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COLLEGIATETIMES

july 17, 2008

what’s inside News.............2 Features ........6 0pinions........5 Sports ...........7 Classifieds ...11 Sudoku........11 105th year issue 67 blacksburg, va.

Sonic rejection results in lawsuit GABRIEL MCVEY

ct news reporter Arbitrary. Capricious. Unreasonable. Unfair. Discriminatory. Bearing no substantial relation to public health, safety and welfare. That’s how attorneys for Fairmount and Sonic describe Blacksburg Town Council’s recent decision not to issue a special use permit for the building of a Sonic drive-in restaurant. Now they’ve taken the matter to court. In a July 9 filing, plaintiffs sued the town in Montgomery County Circuit Court for injunctive relief to overturn the 4-3 decision to disallow the special use permit. This is the latest in a series of lawsuits related to the First and Main development project between Blacksburg and developer Fairmount University Realty Trust. The suit alleges that disallowing the permit for Sonic, which was to be located on an outparcel of the main development along South Main Street, while allowing one for a Wendy’s across the street that would abut residential areas, shows the town government is seeking “victory against a disfavored developer and landowner” and is engaging in discriminatory conduct. The property in question is commercially zoned and is in the town’s general commercial district. The lot abuts U.S. Highway 460 and is designated for high-impact development. The land on all sides is developed or currently under development for commercial use. Council member Paul Lancaster said that the property had been specifically set aside for such

development. “If a drive-in restaurant is not appropriate there, it’s not appropriate anywhere in Blacksburg,” Lancaster said. Fast food establishments are by right permitted by the Blacksburg zoning code. Drive-in restaurants, however, must seek a special-use building permit to begin construction. In a 4-3 vote in June, the Blacksburg town council rejected the Sonic plan, citing concerns over pedestrian access and safety, traffic flow and congestion, and even worries about the level of pollution from idling cars at the drive-in. Since 2006, the council and Fairmount have been locked in a fight over a 40-acre commercial redevelopment project on South Main Street. The most contentious part of the project is a big-box retail store widely thought to be a Wal-Mart Supercenter that Fairmount wants to build along Country Club Drive. In 2007, Fairmount won a case in Montgomery County Circuit Court over ordinance 1450, which the council passed after Fairmount submitted site plans for the 186,000-square-foot, big-box store. The ordinance requires a specialuse permit for any retail building larger than 80,000 square feet. The town has spent $147,000 on legal fees fighting the big-box store, including a pending request for an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court. The Planning Commission considered the possibility of 24-hour traffic, limiting the permit to a 6 a.m. to midnight operation, restricting trash pickup to daylight hours and “Sonic

MATT BOONE/SPPS

Fairmount has sued Blacksburg over Town Council’s refusal to grant a special use permit request. Sonic hoped to add another location in addition to its store in Christiansburg. Radio” broadcasts under the outdoor dining canopy from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Councilwoman Mary Holliman said that she had not seen sufficient mitigation of public concerns about noise and congestion. “We have an integrated plan, and part of that plan is to make pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly developments,” Holliman said before her vote

Tech to offer scholarships to low-income students BRAD SHAPIRO

ct news reporter The Virginia Tech Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid plans on introducing a new scholarship for the fall of 2009. The intent of the scholarship is to target low-income students with a strong academic record. The program, named the Virginia Tech Presidential Scholarship Initiative, is targeted at students who are eligible for the Pell Grant. Named for Senator Claiborne Pell, the Pell Grant is a federal grant to low income students sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. Eligibility for the grant is used by many programs across the country as a proxy for eligibility in their scholarship programs. According to an official Virginia Tech press release, the purpose of the scholarship is to “reward and assist

academically talented, low-income high school students from Virginia who demonstrate persistence and a commitment to academic excellence despite adverse life situations.” To be eligible for the scholarship, students must graduate from a state high school, be a resident of Virginia, be a United States citizen, demonstrate an exemplary academic record and display evidence of leadership potential. Also taken into consideration is whether or not the candidate would be a first generation college enrollee. “This will go to the neediest of the needy,” said Barry Simmons, director of scholarships and financial aid. “We are trying to expand our reach to lowincome groups.” Tech has plans to award 50 of the new scholarships, which will cover tuition, fees, room and board. The scholarship will be renewable, provided that the student maintains at least a 3.0 QCA. If tuition were to

remain unchanged, the scholarship would be worth around $55,000 per recipient. Eventually the scholarship should support 200 of the roughly 30,000 students on campus. At the current tuition rates, these 200 scholarships would cost the university more than 2.5 million dollars per year. According the office of scholarships and financial aid, the goal of the scholarship is more than supporting low-income students. It is also encouraging low-income students to apply to Tech. With a greater applicant pool, more students with diverse backgrounds and perspectives will have the chance to study at Virginia Tech. “In recent years, we have been declining in Pell Grant recipients,” said Simmons. Simmons explained that many needy high school students simply

see INITIATIVE, page three

against the permit. “While a lot has been done to address these concerns, it just isn’t enough,” Holliman said. Zoning administrator Andrew Warren said the proposed Sonic Drive-In is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and met devel-

see SONIC, page three

news in brief FORMER STUDENT TO SERVE FIVE YEARS FOR ARSON Robert Andrew Lawson, 23 and former civil engineering student at Virginia Tech, was sentenced in the United States District Court to five years of jail time for arson. Larson had been found guilty of setting three fires that took place in Terrace View Apartments last July, August and September. The fires had been set in utility rooms of the apartment complex, including storage areas and laundry facilities. Lawson pleaded guilty to one count of arson in April of this year. Acting United States Attorney Julia C. Dudley said, “Mr. Lawson’s actions repeatedly put the lives of every tenant in that apartment complex at risk. I am pleased that Mr. Lawson has taken responsibility for his

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actions and I am satisfied that today’s sentence is appropriate given the potentially deadly consequences of his criminal conduct.” In addition to jail time, Lawson will have to pay $73,801.87 in restitution. —Bernadette White

SOUTH MAIN STREET TO CLOSE A portion of the right southbound lane of South Main Street will be completely closed to traffic between July 21 and Aug. 21. The area between the 1400 block and the 1600 block — from El Guadalupe to King Street — will be shut down. The closure will facilitate work near the First and Main project. A turn lane, curb, gutter and sidewalk will be constructed. —CT news staff


Thursday, July 17, 2008 Print Edition