G’town planning commission OKs TraVure project on Poplar by Jane Roberts

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pic-4TraVure, a controversial development on Poplar in Germantown, won approval late Tuesday from the planning commission for a dense, $90 million development that has riled neighbors for months.

In the end, developers Ray Gill and Desai Hotel Group were rewarded for reworking plans numerous times to resolve concerns of Germantown residents and city planners.

The planning commission voted 5-2 to approve the overall site plan for the development after more than two hours of discussion, much it from neighbors— including Robert Fogelman — who remain steadfastly against the 10-acre development east of Kirby Parkway and Poplar.

Alderman Forrest Owens and Mayor Mike Palazzolo, who are also members of the planning commission, voted against the overall site plan, which includes two hotels, five-stories of Class A office space, a parking garage and retail. The total project will be built in four phases.

The project still must be approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Neighbors in the Nottoway subdivision, immediately to the east, hired attorneys to fight the plan. They object to lighting from the parking garage, which would abut their subdivision on the west side, and the quality of the wall separating the project. They also oppose what they say was originally described as a road for emergency vehicles behind the garage.

Late last week, the developers altered the garage construction, replacing the back partial wall with a solid wall, eliminating the possibility that cars and lighting in the ramp could be seen in Nottoway.

Residents on the south side of the garage say the lighting will still be visible from their homes.

One of the main issues with the development is the placement of a traffic light, planned at the intersection of Poplar and the new TraVure Road.

Under the agreement approved by the planning commission, infrastructure for the traffic signal will be built in Phase 3 and activated when 60 percent of the office building is complete instead of 80 percent. In the end, the commission agreed to activate the light earlier if the city engineer says traffic counts warrant it.

The placement of the light became an issue last month when Fogelman said he would build a road through his Westminster townhouses to the west if the signal were located there. The commission delayed its vote for 30 days to study the issue.

Dr. Martin Lipinski, traffic analyst at the University of Memphis, agreed the light there would better serve the Western Gateway, the entrance to Germantown from Memphis.

The city conducted an exhaustive study with shareholders to decide the highest and best use of the 68 acres on the south side of Poplar. It was approved by the aldermen, which the developer's attorney said made it a legal and binding document.

"The developer has worked assiduously to eliminate the warrants," said Barry Ward from Ballin, Ballin and Fishman. "Your staff has advised you that they have done just that. Once the code has been met, and you have evaluation from your own staff, it is your duty to issue approval and a permit."

TraVure, a French word linking the old to the new, is one of the first times Germantown has tried to sandwich dense development next to residential property.

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