Fishburn Park coffee shop approved for rezoning plans, set to go before Roanoke City Council

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 7:36 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A coffee shop is one step closer to opening its doors in Fishburn Park after it received unanimous approval Monday from the planning commission.

The commission approved rezoning plans for the business ‘Fishburn Perk’ because members believe it will have a positive economic impact on the city.

However, there are several community members who oppose the project because of all the land that surrounds where the coffee shop would go.

”They don’t need so much land to do their plan,” resident Freeda Cathcart said.

Opponents are concerned by the board approving use of the abandoned caretaker’s cottage and the 1.1 acres of land on Brambleton Avenue, saying the public won’t be able to use as much of the park.

“I like restoring old houses, but the city should not sell park land nor cause more flooding,” resident Barbara Duerk said. “There is a better way.”

But developers Keri and Justin vanBlaricom explained they have no intention of keeping the community off the hill.

“With the zoning that we actually asked for, it can’t be anything in the future,” vanBlaricom said. “Anything in addition to what we’ve submitted on the plan has to come right back through this whole process, which we don’t plan on ever doing again.”

Supporters at the meeting explained they look forward to another family business in the neighborhood.

“Imagine taking your kids sleigh riding down the hill, which everybody in the neighborhood does, and come back up the hill and have hot chocolate with your family,” resident Dalton Baugess said.

The vanBlaricoms bought the property for $10, but plan to invest at least $150,000 into renovations.

Before the commission’s unanimous approval, some members compared the project plans to the Green Goat restaurant and other businesses along Roanoke’s Greenway. Member James Smith explained bringing new life to the old building at Fishburn Park is good for the city.

“The city’s not in the market of renovating buildings and running operations out of older buildings,” Smith said. “It was good that somebody stepped up and invested in Roanoke City.”

The project will now go before Roanoke City Council at its next meeting May 15. The vanBlaricoms want to keep working with community members throughout this process and encourage everyone to make their voices heard at the next council meeting.