2018 highlights

Friends,

Now that we have welcomed the New Year, I wanted to update you about the Blacksburg Town Council’s work over the past 12 months. With a new mayor, new council members, and a special election behind us, this was a year of change for Blacksburg. But it was also a productive year in many areas:

  • Voted in favor of rezoning the Old Blacksburg Middle School property as a newly appointed member of the Blacksburg Planning Commission. The town and developers are working out the details on a development agreement, which governs the business aspects of the project such as the town’s contributions for public parking and infrastructure. Town Council anticipates voting on both the rezoning and development agreement in the coming months.
  • Reviewed rezoning requests for Hearthstone, Habitat for Humanity, Airport Acres, Cedar Run Overlook, Uptown, Research Center Drive, and Terrace View with an eye on neighborhood context and Blacksburg’s housing needs. In the case of Airport Acres, I voted against the rezoning. (In my role as a Planning Commissioner, I also voted on other rezoning requests which have not yet come to Town Council.)
  • Met with Virginia Tech officials to learn about the campus master plan and its impact on the Town of Blacksburg, especially downtown, and participated in public meetings with Development Strategies to plan for our downtown’s future.
  • Continued to support amenities that make Blacksburg a good place to live. For example, Council approved a lease with the new owners of the old Blacksburg High School to allow continued use of the recreation facilities and accepted and appropriated funds for the Mountain Bike Skills Park.
  • Supported the launch of the Roam New River Valley bike share—a successful partnership involving Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Montgomery County, and Virginia Tech.
  • Voted to expand the town boundary to add the Meadows park following a land donation from Montgomery County.
  • Voted to update the town code regarding picketing and demonstrations to clarify the process and add safety provisions.
  • Continued to advocate for our regional transportation needs as a representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization board and SmartWay Advisory Committee.
  • Approved resolutions in support of the Equal Rights Amendment and campaign finance limits and transparency.

Continue reading “2018 highlights”

A look back at 2017

Friends,

While the Blacksburg election may have grabbed local headlines in 2017, the Town Council continued its work throughout the year. I wanted to update you on a few of our accomplishments over the past 12 months:

  • Legalized new accessory apartments through a permit program, which encourages owner occupancy and provides an avenue for affordable home ownership
  • Established a council-appointed Business Relations Committee, which provides a forum for businesses to discuss development issues, make recommendations to improve the business climate, and provide input on the town’s economic development initiatives
  • Participated in preliminary discussions about the Old Blacksburg Middle School redevelopment, which will be one of the biggest land use issues facing Blacksburg in 2018
  • Voted to issue general obligation capital improvement bonds to finance almost $4.8 million in town infrastructure projects, ranging from roof replacements and sidewalk projects, to the golf course renovation and a feasibility study for a new police station
  • Voted for an ordinance to make street parking permits cheaper and improve the operation and enforcement of the permit parking system, along with a separate ordinance to create limited residential permit parking zones
  • Updated the apartment recycling ordinance to make recycling more convenient for residents
  • Accepted a donation of park land from the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors
  • Continued to advocate for our fair share of transportation funding as a town representative on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (I was also appointed to the SmartWay Advisory Committee)

Continue reading “A look back at 2017”

Accessory apartments

Tonight, I was proud to vote in favor of an ordinance to establish an accessory apartment permit program in Blacksburg. This is an issue that has been championed by Vice Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith over the years and came into fruition today.

These apartments go by many names: mother-in-law suites, basement apartments, garage apartments, granny flats, etc. They were popular in the early part of the 20th century but fell out of favor after World War II when suburban-style development began to take hold. In Blacksburg, they were allowed until 1976, when a town ordinance banned the construction of new accessory apartments due to concerns about occupancy, parking, and neighborhood character. In recent years, towns and cities around the country have begun to reconsider this housing type. I am pleased that Blacksburg has passed an ordinance that, while allowing accessory apartments, protects our neighborhoods and quality of life. Continue reading “Accessory apartments”

2014 highlights

Friends,

With the New Year just around the corner, I would like to take this time to update you about my past 12 months. This has been a busy but productive year on the Blacksburg Town Council:

Economic development

  • Began appointment as a town representative to the Blacksburg Partnership Board of Directors in January. Previously, I had served for over two years on the Blacksburg Housing and Community Development Advisory Board.
  • Voted for special signage districts for the LewisGale Montgomery Regional Hospital, the North End Center, and First & Main. (The First & Main request originally called for a nearly 400-square-foot LED screen on the side of the new IMAX building, but this was pulled before the 6-1 vote.)
  • Voted to purchase the old Nerve building behind The Cellar in order to expand parking there. The town also completed a downtown parking study with input from downtown businesses and added more handicap and motorcycle parking spaces. Continue reading “2014 highlights”

Sutphin: Let’s talk about solutions

The following op-ed originally appeared in The Roanoke Times on Dec. 7, 2014:

The logjam over the Old Blacksburg Middle School property has some doubting whether the 20-acre site in the heart of downtown Blacksburg has a future beyond an empty lot and occasional spats between governing bodies. But it certainly does.

Government handwringing over the property is not without cause: For the town, it has the potential to extend downtown with a high-quality, mixed-use development that adds to Blacksburg’s commercial and residential offerings. For the county, it brings much-needed revenue for a school system that has faced cuts from Richmond, as well as a pressing need for new schools in Blacksburg and eastern Montgomery County.

My colleagues Leslie Hager-Smith and John Bush have already explained the intricacies of town-county relations and the reason for the current impasse — namely, the contract between the county and its hand-picked developer, Fiddlers Green Partners. Despite these challenges, a solution does exist that will benefit both the town and county. Continue reading “Sutphin: Let’s talk about solutions”