New Retail Center Scheduled Near Roanoke, Va.

Dec. 18--A highly visible, once-agricultural tract fronting Interstate 81 at Plantation Road -- the Hollins exit -- is slated to be developed into a retail center anchored by a 58,000-square-foot Gander Mountain "outdoor lifestyles" store.

Minnesota-based Oppidan Investment Co. will ask the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday to provide $1 million to help build an access road to the site. The board meets at 3 p.m. at the Roanoke County Administration Center, 5204 Bernard Drive.

According to its Web site, Gander Mountain is a 47-year-old national chain that sells sporting goods and outdoors equipment. It was started in Wisconsin as a mail-order supply house for gun dealers.

Today, the chain boasts 105 stores in 22 states that sell hunting, fishing, hiking and camping supplies. The inventory includes such things as bait, tents, firearms, fishing gear, all-terrain vehicles and apparel.

The county proposes to grant $1 million from its public-private partnership fund to help the developers construct a $3 million access road to the site. The site is already zoned for commercial use, but "it has suffered from inferior access which has hampered its marketability to quality retailers," according to a staff report prepared for Tuesday's board meeting.

Oppidan has struck a deal with an adjoining landowner, the report said, that will allow construction of a new public road and the extension of utilities to the site from Plantation Road. The $1 million sought in county funds would cover the cost of the road and utility placement from Plantation to the boundary of the commercial development.

The proposed agreement calls for the developer to construct the Gander Mountain store, a 19,000-square-foot Camping World store and the new road in exchange for the $1 million grant.

The county staff report, which will be delivered by economic development director Doug Chittum, says "new tax revenues generated from the development are expected to provide the county with a three-and-a-half year payback on the grant amount." It adds that "this project will provide significant new tax revenue to Roanoke County, and will be a regional draw for retail shoppers to the Roanoke Valley."

A "conceptual development plan" for the property also calls for future construction of restaurants and a hotel on the 40-acre parcel.

Oppidan's Web site shows scores of completed development projects in numerous states, including more than 25 other Gander Mountain stores, the nearest of which is in Winchester.

Also on Tuesday, the supervisors will conduct a work session on the possibility of eliminating automobile tax decals by fiscal year 2008, and will consider final approval of a rules change that would limit "the opportunity for speakers to yield their time to another speaker to no more than nine minutes."

Copyright (c) 2006, The Roanoke Times, Va. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.