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  • Jeremy Hart, Real Estate Professional in Blacksburg

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« The Ever-Evolving Nature of the Blog | Main | They Call It The Tower of Power »

October 20, 2008

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Joel McDonald

I too find it interesting that a "green project" is proposing a location that will add tens of thousands of extra commuting miles per year due to the fact that most residents will still commute into the city for their jobs.

The carbon footprint of that extra commute alone could wipe out a lot of the "green" factors of this development.

Jeremy Hart

Joel, that's a good point - I had that in my notes when I was writing that post, but failed to put it in. It'd be an interesting study, to know exactly how many miles would be saved.

To their credit, the Blacksburg Transit is converting much - if not all - of their fleet to Biodiesel. Steps in the right direction ...

Bonnie Cranmer

How strange that such a major investment of planning, time & money has received such little public discussion... Affordable housing has always been a challenge. Where, how many units, all the gory details, but in these times when more people are needing affordable housing in a convenient location to where they work, providing necessary affordable workforce to the community, why are Montgomery County officials creating a separate location for people who need to be connected? Doesn't seem to make sense, logistically or ethically.

Jeremy Hart

It feels like there's a disconnect between the Cool Cities designation and implementation of some of these ideals, Bonnie. It's an opportunity to really stand out and put power behind the words, but seems to be falling short. I just read on SWVABloggers.com a similar post by Michael Miller ... he's got a bit more vitriol (I think, anyway, but I've just been waiting to use that word ALL DAY!) going than I do, but his point is a good one, I think: it smells of a half-hearted attempt at making a difference, in my opinion.

Mike

Jeremy,
I want to point out that the proposed property IS in town limits and adjoins property recently sold to Montgomery County for the new football stadium. It is not located where your map indicates. The idea that this property is too far from downtown is absurd. Va. Tech is the major employer in the area, not downtown businesses. I'm all for a thriving downtown, but that is not where the jobs are. For everyday needs, this location has grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and the University Mall area quite close by. Yes, Prices Fork is the main way into town from this property, but it's a four lane road quite capable of handling the traffic. The bike path system extends to Hethwood and the developer would be required to tie into it, allowing people access to other parts of town without having to get ont Prices Fork. The B.T. already makes a loop through Hethwood/Foxridge. Extending to this location doesn't seem to add much to scheduling/ rerouting issues in my opinion.

Kamilia Lawson, Community Housing Partners

It is important to note that while there are indeed many EarthCraft Certified Houses in Virginia, there are currently no EarthCraft Certified Communities in Virginia.

EarthCraft House is a green building program for constructing/renovating homes to specific criteria and meeting guidelines that are focused on features that include energy efficiency, durability, indoor air quality, and water conservation.

EarthCraft Communities, on the other hand, is a green building program for larger planned residential developments with criteria and guidelines that are focused on the homes being built, as well as low impact development of the site overall. This certification encompasses elements of EarthCraft House, while also addressing such issues as site selection, land disturbance, transportation infrastructure, and community design.

Please visit the EarthCraft website for more detailed information:
http://www.earthcrafthouse.com/index.html

Learn more about the EarthCraft New Homes program:
http://www.earthcrafthouse.com/About/newhomes.htm

Learn more about EarthCraft Communities program:
http://www.earthcrafthouse.com/About/communities.htm

Learn more about EarthCraft Piedmont Communities and see a list of all the EarthCraft Piedmont Certified Communities to date:
http://www.earthcrafthouse.com/communities/piedmont.htm

Jeremy Hart

Kamilia, thanks for the comment. I've done a little research into EarthCraft before so I'd seen some of those links before, but I'm confused. I was under the impression that the Mt. Tabor Meadows project in Blacksburg was an EarthCraft Community site, and not just EarthCraft certified. You say that's not the case, correct? Learn something new every day ...

Heather Toro Derrick

Jeremy - Kamilia is correct in that there is a difference between EarthCraft certified homes and EarthCraft certified communities. Mt. Tabor Meadows is the first subdivision in Blacksburg to have all the homes certified EarthCraft. The EarthCraft Communities program was not available until after that project began, and includes signficant site planning requirements, such as emphasis on walkability and bikability, native landscaping, focus on water conservation and quality and preserve greenspaces and trees. It also requires a significant investment; initial program fees start at $15,000 and there is a considerable amount of coordination with the EarthCraft Community staff during site development. Southface held two pilot programs in Georgia (2003, 2005) but the program was not available for developers until recently.

That being said, the new site is 3.75 miles (Mt. Tabor Meadows BTW is only 2.58 miles) from the heart of downtown Blacksburg and Virginia Tech, and depending where you are going is close to services, shopping, etc. The fact that the TOB is willing to extend bus services shows their commitment to having some sort of affordable housing development within the Town limits.

I think the real issue here is something I picked up on in Bonnie's comment and a previous post of yours on the issue: lack of real public discussion. An extensive amount of work has gone into this project, and while this wasn't CHP's and TOB's first choice of site (it's actually the third), there has been a real lack of public awareness and motivation. In my opinion (and you know what they say about opinions), the intentions are good and they probably have already done the exhaustive work to ensure there is not a better site. I think the problem is TOB/CHP have done this before, done it well, and just never anticipated that this would have happened. Nor did they think they would need to spend time and energy marketing this to the general public.

So what's missing in addition to a lack of affordable housing in Blacksburg? Someone educating and organizing the citizens of Blacksburg so that they don't become the silent majority. Isn't an informed, involved and active citizenship part of building sustainable communities?

Jeremy Hart

Heather, thanks for the comment. Yes, I read up on the difference between EarthCraft Certified homes and communities. Lots of information there ...

I think you're 100% right ... lack of public discussion fuels dissent. I'm sure there are lots of people who would have appreciated an open discussion regarding the project, it's proposed location(s), etc.; when the article I referenced from our Council members was published, there had been no formal announcement at all regarding an agreement between the land owner and the CHP. That raised red flags with me, and I'm sure with others as well. In digging into it a bit more, I've learned a great deal and in fact discovered that I was not entirely accurate with the map I provided, so a retraction is necessary on my part as well.

You asked the question "Isn't an informed, involved and active citizenship part of building sustainable communities?"

Yes ... how do you get there? With discussion like we're having here, that's one way.

Heather Toro Derrick

Jeremy, I totally agree, and thank you for encouraging discussion on not only this topic, but many others as well! Hopefully, more businesses and organizations will take advantage of forums like this and see their value. If they really want to organize a community, they should tap people who are actively educating themselves and others, spurring dialogue and get them involved in the process. Thanks for giving me something to read every morning!

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