TraVure must pass muster with full board in G’town by Jane Roberts

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TraVure, the controversial development on Poplar in Germantown, cannot get final approval until Feb. 22, two weeks later than originally planned.

Instead of an up-or-down vote from the mayor, the project will be heard again by the city's full board of mayor and aldermen.

"It is the best remedy," Mayor Mike Palazzolo told the board Monday night. "It is best for openness and engagement with the entire community. It will give all present one final bite at the apple, so to speak."

The vote will be preceded by a public hearing, which means any member of the public will be allowed to speak.

Developer Ray Gill said he found out about the delay Tuesday when The Commercial Appeal contacted him.

"We are considering our options. We do not understand this unwarranted and unnecessary action, and we strongly and vigorously object," Gill said in an email.

The city's planning department recommended approval this fall on the $90 million development on 10 acres east of Kirby Parkway. Three of its four phases and the full outline plan received final approval from the planning commission in a long and contentious meeting on Dec. 8.

Because the shape of the hotel is different from what the Board of Aldermen approved in the outline plan last July, Gill was told the outline would have to be re-approved by the board.

"We were unfortunately pushed to the Feb. 8 meeting from Jan. 25 because Germantown Planning did not give proper notice of the meeting," Gill said.

City Administrator Patrick Lawton said the meeting is being moved to Feb. 22 because the city wouldn't have time to give 15 days notice of the public hearing.

Under Germantown Smart Growth code, the mayor can approve amended outline plans on projects that do not have warrants or deviations. TraVure, which includes a five-story office building, hotel and five-deck parking garage, has no warrants.

Because of the level of public interest in TraVure, Lawton said Palazzolo wants the full board to vote. If TraVure is voted down, Gill would have the right to go back to the planning commission and amend the plan.

TraVure has been controversial since last summer, when dozens of residents from Nottoway, the adjoining development of $500,000 homes, showed up to fight it, complaining about light from the parking garage shining into their homes and the potential of traffic turning around in the gated community's entrance in order to go west on Poplar at a stoplight.

Gill made a series of changes to the garage, including mitigating the light on the upper stories, buffering the development from the residents with additional plantings and a meditation garden. In the end, he added a wall on the east side of the garage so no light could be seen from the bottom floors.

Nottoway residents wanted more changes. And in January, Robert Fogelman Jr. asked the city to halt TraVure and other growth in the area until a traffic analysis for the whole 58-acre "western gateway" could be studied.

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