It was a packed house Thursday night at the Family Resource Center as a diverse group of citizens came to voice their concerns about the Pear Street project up for vote at City Council on Monday.
Several people gave formal remarks including Leighton Powell, Executive Director of Scenic VA foundation. Bill Jenkins, a 23-year-resident of Church Hill, gave his opinion that the special use permit applied for at the Pear Street parcel cannot be approved from a legal perspective.
Several other long time residents spoke against the Pear Street Development as it currently stands. All argued that the building clearly violates the downtown Master Plan and Riverfront Plan which state that buildings next to the James River should be no more than 5 stories tall.
Head of city Planning Mark Olinger said that the parcel for Pear Street appears on some maps of the Master Plan and not on other maps so it is unclear whether or not it falls under auspices of the Downtown Master Plan. Several people then asked if a 15 story building is in the spirit of the Downtown Master Plan and Riverfront plan.
Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille then briefly shared that she has heard “divergent responses” about Pear Street and did not clearly state her position for or against Pear Street.
Questioning became more pointed and Ms.Newbille fielded a volley of queries from the audience . Several people voiced that approving this development would set an uncomfortable precedent for more high rises.
The general tone was of approval for development along the river, but devlopment that stays within 5 stories.
By the end of the meeting Newbille agreed to tell the developer that her constituents have stated that the plan as it currently stands is too tall. Most people supported the idea to vote “no” on the current plan and ask the developer to come back with another plan that is lower.
Newbille communicated at the meeting that she will not vote for the project at its current height. It was unclear if Newbille plans to vote “no” or simply delay the vote again.