City of Roanoke amends zoning laws, paving way for new bus terminal

Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 9:31 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The ongoing fight to replace Roanoke’s aging bus transfer station took a step forward Monday night. City Council voted unanimously to change the city’s zoning laws, paving the way for the new station to be built.

Zoning had been the sticking point for the city. Building the transfer station on the planned site - a parking lot at the corner of Salem Avenue and Third Street - required a special exception permit. That permit was rejected by the board of zoning appeals in August.

The city’s response was to change the zoning laws, allowing a transit station to be built by right, almost anywhere downtown.

“We’re committed to getting a bus station that all of our citizens can utilize and deserve,” said Mayor Sherman Lea shortly before the vote.

The mayor also pushed back on the idea that council pushed through the zoning change solely to get its way. “I was just really taken back on how our integrity was questioned in this,” he said.

Members of council, including Bill Bestpitch, touted the zoning changes as a big win for Roanoke residents.

“Our moral obligation is to do what’s best for the city,” he said,"especially the people who are often overlooked."

In previous meetings, the bus transfer station has been a point of contention, with neighbors in the Salem Avenue area arguing it didn’t fit their community.

Monday night, all nine members of the public who spoke were in favor of the project.

“To locate the new transit facility outside the downtown district would be a terrible mistake," said one speaker, Walton Rutherford.

Another 20 people sent emails in favor of the zoning change.

The city still has plenty of work left to do on the transfer station project. Design work is still underway, along with an environmental review. The planning commission will also need to review and allow public comment on the final designs.

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