TraVure back on hot seat tonight in public hearing tonight by Jane Roberts

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TraVure from Poplar

The $90 million TraVure development in Germantown is back on the frontburner tonight in a public hearing expected to draw a large crowd.

One of the biggest issues is where the traffic light will go on Poplar for entry into TraVure, the 10-acre development with two hotels, a five-story office building and multi-deck parking garage.

The proposed motion before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen tonight is to approve the outline plan with the stipulation that a traffic signal at TraVure Drive and Poplar, which the developer says is central to the project, will be authorized by city administration and may be revoked at any time.

If the light is approved, it would not be turned on until at least 60 percent of the office tower is occupied.

Developer Ray Gill says the changes are unacceptable, noting also that he was not informed of them until late Monday morning.

"They need to commit to the signal location today — not leave it undecided," Gill said. "I can't build without the signal."

In the same motion, the BMA will also be asked to approve a clause saying the city has the right to limit use of the secondary access into TraVure off Poplar to specific hours. The city reserves the right to make that decision sometime in the next year.

Gill's initial TraVure proposal had 12 deviations from Germantown's SmartGrowth code when he presented it to the planning commission last summer. He has eliminated them all by working with neighbors to revise his plan, including extensive changes to the lighting in the parking garage and adding a 50-foot landscaping buffer between his development and the gated Nottoway subdivision to the east.

The planning commission signed off on the first three phases in December, which include infrastructure and TraVure Drive - the main entrance into the development - plus the hotel, garage and office building. It also gave preliminary approval for retail development in Phase 4.

In projects that do not deviate from the city's code, the mayor alone may sign off on the final site plan. But in early February, Mayor Mike Palazzolo said he wanted the full board to have a chance to weigh in, noting the contention around the development.

"With this being the first development in the Western Gateway small-area plan, it was clearly important that we get this right," said Alderman Mary Anne Gibson.

Neighbors have fought TraVure for months. Besides light from the parking garage shining into their homes, neighbors in Nottoway are not pleased that a road into the development off Poplar - initially billed as a service drive - will now serve as a secondary access.

Others, including Robert Fogelman, who owns Westminster Townhomes on the west side of TraVure, have argued against the light at the proposed TraVure Drive, saying it doesn't address the traffic needs of the whole area. Fogelman has proposed lighted intersection on the eastern edge of his townhome property, which would require him to tear down a number of units to accommodate. The light there would create a four-way intersection, serving the Atrium office towers on the north side of Poplar.

Alderman Forest Owens says the outline plan Gill presented indicated a traffic light "may be" positioned at TraVure Drive and Poplar. The stipulations the city is applying now, he said, merely represent the city conditions for placing the light.

While Gill and the city planners and engineers were still trying to work out language on the street light Monday afternoon, Gill was adamant that he could not move forward without the stoplight that he says the city agreed to in December.

"We will be forced to postpone the construction of the project and move on to other projects if they chose to make the traffic signal an issue," he said.

"We have worked with our neighbors to meet their objections," Gill said, noting that he had recently worked with a landscaping firm to make more adjustments to a 50-foot buffer on the Nottoway side.

"We are in full compliance with the Western Gateway Small Area Plan, and we have no warrants. These delays have substantial affect on our development, and we are looking forward to final approvals."

The hearing tonight includes all three phases of the development, including the final outline plan.

The BMA meeting starts at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers, 1930 S. Germantown Road.

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