City Council postpones action on Bluestone Town Center grant funds

Image of grassy land
The land on the corner of Garbers Church Road and Erickson Avenue is the site for the planned Bluestone Town Center. (Photo by Bridget Manley)

By Calvin Pynn, contributor

The Harrisonburg City Council was set to discuss Bluestone Town Center project once again at Tuesday’s meeting but decided to hold off until the next meeting because two members were out of town. 

Council members Chris Jones and Monica Robinson were in Atlanta for the National League of Cities conference. The rest of the council — Mayor Deanna Reed, Vice Mayor Laura Dent and Dany Fleming — will leave for the conference on Wednesday. 

The meeting agenda had called for council members to consider a resolution to designate the Bluestone Town Center property off of Garbers Church Road and Erickson Avenue as a revitalization area. If adopted, the resolution would allow the project to receive grant funds from Virginia Housing to lay the groundwork for the development. 

The Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority partnered with investment advisory firm EquityPlus to propose the Bluestone Town Center project. It will be a mixed-use housing development that is expected to include around 900 units — among them affordable housing. 

Redesignating that portion of the city as a revitalization area would acknowledge that economic development could attract commercial investments that would otherwise not be possible because of a lack of housing in that area.  

City Manager Ande Banks clarified that Virginia Housing had already awarded the grant to Bluestone, but the city council would need to approve the resolution for the project to actually receive the funds. 

Reed said she had asked to postpone the item until all council members could be there to vote. It is expected to be on the Nov. 28 meeting’s agenda.  

“I just wanted to make sure, because of this particular property, that all members of council would probably want to be present,” Reed said. 

The city council approved a zoning change earlier this year to allow for Bluestone Town Center in a 3-2 vote. This followed months of debate and strong opinions from community members. A February meeting stretched deep into the night with more than four hours of public comment in response to the project. 

City Attorney Chris Brown confirmed for the council that postponing the discussion on the grant resolution wouldn’t affect the Bluestone project’s timeline.

“They would like to do it as soon as possible, though” Brown said. 

Other highlights from the meeting

  • City Council started the meeting by recognizing the Berry Family, who organizes the annual Brent Berry Food Drive, named for the family’s son. Last year’s food drive, which ran from Nov. 25 to Jan. 2, collected $65,000 in food and personal hygiene items for local families in need. The Berry family was also among the recipients of the 2023 Volunteerism and Community Service Awards, according to a press release from Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office. 
  • The council voted unanimously to appoint Andrew Hershberger to the Harrisonburg Electric Commision (HEC) board. Other appointments and reappointments to HEC, the Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission were on the agenda as well, but will be taken up at the next city council meeting on Nov. 28. 

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