Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Countryside-Co-op: A Plan Is Offered Up

John Bryant of the Co-op: An offer has been made.

Here’s an interesting proposition for those of you with even a casual interest in the future of the former Countryside Golf Course: The Roanoke Valley Natural Foods Co-op has tendered an offer to the city to buy 12 acres of the course in order to farm it.

Says John Bryant, marketing director of the Co-op, “The Co-op did make an offer for a 12 acre plot. We're hopeful that the city accepts the offer and we can begin farming the land as a off-shoot of our business. Until the city makes a decision I can't say much more about it, but I'll certainly let you know when we hear back.”

Countryside, of course, has been at the center of a political storm for years. City officials want to create tax revenue from the undeveloped land, homeowners want few if any changes to the course and most of the rest of us want something to be done with the large open expanse that will benefit the Valley most. My friend Tom Cain, in fact, sees the future of the course as a combination teaching farm, flood preventative and open space. I like that idea best.

From what I understand from a knowledgeable source, the city has tentatively approved the Co-op's plan but the final selection of who gets this property will not be announced until August 1 at the earliest. Co-op officials are confident in their proposal, I'm told. Under the plan, the Co-op would continue to work with all of the local growers it now works with, but would be able to offer customers produce that typically is not being grown by others, and a greenhouse would provide winter produce, as well.

A retail market is planned for the property as part of the Co-op's plan. No organic, local offerings exist in that area.

The next official step is for Valerie Garner to weigh in. Can't do anything with Countryside without a Val consultation.


  1. It would have been nice to be informed of it when I asked. Chris Chittum of the Planning Department said the "interested party" wanted it kept confidential - HA!

    This is what ticks me off ... find out like this. Well it is not a surprise what was going on the Portland parcel and I guess we didn't really care who all that much but to say it had to be kept confidential when obviously Bryant didn't care ... that's what drives me bananas. This is in the master plan for the Portland parcel that is undevelopable due to being in the direct flight path of runway 6 and NOISY. In the 80s homes were removed from the land and the airport purchased using eminent domain. The city just swapped land to widen the RPZ. Then the city was left with this parcel they could not put homes or anything else on ... so agriculture it is.

  2. Val: John was tentative about talking about this and worried that saying anything might have a negative effect. He was very careful in what he said (you see the quote). Most of the info came from elsewhere before I talked to John.

  3. The following comment is from Rick Williams and was posted on my Facebook page. I don't normally pull those comments over to the blog, but this was too good not to:


    In her comments on your blog post, Valerie isn’t correct when she says that ag is going on the Portland parcel because nothing else could be put there. The first versions of the Countryside plan showed community ball fields on Portland. (Community fields are not neighborhood amenities for children. They are lighted to some professional standards, are used as money makers for Parks & Rec, and aren't very neighborhood friendly). Only after the public input meeting at Fleming was the plan changed to definitively show urban farming on Portland. And that was because I spent 4 hours pitching urban farming and an associated farmers market as an accelerator for small scale village center development in the Countryside neighborhood and asking people who agreed to post supportive comments. I serve on the planning commission and I push the same concept for all neighborhoods non-existent village centers are shown on city comp plan land use maps. I do so because public markets are great for attracting people. And nearby urban farming is a perfect support for public markets. People gathering with their neighbors in a community market will attract other businesses. Seems to be a credible strategy for bootstrapping village center development. And Roanoke has no competing strategy for creating village centers where they don't exist. Since 2001 when the comp plan was adopted there has been no movement on village center development outside of Grandin Village and South Roanoke. If the urban farming and public market work as hoped, Countryside will be the first.