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IN THE ZONE OF POSSIBILITY?
SoVaNow.com / February 03, 2014In his latest salvo in a rezoning dispute with the Town of South Boston, local businessman and developer John Cannon is touting plans for “Commons at the Crossing” — a four-story apartment complex that would sit across the Dan River from downtown.
“You have to have a dream,” said Cannon in a media statement on the project issued Friday — but, he added, it is also necessary for South Boston to keep its current zoning rules in place in Riverdale that “support this type of progressive construction.
“Fear is that future rezoning plans would make this ‘vision’ an impossibility,” Cannon noted in his statement.
As envisioned by Cannon, the complex would serve as student housing for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, aiding its eventual transformation into a residential college institution.
“Such a collective presence of students, teachers and administrative faculty to the downtown of South Boston is an opportunity for growth of new businesses in downtown, as well as, support for the existing businesses,” wrote Cannon in his statement.
Cannon and other business owners in Riverdale, on Seymour Drive and in other parts of town have criticized the South Boston zoning proposal, which would create a new set of 14 zoning districts to govern residential, commercial and industrial development.
Business owners have criticized the proposed changes as burdensome, unfriendly to development and overly vague, all which would hamper growth in commercial areas and for the community as a whole, they say.
Cannon, who chairs the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority, said in his statement that he is prepared to do his part to create this future growth, noting that he and Ward Burton, as owners of the six-acre site of the former Victory Warehouse by the banks of the Dan, intend to donate the land for the “Commons at the Crossing” for use by the Southern Virginia Higher Education.
By providing housing for up to a campus population of up to 6,000, the Commons project would help the SVHEC to “grow beyond anyone’s greatest desires.
“The ‘Commons at the Crossing’ is almost a once in a life chance to make such a bold impact to the economic growth of our town, our home!” effused Cannon.
In recent remarks to Town Council, Cannon said he does not oppose the new zoning ordinance so long as it does not restrict multi-family housing in the new Dan River District, envisioned for the Riverdale commercial zone.
Contacted over the weekend, South Boston Councilman Coleman Speece — who heads the Town’s Finance Committee — said Cannon has shared his plans with him. Calling the plan very interesting, Speece said he expects Council, the South Boston Planning Commission and Town Manager Ted Daniel to work in cooperation with Cannon to see that the project is carried out.
“It’s very exciting,” said Speece.
Speece noted that the proposed zoning plan is set to come up for approval at the February meeting of Town Council. Speece commented that a proposal to allow conditional zoning — a recommendation put forth by Town Manager Ted Daniel — could allay Cannon’s concerns on the impact of the new zoning ordinance.
Cannon’s letter, e-mailed Friday to this newspaper, reads as follows:
A MAN WITH ANOTHER DREAM
In 1970 a young man came to South Boston with $7,000.00 and a dream. He started a business, Climate Control, in hopes it would fill a need for the citizens of Halifax County and the surrounding areas while also providing for his family. Over the next 28 years with the help of many dedicated team players and scores of loyal customers the business far surpassed what this young man with a two year technical degree from DTI (now DCC) could have ever dreamed.
The buildings which house the Prizery and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center are the results of his admiration for the beauty of the old tobacco buildings. His hope was that they could be brought back to life someday. A group of people saw the great need for continuing education in this community, as well as the arts and worked endless hours for many, many years to make it happen. John Cannon and the late Bob Harris and family bought two dilapidated buildings and restored them to useable structures, now known as The Prizery and the SVHEC. This reality was the result of a partnership with folks that shared the same vision both for the arts and continuing education.
Now fast forward to 2014…”Commons at the Crossing.”
Picture this…four tri-level student living quarters with a commercial parking garage underneath ramped to the John Randolph Bridge. Historically faithful to the already beautiful structures that make up both the campus of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and The Prizery, these living quarters would significantly enhance the entry corridor to the Town of South Boston. Right now the current zoning ordinances for the Town of South Boston support this type of progressive construction. Fear is that future re-zoning plans would make this “vision” an impossibility.
Mr. Cannon has worked hard in strategically and diligently obtaining 6 acres of land at the site of the former Victory Warehouse in Riverdale to house this heartfelt “dream”. Presently, it is his vision but he is hoping, through public education, to make it the collective vision of the Town of South Boston. Our iconic Southern Virginia Higher Education Center is growing every day, enrolling more and more students. At present there is a campus population of around 5,000 to 6,000 students, but no available housing. The envisioned “Commons at the Crossing” is only a ¼ mile from the SVHEC and would provide welcomed housing, not to mention much needed housing. Just as the buildings for the SVHEC and the Prizery were donated by John Cannon and the late Bob Harris and family, the Harris family also donated the Innovation Center. So it is, the intention of John Cannon and Ward Burton, to donate the land for the “Commons at the Crossing”.
To that same end, such a collective presence of students, teachers and administrative faculty to the downtown of South Boston is an opportunity for growth of new businesses in downtown, as well as, support for the existing businesses. His sincere belief to the positive outcome of this proposed project can be seen in the time and resources put into this already. From the development of the renderings of the proposed structure, to the submission of the necessary FEMA regulatory applications and to the tireless hours working with the members of the Town Council, it is evident how much he believes in the future of the SHVEC to the overall economy of Halifax County. South Boston has a dynamic opportunity to not only enhance the visual aesthetics’ of our downtown, but also an opportunity to enable our SVHEC to grow beyond anyone’s greatest desires. The future of the Town of South Boston is grounded in the growth of our community. The workforce, both young and old, that are currently obtaining their degrees from the SVHEC also are representative of this same growth. What better way to support the educational pursuits of our local community, as well as, the greater counties and communities that border Halifax County than providing student living quarters and commercial parking. The “Commons at the Crossing” is almost a once in a life chance to make such a bold impact to the economic growth of our town, our home!
Call it crazy but this old man continues to see the potential for Halifax County. You have to have a dream!
CommentsOK- a while back Cannon was banging the drum wanting to eliminate Riverdale and turn it into a wetlands park. Now he wants to build housing in that same known flood plain?
Victory Warehouse plot was one of the first to go underwater when the Rio Dan breached its banks...
- By powerhouse on 02 / 03 / 14
CommentsAll those years of flooding, I guess it took the geniuses with the Army Corps of Engineers that long to figure out high water requires a larger opening in their control gates.
- By Just wondering on 02 / 03 / 14
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