Glass plant gets green light from planners

The Roanoke County Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to repeal covenants on the Vinton Business Center so Cardinal Glass Industries can build a factory on the site.

The vote came six days after Vinton and Roanoke County announced that Cardinal is receiving more than $1.3 million worth of incentives to build a 220,000-square-foot factory in the industrial park on the 100-acre old McDonald Farm along Hardy Road. The county and town are joint developers of the property.

The covenants were intended to mitigate damage that development will do to the view from a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that's been designated a Last Chance Landscape by advocacy group Scenic America. Janet Scheid, the county's chief planner, told the planning commission Tuesday that parkway planner Gary Johnson is comfortable with the proposal because the plant site is no longer considered a "critical view."

"I think it is fair to say that on this piece of property they have drastically pulled back their area of concern," Scheid said.

The land has been zoned for industrial use since 1999, Scheid pointed out, and there is no parkway overlook in the area.

The development plan calls for a 50-foot-deep buffer of trees along the property's edge and the preservation of some wetland. On Friday, Johnson called that "kind of a fallback position."

"It's not what we want to see happen everywhere, but I think it works here," he said.

The Cardinal plant will fabricate an insulated glass sandwich that will be used in products made at the Integrity Windows plant planned for another county industrial park. Cardinal says the factory will employ about 70 workers initially, increasing to 200 within 30 months of opening. Starting wages will be about $8 an hour.

Two neighbors of the planned development expressed concern about the dozen tractor-trailers expected to arrive at the factory daily.

Fred Cramer, who lives in a neighborhood across Hardy Road from the business center, said residents had been told the land would be developed as a retail center, then as a light industrial park, then as a technology park.

"And now it seems that we're going to have heavy industry there with all the attendant trucks," Cramer said.

Lloyd Enoch, who lives in Montgomery Village on the western edge of the business center, agrees that the county and town have "deviated from what they said in the first place" about the property's development.

Everyone seems concerned about the view from the parkway, Enoch told the planning commission. "I'm very much concerned about the viewshed from my back yard."

Enoch said the fence on the old farm is in bad shape, there are nothing but scrub trees in what's supposed to be a buffer zone, and he's worried about safety and mosquito breeding in the retention pond the town and county plan to put near his property.

The retention pond is meant to be an amenity, Vinton Town Manager Clay Goodman said. It may be stocked with fish, and a trail is planned to wind around the pond and the rest of the business center, he said. The trail may even be linked with the valley's greenways and parkway trails, Goodman said.

Cramer, who has lived in the area since 1948, said, "I just hate to see another 100 acres of green go by the boards and get paved over."

The board of supervisors will vote on the covenants' repeal later this month.

600450 Glass plant gets green light from planners
Date: 9 October 2003

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