VINTON–With Veteran’s Day coming up on November 11, the Town of Vinton honored its employees who have served in the armed forces at its council meeting on Nov. 3.
Those veterans are Wayne Bernard, Melvin Ferguson, and Kevin Orange from the Public Works Department, Officer Silas Chapman, Officer Terry Pittman, Sgt. Fabricio Drumond, and Sgt.Greg Quesinberry from the Police Department, Lt. Chad Helms, Captain Chris Linkous, and Lt. John Hobbs from the Fire Department, and Mayor Brad Grose.
Vice Mayor Matt Hare thanked the veterans for their service and commented that the country is able to hold “free and fair elections because of the sacrifice of veterans.” He read from John 15:13—“Greater love hath no one than this,that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Ferguson served in the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard for a total of 24 years, having enlisted in 1956. He left the service as a Sergeant (E5). Ferguson said his main job was as a cook, including cooking for the troops in the woods when they were in the field on maneuvers.
Grose served in the Army in Korea from 1966 to 1968 during the Vietnam Era. He worked in communications and left the service as a Sergeant–Specialist 5. He worked as a communication specialist.
Helms served in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany from 1996 to 2001 and in the Army Reserves from 2001-2003. He left the service as a corporal and worked in communication repair.
A reception for the veterans who work for the town was held prior to the council meeting.
Council also recognized the town’s new assistant town manager, Pete Peters, who will begin working for the town on December 7. Peters is a William Byrd graduate.
“In a strong applicant pool, Pete rose to the top,” said Town Manager Chris Lawrence.
Council heard an updated briefing on the Roland E. Cook Loft development from David Hill of Old School Partners LLC which is developing the property. Two of his partners, attorney David Spigle and builder Greg Rhodes were also in attendance. Hill described the renovations as a “century project” since the cornerstone indicates that the school was built in 1915.
The Planning Commission public hearing on rezoning the property to Mixed Use Development (MUD) is scheduled for November 5. The issue will return to Town Council for a public hearing on the rezoning on November 17 at 7 p.m.
Anita McMillan, Director of Planning and Zoning in Vinton, said that neighbors had been notified by letter of the proposed redevelopment in mid-October. Only two responded—one expressing strong support, the other opposed to the plan because of concerns about the addition of more apartments to the area.
Twenty–five people attended the Open House on October 12 held at Vinton Wesleyan Church across from the school–the majority “excited about the proposed project and happy that the building was not going to be demolished,” according to a staff report.
Hill told council that one of the biggest changes to the building will be the restoration of the windows, which were replaced in the 1970’s. The ceilings will also be raised to the original height. In fact, the ceilings are so high on the top floor that they made be able to add mezzanine lofts to some apartments. A total of 21 upscale studio and loft apartments are proposed for the property.
The developers plan to leave the trees on the property as they have discovered that some were planted as memorials to various individuals.
Hill said that the renovations will include an elevator which will be located in the area of the principal’s office in the old school and will rise to the area behind the stage on the third floor. Ramps will be constructed outside the structure to meet ADA requirements.
Mayor Grose commented on the “spectacular views” which include downtown Roanoke, Mill Mountain, and Parkway Wesleyan, in addition to the mountains.
The building is a National Registry Property. The town, county, and Old School Partners are hoping to obtain historic tax credits with approval from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR).
Lawrence commented on the “smooth, professional relationship” between the town and Roanoke County. Jill Loope, the Director of Economic Development for the county, and Phil Thompson, Deputy Director for Planning for Roanoke County, were once again on hand for the discussions.
When questioned by council on the market for and marketability of the proposed development, Hill said that interest expressed has ranged from young adults to “empty-nesters.” Some attended the school; others want to live where they are able to walk downtown or to the library; others are downsizing or want a home without the responsibilities of yard maintenance.
Loope said that the development is “following national trends for revitalizing historic structures in urban and town environments and enhancing walkability in neighborhoods.”
Councilwoman Janet Scheid asked about moving the utility lines underground. There was discussion of appropriate uses for the third floor gymnasium area to maintain the historic character required by DHR. One aspect of the gymnasium especially significant to DHR is the “proscenium arch” which frames the stage.
In other business council was briefed on the proposed renewal of the existing franchise agreement with Roanoke Gas which expires at the end of 2015. A public hearing will be held on November 17 on the proposal which will allow Roanoke Gas to continue to provide natural gas services to Town of Vinton customers. The town has conferred with neighboring localities–Roanoke City, Roanoke County, and the City of Salem. The consensus is that the agreement is “fair and equitable.” Roanoke Gas will pay the three localities in aggregate the sum of $98,196 in 2016. The agreement will extend the franchise for 20 years.
John D’Orazio, president, and CEO of the company was present to answer questions.
Members of town staff and council commented on the ongoing cordial relationship and partnership between the gas company and the town.
The evening concluded with a review of the Vinton Area Corridors Plan Study and Downtown Revitalization Plan by Lawrence as council considers appropriate uses of the soon-to-be-vacant old library building which is owned by Roanoke County and possible rezoning which might become necessary.