Montgomery county supervisor April DeMotts (District G) is to be commended for organizing and putting on YouTube the old BHS Listening Forum.
However, like the town council meetings and the Board of Supervisors meetings, the racial, ethnic and economic cross section of the community was not represented.
This makes the comments biased and conclusions questionable. The biggest player in our community is Virginia Tech. The student population adds about 40,000 individuals to the county’s census statistics.
Tech students vote in local elections, use local parks and recreation facilities, but do not pay local real estate or personal property taxes to support the local infrastructure of the towns and county.
People speaking at the Forum wanted several outcomes:
• Sell the old BHS property to the Town of Blacksburg
• Preserve the property as green space
• Continue to make the track available to the community
• Provide more playing fields for lacrosse and soccer
• Speakers opposed the building of a housing development on the property, because some use it for walking and walking with their dogs.
In order to keep the property in the town of Blacksburg, the county would be expected to accept the town’s offer of $2.3 million over the Shelor group’s offer of $3 million. $3 million is more than $2.3 million. If there are problems with the Shelor offer, the problems are with the contract not the price.
The money from this sale is going to the Montgomery County Public Schools. The schools need the money, especially with a loss of $400,000 in state funding last year, and another shortfall in the schools’ needs-based budget this year.
People wanting to preserve green space were absent when two properties, one on Prices Fork and the other on Givens Lane, were rezoned.
The farm on Prices Fork was rezoned to be developed into housing for “young professionals” and graduate students. It has become undergraduate housing for Tech students. Playing fields for lacrosse and soccer could have easily been made from the farm’s field.
These fields were also used recreationally by outdoorsmen. The property on Givens Lane had green space with a mature stand of trees providing shade for the people using the property for their homes. Those people were the low income families, disabled and seniors living on Social Security.
None of the people stepping up to speak to preserve the green space at the old BHS site were at the meetings that took this property to be developed. This developer claims to be building affordable/senior housing.
Like the property on Prices Fork, it will become undergraduate student housing for Tech undergraduates. The ethnical, racial and economic cross-section of local full time residents has not been represented in the discussion about the old Blacksburg High School property. It has become partisan and economic elitism.
The large number of “me’s, mine’s and I’s” heard from speakers at the Forum leads to questions about how sincere those speakers were about preserving green space and not developing the property, or just meeting their needs..
As it stands, selling the property to Shelor will benefit the county and the schools more than selling it back to the town.
Finally, the county supervisors and town council must come together to represent the best interests of the residents who make their homes in Montgomery County year-round.