TraVure Development Wins Hard-Fought Approval by Madeline Faber

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After months of dispute and compromise, the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved the 10-acre TraVure planned development.

Opponents and supporters of the project agreed that it was precedent-setting, but they agreed on little else during a two-hour debate on Feb. 22 at Germantown City Hall.

“After two years of compromise and conversation, I don’t know how there could be further compromise,” said alderman Rocky Janda.

At the meeting, the board gave the green light to developer Gill Properties’ final outline plan and the three phases of construction which include infrastructure improvements, two hotels, an office building and a parking garage. Most of the public opposition came from residential community Nottoway, located just east of the TraVure development, which is situated between Poplar Avenue and Poplar Pike, just east of Kirby Parkway.

At least seven homes back up to the TraVure development and would have direct sight into the parking garage, said Greg Fletcher with the Nottoway Homeowners Association.

The Germantown Planning Commission permits the parking garage based on a visibility study that compares the sight line of a six-foot person with the light emanating from the garage. Fletcher said Germantown should instead look from the vantage point of Nottoway’s two- and three-story homes that face the garage.

Cameron Ross, Germantown’s economic and community development director, countered that the six-foot measure is standard for the industry. At the meeting, the board approved an amendment that precluded any certificate of use or occupancy from being granted if light was visible from the garage, based on the sight-line of a six-foot person.

Another concern was the traffic light proposed at Poplar Avenue and TraVure Drive. When presented, the updated outline plan put responsibility for approving a traffic light on the city administration, which had the authority to revoke the light at any time.

Brenda Solomito Basar, who represents Gill Properties, said that responsibility should fall on a licensed engineer, as is done in other cities.

Language concerning the traffic light was amended to state that city administration and the city engineer will have the authority to decide when and where the light is installed.

While all resolutions passed unanimously, several members of the board were still concerned with the level of opposition that remained after months of compromise.

“I see us as far away tonight as we were months ago with this project,” said alderman John Barzizza.

When it was presented to the planning commission in July 2015, the TraVure proposal had 12 deviations from the Germantown SmartGrowth ordinance.

Aldermen Forrest Owens, who also serves on the planning commission, voted down the proposal at the time. With Gill’s significant compromises, Owens said he couldn’t find a reason the development couldn’t move forward.

“If we turn this down tonight, we are sending a pretty clear message that a developer can come into town, meet our ordinance requirements, reduce his warrants to zero – which in other developments we’ve praised them for doing that – and can still be rejected. That’s a struggle for me,” he said.

Among those compromises are changing lighting in the parking garage and adding motion-activated dimmers, and adding a 25-foot “no build” zone and another 25-foot landscaping buffer to separate Nottoway from the development.

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