TraVure on hold while G’town studies Fogelman proposal by Jane Roberts

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Citing last-minute information, the Germantown Planning Commission on Tuesday put a 30-day hold on TraVure, a dense commercial development that residents in the neighboring gated community have been fighting for months.

Their concerns are part of the reason for the delay. The other is an offer from Fogelman Investment Co. to build a road through its Westminster townhouse development to the west of the proposed TraVure, mitigating potential traffic worries while also serving tenants at The Forum on the north side of Poplar.

City staff received the proposal from Robert Fogelman, vice president of Fogelman Investment, on Monday.

The planning commission said it could not act without studying the offer, although several members noted their frustration with the timing, including chairman Mike Harless.

"We are going to give you an opening, but we do expect you to respond quickly," Harless told Fogelman, who was seated in the front row of the crowded council chambers.

"Please expedite as soon as possible."

Fogelman was asked to work with the developers, Ray Gill Properties and Desai Hotel Group, on the logistics and an analysis of potential traffic patterns at the intersection.

Only Susan Burrow voted against the delay.

This is the second delay for the developers, who withdrew their proposal in August because it included 12 departures from Germantown's Smart Code rules. Harless nearly assured them the plan would be denied with so many "warrants." Under city rules, they would not be able to submit for six months.

The developers were not happy with the second delay, their spokeswoman reminding the commission that time is money and that the commissioners were delaying for a possible improvement not even on the property.

"The message I would like to send for the people of Germantown, the people in this audience this evening, is we want to get this right. This is the prominent entrance into our city. We owe it to the people to make sure we have this right," said Mayor Mike Palazzolo.

Over four phases, TraVure would include a Hilton Garden Inn and Home 2 Suites, a five-story Class A office building, a parking garage for 465 vehicles, plus major infrastructure work on the 10-acre site, which runs between Poplar Pike and Poplar, about 750 feet east of Kirby Parkway.

Neighbors from Nottoway to the east, a gated community of homes that start at $500,000, have been against it since the planning commission and Board of Mayor and Alderman approved the overall concept in July.

They objected to being able to see cars and lights in the parking garage that abuts their property along the western side. They are also mad that a roadway initially presented as access for emergency vehicles near the garage has become a formal road, which they say will encourage TraVure traffic to find a shortcut through Nottoway.

"We're happy with the delay," said Nottoway resident Jeff Crenshaw. "There is so much information that needs to be studied between the traffic study with Fogelman and our analysis."

But he was frustrated that the neighborhood analysis was not considered before the meeting.

"The neighborhoods are not afforded the same timefame as the developer to analyze documentation," he said.

For landlocked Germantown, which also now has a school district to support, the challenge is sandwiching dense, multistory developments next to existing residential neighborhoods and managing the traffic from both on an established grid of roadways.

If TraVure is approved next month by the planning commission, it likely will be the first installment in Germantown's Western Gateway, a pattern for upscale development for the 58 acres around Kirby. City staff and citizens created the plan together in 2013.

The task was to look at the area, which includes both undeveloped land and uses approaching obsolescence, and come up with the best way to structure the development if the opportunity arises.

Fogelman spearheaded the idea, and served on the committee.

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