G’town neighbors planning show of force over TraVure development by Jane Roberts

share this article

A showdown is brewing in Germantown between residents on the suburb's west side and a proposed development with hotels, a five-story office building and retail outlets.

Residents don't think they are getting a fair shake when it comes to reviewing changes in the plan or Germantown protecting their neighborhoods. Opponents plan to pack Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting — as they have previous meetings on the proposal — to monitor the city's review of the project proposed on the former Kirby Farms property between Poplar and Poplar Pike a short distance east of Kirby Parkway.

"It appears to us that the developer clearly has the inside track and that the taxpaying citizens of Germantown always have to be in reactive mode," Greg Fletcher, vice president of the Nottoway Homeowners Association, said.

Nottoway is a gated development of 63 homes directly east of TraVure --- a dense, commercially zoned project destined to contain prime office space on Poplar Avenue. Fletcher says residents participated in the weeklong Charette to determine the best use of the land and have been "clearly apprised" of TraVure's progress. However, he said, they are shown specific plans "only at the last minute.

"And so we are forced to react," he said.

He also says city leaders are so enamored with the development, they are bending the rules and failing to represent residents, particularly regarding traffic impact.

"In our view, they are trying to stuff 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack," Fletcher said.

Developer Ray Gill has worked on the concept for years. In the last 18 months, he's met six to eight times with Nottoway neighbors, spent in excess of $210,000 planning and replanning to address their issues. At this point, he says, he's hoping he can afford to build the project.

"Here's the hard part. We have to agree to these things on the fly without knowing what they cost," Gill said.

"We are going to get this approved, but we don't know if we can actually afford to build it."

Gill has teamed with Desai Hotel Group to build a 220-room Hilton Garden Inn and Home2 Suites, plus a five-level parking garage, the office building and retail in a four-phase development. He is seeking final approval Tuesday for the first three phases and a preliminary go-ahead on the retail development at the north end of the project.

This is their second presentation to the Planning Commission in just over two months. Gill's team withdrew their application in late August when the project faced almost certain rejection because of code deviations the developers requested. Rejection would have required a six-month wait to resubmit the plans.

Among the most onerous aspects for Nottoway residents was the parking garage, which they said would flood their homes at night with lighting from the garage itself and moving headlights inside.

Developers raised the height of partitions on the side of the ramp and screening the light fixtures on the east so the light is directed away from the Nottoway homes. They also added another 25 feet of landscaping, including a garden, as a buffer to the neighbors.

Gill notes only four homes back up to the proposed garage and 11 share TraVure's eastern boundary.

Fletcher says the landscaping is "absurdly inadequate," contending it would take decades before it is tall enough to screen the parking garage. He also says lights on the top floor of the garage are not screened, which he says is a clear violation of code.

Germantown Smart Growth code says neither the cars nor the light from a parking garage should be visible to next-door residents.

Alderman Forrest Owens, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen liaison to the Planning Commission, can't think of another parking ramp in the city that abuts residential property.

"I believe there are some things that need to be enhanced," Owens said, agreeing that in a "strict interpretation" of the code, the garage lights are a problem. He also has issues with the landscaping and would like to see changes to the restraining wall, part of the work in the initial phase.

"I want to listen to everyone. I could change my mind."

Tap into our legacy of experience for your next Leasing, Development or Brokerage venture.

Contact Us