuum. We participated actively in the adoption of the Western Gateway and we have assiduously followed its tenants, rules and guidelines both in spirit and in fact. We have spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars meeting weekly to develop the current plan based on what we were told would be approved.

Fogelman has never presented a plan. He is not part of what we are asking to be approved. He has fought us and tried to force changes to our plan in bad faith. He attempts to use his political clout to get his way at the last minute. We have tried to work with him and he won’t respond and then complains publicly that we are not responsive. Remember, Fogelman owns 40 acres at Poplar and Forest Hill that is in another economic node. We do not have another major parcel in Germantown but he does. The Planning Commission should vote on our plan up or down. What about what is fair to us? Nottoway wants to kill the whole development and Fogelman wants to move a traffic signal that we are dependent on. We stressed 3 years ago that we must have a traffic signal for the beginning of our development, not when later phases are built. We stressed that if Germantown government want this Western Gateway to succeed, we must have the traffic signal from day one in the location described in the Western Gateway – in front of TraVure. They agreed and now our competition is trying to take the traffic signal and main entrance and connection for Phase 1 of the Western Gateway away from us.

This is an urban area that the Germantown government wants to be more urban and have higher density. Nottoway has known this for 3 years. The opposition has had ample opportunity to work within the process to reach compromises in an orderly fashion. They chose not to work with us. We are trying to be proactive and build for market that we perceive exists now and in the near future. The opposition has chosen to attempt to defeat us at the eleventh hour in a public forum. This is grandstanding and positioning. We have and will continue to work within the process to address all concerns and make this outstanding development a success.


Michael Rogers:

I would add to Ray’s points that it should be pointed out that in July 7, 2015 the Planning Commission recommended approval of the Outline Plan that establishes a thoroughfare in the location shown on the TraVure plans, and on July 27th the Board of Mayor & Alderman approved those plans.   What we presented last night does not alter the approval of the TraVure Drive location.   The amendment to the Outline Plan was related to site layout only and did not alter the thoroughfare alignment.  With an approved Outline Plan, we do not intend to request any amendment to realign the thoroughfare.  If you go back and review the minutes from the Planning Commission and/or Board of Mayor & Alderman meetings in July, you will see that comments were made by members of both bodies that they understood approving the Outline Plan would in fact establish the alignment of the thoroughfare.   What is before the City now is not a request for approval of the thoroughfare location, because that has already been approved.  What should have been discussed by and voted on by the Planning Commission last night is the specifics of the construction of said thoroughfare and other infrastructure associated with the development of TraVure, as well as the individual site plans within the TraVure development.   In more than twenty-five years of representing developers before City commissions and boards, I have never seen an incident where an adjacent property owner can at the last minute suggest a major realignment of a major road that would entirely alter a plan on an adjacent property that was well into the review and approval process for an actual plan of development.  This from a land owner with no definitive plan for re-development of his own property.


Ray Gill:

No we are not on hold! We have 3 plans to address the access. These alignments add more utility because they add a second access point for the Highwoods property at our TraVure Drive in addition to the existing drive. With these alignments, westbound traffic is dispersed to the western drive lessening the traffic pressure accessing Poplar. Eastbound traffic will go to the traffic signal. The attached alignments to provide Highwoods access to our traffic signal are far superior to Fogelman’s plan.

All of these plans to access our APPROVED drive and traffic signal add more value to the adjoining real estate than Fogelman’s plan. The location of the signal is farther from Kirby which is preferable from an engineering perspective. Also Bob Byrd, Chairman and CEO of Bank of Bartlett prefers our location as it allows unimpeded access to his bank on the corner.

We are not able to alter the road. We cannot build and meet the code if the road and signal are not located where we have designed them.


Brown Gill:

I would like to add that Mr. Fogelman is not an Applicant before the Planning Commission.  He has not submitted a plan.  He has not paid fees.  He has not been reviewed by the Planning Commission subcommittee, Germantown Planning staff, Germantown engineering, or the Germantown Fire Marshall.  The Fogelman Family has NO plans to change the use their property in the shorter or longterm.

Are we seriously considering signalizing a 40 year old apartment complex?

Germantown Planning Commissioners and Alderman requested this project.  I site the attached article from the Commercial Appeal on Feb 25, 2014.

Cameron Ross: 

“In his presentation of the plan, economic and community development director Cameron Ross called the project “responsible development.” The aim, he said, is to create a corridor of walkable commercial and residential areas conducive to a changing population.”

“In other markets, when you have walkable amenities similar to what’s being proposed, property values have been shown to increase,” he said.

Wade Morgan:

“Chief planner Wade Morgan showed the aldermen drawings of what kinds of buildings could go at certain intersections. They included multigenerational housing units, office spaces and storefronts, all with sidewalks accessible for people with disabilities.”

Mike Palazzolo:

“It relieves the pressure we have on our residential community,” he said. “We don’t want to have to look at revenue increases strictly by property taxes.”

Forrest Owens:

“We’re a suburban area that is trying to remain sustainable,” Owens said. “We don’t have a lot of large commercial centers. I believe strongly we have to increase the density in our commercial centers to remain sustainable.”


Brown Gill:

Attached is a cleaner version of the road alignment, which was approved by the BMA on July 7, 2015.  This was a slide in our presentation last night that we were not allowed to present.

I would like to add that the disrespect showed to the Applicants (Gill Properties and the Desai Hotel Group) and the Germantown Planning Staff last night by the Planning Commissioners is unprecedented.  Germantown Planning staff and the Germantown Design Review Committee (DRC) have recommended approval of all four phases of the TraVure Development.  The Applicants have paid their fees, been reviewed by Planning Commission Subcommittee and Planning Staff, responded to comments by both Planning Staff, Planning Commissioners, and the DRC and fully meet all of the regulations in Smart Code and the Western Gateway Small Area Plan.  There are no issues left to debate. The Planning Commission must vote to move this process forward.

The intersection perfectly lines up with where the Western Gateway Small Area Plan proposed the intersection at TraVure Drive and Poplar Ave. (also attached).