Thursday, June 29, 2006

Eminent domain stars reveal legislative agenda

Richmond -- The stars of eminent domain reform in Virginia held a press conference Wednesday morning at the Patrick Henry buiding at Governor and Broad Street just off I-95, the former state Supreme Courthouse.

Senators John Edwards (Democrat, 21st), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican, 37th), and Delegate John Joannou (Democrat, 79th) spoke passionately about the core principles of reform they hope to advance in next year's session of the General Assembly.

Last session the legislators were unable to pass any eminent domain reform. However, 15 or so bills were consolidated into 2 competing bills. One would limit and the other expand the circumstances where local agencies can seize your home or business.

After driving from Charlottesville on my first eminent domain trip to the capitol, finding a place to park, and going through a sensitive metal detector, I sat down down at 9:25 for the last 15 minutes of the conference when star headliners were speaking. I was handed two fliers: 4 core principles and 14 examples of eminent domain abuses since 1998 in Virginia.

The first example may portend the wave of the future on this issue. The Va. Supreme Court ruled that Hampton could seize the Ottofaro property so the Industrial Development Authority can lease the land to developers. The court said public ownership is public use despite the clearly private uses intended for the property.

This type of eminent domain abuse has plenty of precedent. Public housing seizes land, clears and builds housing, and then rents it out for private residential use, typically to those who had lived there before the clearance.

Core Principles for Eminent Domain Reform in Commonwealth

(1) Prohibit Kelo-type abuses. Eminent domain to seize and sell for purpose of employment, economic development, or tax revenues.

(2) Prohibit taking for blight when property is not blighted.

(3) Re-establish property rights as co-equal with other Constitutional rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, and the right to vote.

(4) Recognize just compensation must be full compensation to include the many costs created by a seizure such as attorney's and appraiser's fees, and business losses.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Truth behind Downtown Mall slowly coming out

Events planned for the 30th anniversary of the Downtown Mall. All begin at 5 p.m.

June 30: The Downtown Mall’s past, present and future. City Hall.
July 6: Opening ceremonies. Central Place.
July 7: A celebration of downtown arts and entertainment.
July 8: Family day

Downtown Mall: Charlottesville's public square

By John Yellig, Daily Progress staff writer, June 25, 2006

Walking the Downtown Mall today, it’s hard to imagine cars passing that way. Willow oaks tower 30 feet above weathered bricks that seem more forest floor than paving material. Children burst from the Virginia Discovery Museum’s front door without a thought of looking both ways for traffic.

But 32 years ago, the main drag that would become the mall was awash with double-parkers and traffic jams as drivers motored east to west along East Main Street, the heart of the central business district.

Downtown had been struggling to maintain its economic foothold in the face of stiff competition from Barracks Road Shopping Center, which opened its first stores in 1958. The modern convenience and aesthetics of such suburban malls had over the previous decade drawn shoppers away from downtown, which business leaders at the time described as cluttered with utility wires and excessive signage, short on parking, hard to access and bedeviled by poorly maintained buildings.

Between 1966 and 1970, downtown’s share of Charlottesville’s total retail sales fell by 2.8 percent, while Barracks Road saw its share increase 14.2 percent.

Something had to be done.

In 1969, Downtown Charlottesville Inc., a collection of major business leaders, began to seriously push for something that had been bandied about for years as a way to bring shoppers back downtown: a pedestrian mall. Similar projects were in vogue as other American cities battled the same forces that were leaching the lifeblood from urban centers. This large-scale project would "put a new face on Charlottesville," boosters said when they presented the plan.

Charlottesville officials have a series of events planned for the 30th anniversary of the Downtown Mall. All begin at 5 p.m.

June 30: The Downtown Mall’s past, present and future. City Hall.
July 6: Opening ceremonies. Central Place.
July 7: A celebration of downtown arts and entertainment.
July 8: Family day

The $6 million, 20-year proposal envisioned a pedestrian mall stretching from West Second Street to Ridge Street, with South Street serving as the primary downtown thoroughfare. Water Street would be closed to traffic during the day.

The Planning Commission adopted the plan in 1969, and while it never came to fruition, the seed of building a mall had been sown. When leaders finally took the plunge, the mall they built would take decades to finally provide the returns they envisioned.

This week marks its 30th anniversary.

Moving ahead required major public relations work to win support, especially from local merchants.

"There were a lot of merchants that were concerned because they felt if they couldn’t see cars, there wouldn’t be anyone coming to the downtown," said Cole Hendrix, Charlottesville’s city manager from 1971 to 1995.

In the hopes of swaying public opinion, "Mall Day" was held April 13, 1971, to provide a glimpse of life with a pedestrian mall. Main Street was closed to traffic from Belmont Bridge to West Second Street, and the 400 block was designated a "model section," complete with landscaping and a sidewalk café. The band Reddog, "featuring hard rock and blues sounds," performed along with the Harmony Grits barbershop quartet and other acts, according to a Daily Progress article. Helicopters were on display at each end of the "mall."

"City’s first ‘Mall Day’ rated a hit," the Progress headline proclaimed.

Despite leaders’ best efforts, public opinion was still heavily opposed to the mall.

A local business owner took out an ad in The Daily Progress listing then-Councilor Mitchell Van Yahres’ home phone number and asking residents to call him to let him know how they felt.

"My wife took all my calls, and she hasn’t forgiven me," said Van Yahres, who went on to a long career in the House of Delegates.

Another ad told Director of Community Development Satyendra S. Huja, who would become one of the mall’s biggest advocates, to "go back to India."

But that’s OK with him.

"I performed the lightning-rod function," he said.

In February 1974, Councilors Van Yahres and Charles L. Barbour cast the only votes in favor of building the mall. The rest of the council - Mayor Francis Fife and Councilors Jill Rinehart and George Gilliam - abstained because of potential conflicts of interest.

Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day, 1975, traffic stopped on East Main Street forever. Barricades went up and construction began.

Disruptions to life downtown were common, as construction equipment rolling across earth made raw from the street’s removal broke underground water mains, creating a muddy mess.

"It was an awful mess," Van Yahres said. "That’s when everybody hated it. I figured we’d gone too far by then [to turn back]."

The construction woes only added to the controversy, with names such as "Cole’s Hole," in honor of the city manager, "Council’s Folly" and "Little Watergate" suggested as appropriate titles for the new public space.

On July 3, 1976, a final, commemorative brick was laid at Central Place in front of a decorative, modern-art fountain, and the new mall was official. The fountain, comprising a pool surrounded by three stone obelisks, is supposed to represent Three Chopt Road, which set the alignment for Main Street. The road was identified by three slashes cut into trees.

Originally, the mall was only five blocks long, stretching from East Fifth Street to First Street, partly owing to a threatened lawsuit from a business owner and a shortage of funds for a proposed extension down side streets.

Several months before the dedication, a Daily Progress story touted the new mall a "commercial renaissance," and noted an increasingly tight market for rental space, increasing sales and the popularity of the new Market Street Parking Garage, which had opened the previous summer.

While several businesses closed or relocated during the construction because of the extensive disruptions, officials deemed the first years of the mall relatively successful. The honeymoon didn’t last long, however.

"It worked well the first couple of years, then it started to have its problems, and then it went all the way to looking like it was a failure," Van Yahres said.

In 1978, talk turned to redeveloping the far western end of the mall, the former site of the historically black Vinegar Hill neighborhood. The area had sat empty since the neighborhood was razed in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal.

In 1983, the city loaned a developer $9.5 million to build a hotel and conference center and extend the mall, partly financed through the levying of a 3 percent meals tax and a 4 percent increase in the city’s lodging tax.

Local hotel owners balked at the idea of public money helping to bring a new competitor to town. Lawsuits followed and the city eventually prevailed, but not before the case had worked its way to the Virginia Supreme Court.

The $23.9 million Radisson Hotel was owned by the city for a few months in 1985 before being sold to a firm that hired the Omni-Dunfrey Corp. to manage it. The grand opening was held May 2 and the hotel was renamed the Omni Charlottesville Hotel that December.

In 1988, a national recession began to take its toll on the mall. Many businesses had already left because of slow sales and there was a general perception that the mall was struggling.

The Omni’s opening, as well as the McGuffey Art Center, which opened in 1975, "stopped the bleeding," but times were still tough, Van Yahres said.

"In my opinion, you could shoot a gun down the mall and not hit anyone," local architect Bill Atwood said. "A lot of people forget how bad it was."

Something had to be done.

In 1988, the first Fridays After Five concert was held, beginning a tradition of music, beer and food. The weekly outdoor concerts were the first demonstration that perhaps the mall’s salvation lay in entertainment, not retail.

"The original reason for putting the mall in was to make it a downtown shopping area for the community," Van Yahres said.

Huja said leaders needed to recognize that downtown could never compete with the modern shopping mall. A new identity had to be formed, with entertainment, food and culture as the main attractions.

"Downtown can’t compete with shopping centers," he said. "It must have a new role."

Atwood, whose architectural firm’s office was just off the mall, began pushing for what would later be known as the Charlottesville Downtown Foundation, a public-private corporation that would use $150,000 in seed money from the city to host events, promote downtown and improve safety. The CDF replaced Downtown Charlottesville Inc., a private corporation.

On Jan. 27, 1990, safety issues came to a head with a man eating at the Fat City Diner on the mall was beaten to death after exchanging words with a fellow diner. Police patrols were stepped up and high-intensity bulbs were eventually installed in streetlights.

In 1994, the City Council granted the controversial request of developers Lee Danielson and Colin Rolph to open West Second Street to traffic. Despite widespread public opposition, Danielson and Rolph, who had plans for a movie theater and ice rink on that block, successfully argued that the crossing was necessary to increase attendance not only at their businesses, but at other establishments as well.

Danielson told The Progress at the time, "I feel the burden it’s placed on me."

In 1996, the Charlottesville Ice Park and Regal Cinemas opened, stoking the embers of a long-smoldering economic renaissance.

"For the first time ever, we discovered we don’t need what we had before," Atwood said. "For the first time, the talk of ‘we need an anchor store’ went away."

The Regal’s opening, combined with the Vinegar Hill and Jefferson theaters, brought the number of theaters downtown to nine.

"If you look around the United States, there are very few downtowns with nine screens," said Bill Lucy, a University of Virginia architecture professor and member of the Planning Commission.

Restaurants and bars opened and closed over the following years, but the mall’s identity as an entertainment destination had been secured.

"It probably was the salvation of the center city," said Al Clements, a banker who led a commission that helped plan the mall back in the 1970s. "It took longer to come to fruition than anyone anticipated at the time, but I think if you look at it now, it has to be regarded as a success."

Lucy said there is a common misconception that the theater and ice rink saved downtown. Rather, they were built at a time when downtowns nationwide were experiencing a rebirth.

"The investments that occurred from 1995 on were important, but they were certainly playing with a raising tide, which was a national phenomenon," Lucy said.

In 2002, talk turned to the revitalization of the east end of the mall. Except for Fridays After Five concerts, that end had always lacked the attractions enjoyed by its western counterpart.

With $3 million in federal transit money to work with, the proposal began with a bus transfer center and the extension of the mall past Seventh Street. The proposal grew to include a redesign of the amphitheater that had been home to Fridays After Five since 1995.

In 2004, ground was broken on Presidents Plaza, as the new east end is known. Final plans included the Transit Center, closing East Sixth and Seventh streets for the mall extension and the construction of the First Amendment Monument and the Charlottesville Pavilion amphitheater.

The 3,700-seat amphitheater, which opened in July 2005, is a project of local real estate and music mogul Coran Capshaw, who built it with a $2.4 million loan from the Charlottesville Industrial Development Authority. Capshaw used his music industry clout to book such big names as James Brown, Loretta Lynn and Lyle Lovett.

Local residents have complained about the noise escaping the Pavilion, which prompted manager Kirby Hutto to install acoustic baffles under the tarp. Hutto has asked for residents’ patience, saying the Transit Center, scheduled to open this fall, will further dampen the music escaping the amphitheater.

The Downtown Mall is Charlottesville’s public square, and as such, everyone has a unique opinion on how it should be developed. Controversies arise every time a change is made.

Critics blast the Transit Center for everything from its design to its cost to its utility. Still others have labeled the cloth-roofed Pavilion a "lobster trap" or a "Conestoga wagon."

In May, the City Council agreed to open a southbound vehicular crossing at East Fourth Street for a one-year trial. Business owners had lobbied hard for the crossing, arguing that it is needed to make up for the closure of East Sixth and Seventh streets.

Many mall lovers, such as David RePass, who retired to Charlottesville from Connecticut in 1998, were furious, arguing cars should not be driving across a pedestrian mall.

A proposal for a nine-story building at First Street has aroused even more anxiety from some traditionalists.

"Everything is ad-hoc," RePass said of developmental controls. "There’s nobody really, sort of, monitoring the mall as a whole."

Since the first pedestrian mall was built in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1959, an estimated 200 cities have followed suit. Of those, only around 30 remain, and that number is dwindling.

Success depends on many factors: critical mass, attractions, aesthetics, safety, convenience--and perhaps most importantly in Charlottesville’s case: patience.

Contact John Yellig at (434) 978-7245 or

Analysis by the new media

This is one of the most balanced and least revisionist articles I've seen about the mall. It acknowledges that the mall was pushed through by a minority of supporters against the majority of opponents. So it makes sense that officials acting against the will of the people would be asked to resign, or "go back to India." The Council vote for the mall reflected the community's opposition.

While the article points out opponents (representing popular will at the time), the opponents are not identified. Who was the business owner that blocked 2 blocks from being bricked over?

In 1994 Council granted the first mall crossing "despite widespread public opposition". The article doesn't say who gathered or presented the 6,000 signature petition. That's more people than have ever voted for any Council member.

In 1990, a man was beaten to death at Fat City Diner. That's modern-day Bizou a couple doors down from Miller's.

In 2004, the President's plaza became the latest mall-related project that was opposed by more people than who supported it.

It is said that those who win write the history books. If politicians are allowed to write their own legacies, they will leave out parts that are unflattering to themselves.

But the Progress reporter gives enough balance so that an objective reader can see that the Downtown Mall could have been something to be proud of if it had support of a majority of city residents.

Few photos of Mall

Orgy of Irrational Destruction: Is it okay to tear down your own house?

"This is the most serious threat to the character of neighborhoods since urban renewal." -- Richard Moe, President National Trust for Historic Preservation
'Teardowns' have critics torn up

By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY, June 28, 2006

Preservationists have long been opposed to knocking down older houses to put up big modern ones in their place. Now that the pace of "teardowns" has intensified, they're declaring an all-out war.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has identified 300 communities in 33 states that are experiencing a rash of teardowns, a jump from 100 communities in 20 states four years ago.

Homes are being demolished in places as diverse as Darien, Conn.; Brookline, Mass.; Newbury, N.H.; Saddle River, N.J.; Cincinnati; Arlington, Va.; Tempe, Ariz.; and Sherman Oaks, Calif., according to the trust's research.

"Everywhere I go in the country, literally, this is happening," says Richard Moe, president of the trust. "This is the most serious threat to the character of neighborhoods since urban renewal."

Moe is launching the trust's anti-teardowns campaign in San Francisco today with harsh words. He calls the demolition of older and historic homes a "teardown cancer" and an "orgy of irrational destruction."

Campaigns against teardowns win little sympathy from advocates of property rights.

"These preservationists are in effect trying to run other people's lives based on their aesthetic sensibilities," says Roger Pilon, vice president for legal affairs at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. "Whose property is it anyway? To have property is to be able to use it in the way you want, provided you're not violating the rights of others."

Teardowns have become popular with home buyers who want to be in city neighborhoods or close-in suburbs to avoid long commutes and be near public transportation. Urban neighborhoods and nearby suburbs that are pedestrian-friendly and on train and subway lines often have houses that are small and have old kitchens and bathrooms.

Today's buyers who want large homes and modern amenities often are willing to buy old houses for their location, demolish them and build large ones in their place. In neighborhoods across the USA, mini-mansions tower over modest 1950s bungalows.

According to the National Trust:

• More than 1,000 houses were demolished in the Dallas suburbs of Highland Park and University Park. In most cases, new houses range from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet.

• In Denver, 1920s and '30s bungalows are being replaced with houses three times as big in at least a dozen historic neighborhoods. There have been more than 800 teardowns since 2003.

This year, the National Trust placed the Village of Kenilworth, a suburb north of Chicago founded in the late 1800s, on its list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Almost 50 of the town's early-20th-century homes were torn down, most of them replaced by "hulking McMansions," Moe says. The town has no ordinance prohibiting teardowns but is considering requiring delays in demolitions to give neighbors time to protest before homes are razed, he says.

Ashland, Ore., adopted a demolition ordinance. It requires owners to show how they will dispose of debris and why it's not financially feasible to refurbish houses rather than tear them down, says Derek Severson, the city's associate planner. "If neighbors are concerned, they can call a public hearing," he says.

Most houses that are torn down are not officially historic, but replacing them with huge houses destroys the character of old neighborhoods, Moe says.

"There is so much outrage in communities over this practice," he says. "People think they don't have tools to deal with it." The trust has issued an online guide to help cities and residents oppose teardowns. Some of the tools: set-back requirements to limit the size of a home, design standards and zoning revisions.

Robert Lang, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, and Karen Danielsen, a planning consultant, have argued that teardowns can be an antidote to sprawl because new homes are built in developed areas rather than on farmland miles from job centers.

Now the two are devising a kit for cities that don't want to change zoning laws but want to placate residents who oppose teardowns. They suggest homeowners draft covenants that set size and design standards for their neighborhood. When the covenant is signed by a homeowner, it applies to the house no matter who the next owner is.

"The covenants are voluntary, but once volunteered, they would lock that neighborhood up," Lang says.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Weyers Cave study released: Unable to acquire 1600 acres of land

"We said all along that we would release the study when we thought it was the right time. We have now reached a point where we accomplished what we set out to do." -- Augusta Board Chairman Wendell Coleman
The $440,00 Study, Augusta County, Virginia.

'No active projects' at mega-site
By Joel Banner Baird/staff,

VERONA — Augusta County officials released most of its mega-site study to the public Monday afternoon, following months of speculation, rumor, hope and skepticism.

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to disclose the controversial study after a closed session following their monthly staff briefing.

Electronic copies of the study were distributed and are available on the News Leader Web site.

While the supervisors met behind closed doors, a state development representative told reporters that the need for secrecy was no longer in effect.

"There are no active projects (in the Weyers Cave area)," said Jeffrey Anderson the director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

Details of real estate negotiations will remain confidential, said county Administrator Pat Coffield.

County supervisors have disagreed over the state of the completion of the study, but securing enough real estate — up to 1,600 acres of largely agricultural land — surfaced as a stumbling block.

In his summary of the study's progress, Coffield wrote, "Good faith negotiations with principal property owner unsuccessful to date. County at this time unable to proceed with securing control of property."

Gary and Crystal Blosser of Weyers Cave own the 600 acres that comprise the single largest contiguous property in the targeted area through Blue Mountain Investments L.L.C.

Coffield said the Blossers' development plan — which is still under consideration — called for 23 smaller industrial sites.

"Those sites would be competing with 10 or 15 other sites in the area," he said. "The larger sites narrow things down considerably, to the point where the state tells us that the mega-site was their first choice for an automotive assembly plant."

The Weyers Cave area was desirable, Coffield said, because of its proximity to two interstate highways and rail carriers, an airport and the location of automobile suppliers and markets.

Opponents of the mega-site have argued that a single, large industry would make the county more vulnerable to economic upheaval and ecological disruptions and would strain infrastructure budgets. They have also noted that the county's comprehensive plan directs supervisors to seek out small-to-medium sized industries.

Riverheads District Supervisor Nancy Sorrells, who supported an even earlier release of the mega-site study, said the county could now engage in a better-informed discussion.

"Its release has made the citizenry more aware of the process," she said. "People think a government runs itself. Well, it doesn't — let's all look at the pros and cons of this now."

Originally published June 27, 2006

Diving into details

The mega-site study overwhelmingly confirms the appeal that Augusta County holds for the automotive industry. It also predicts an economic boom:

The creation of 1,572 new jobs during the plant's three-year construction period; thousands more as the plant goes on line (Executive Summary, p. 3).

The "total annual economic impact" to Augusta County from 2009 onward is estimated at $1.71 billion (Executive Summary, p. 3).

Occasionally, though, it raises some doubts.

"The (automotive) industry typically experiences a much greater percentage loss in jobs than the average industry in the nation." — Volatility of the Automobile Industry (page 15).

"Only one of the top 10 declining occupations in Augusta County (team assemblers) can be found in the top 10 required occupations of the incoming firm." — Desirability Index (page 16).

File downloads:

Mega-site Plan Phase II (Ziped PDF files)
Mega-site study Part I (Zipped PDF files)
Mega-site Plan Appendices (Zipped PDF files)
Mega-site plan site maps (PDF file)

‘Megasite’ Study Released
By Dan Kipperman, The Daily News Record, June 27,2006

VERONA — The secrecy over the $440,000 Megasite study came to an end Monday afternoon as the Augusta County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the release of the report.

The study done by the Timmons Group — a Richmond based engineering consulting firm — was commissioned by the supervisors to determine the feasibility of an industrial site in Weyers Cave, between Interstate 81 and the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

Three Options

The study looked at three potential industrial sites, including a 1,600-acre site.

The study concluded that acquiring enough land for such a large site would pose problems. Board Chairman Wendell Coleman also said that maintenance of a 1,600-acre site would require two million gallons of water.

"Weyers Cave is not equipped to handle that much at this point," he said.

The second location — at approximately 1,200 acres — was in roughly the same area as the 1,600-acre plot, but excluded portions of the county bordering I-81, according to the study.

The third option covered only the 500 acres directly west of the airport.

The study states that the second and third options had similar issues to consider. One issue was accessibility to the site, with no direct access from I-81.

"People might not even know a site was there if it was tucked away from the highway," Coleman said. "Weyers Cave would have seen a lot more traffic and that was addressed in the study."

The study made no official recommendation as to where an industrial site should be located.

Board member Kay Frye spoke earlier this week about her desire to see industry come to the county, but only if it was done correctly.

"We are all aware that these things need to happen," she said. "But not at the expense of the agricultural industry that we rely so heavily on."

A vote to release the study earlier was rejected last month by a 5-2 vote. Frye and Nancy Taylor Sorrels voted to make the release public.

Coleman thought it best for the board to take its time.

"We said all along that we would release the study when we thought it was the right time," he said. "We have now reached a point where we accomplished what we set out to do."

Agricultural Concern

At the June 14 board meeting, hundreds of residents voiced their opposition to a large industrial site. The main concern seemed to be for the protection of the agricultural strength of the county.

"I think Augusta County has the greatest farmland in the entire country," Augusta County Farm Bureau president Larry Weeks said at the meeting. "It doesn’t seem right for an industry to come in and try to take that land."

According to the farm bureau, Augusta County boasts more farm acreage than any other Virginia county, with 1,691 farms on 306,048 acres.

Coleman said the board would welcome any potential industry to the area.

"Weyers Cave is designated as an urban area," he said. "There is going to be a point in our future when we see some development out there."

For More Information: The Megasite study is available online at

Contact Dan Kipperman at 574-6274 or

Where is the silent majority on the megasite?
Chris Graham, Augusta Free Press,

What do you think? Are you in favor of a Toyota megasite in Augusta County? Weigh in with your opinion in our survey at the bottom of this story.

Supporters of the proposed Augusta County megasite that is said to have the interest of Toyota as a possible location for a new automobile-manufacturing plant think that there are more of them than there are those who have been grabbing the bulk of the local-media attention for opposing the development of the Weyers Cave-area site.

"I do feel like there's a very significant segment of people out there that would support something, whatever it is - and that's the people that are working, still trying to make ends meet, some of them working two and three jobs, people that recognize that we're losing manufacturing jobs at a pretty rapid clip, and recognize that in terms of taxes and keeping our taxes low, which is what people in Augusta County want to happen, we've got to have a strong and diverse economy, and manufacturing certainly is at the head of that," Augusta County Board of Supervisors chairman Wendell Coleman said.

"With the exception of these 140 or so people that seem like they're always there at supervisors meetings and always vocal and involved in the Talk Back thing in The News Leader, my encounters with my John Q. Public average constituent off the street that I bump into all the time, I'm seeing a lot of support," said Jim Bailey, who represents the Middle River District on the county board of supervisors.

You might have to use the Nixon-era term silent majority to describe this group of supporters - because they're surely not making themselves heard to any kind of appreciable degree. A handful of megasite supporters rose at a recent supervisors meeting when Coleman asked the more than 200 in attendance to stand to register their feelings on the issue. A trickle of letters to the editor and comments posted on local news blogs has also registered marginal support for the development of the site.

"I don't happen to agree with the idea that there is a large group of people out there who support the megasite," Kay Frye, who represents the Middle River District, which includes Weyers Cave, on the board of supervisors, told The Augusta Free Press.

"If they're out there, I'm not hearing from them," said Nancy Sorrells, who represents the Riverheads District on the county board.

"That could be that people know where I stand on this issue. But I've heard from literally hundreds of people who are opposed to the megasite from all over the county," Sorrells told the AFP.

"I believe that if there were a sizable number of people who supported this, they would have made their voices heard by now," said Elizabeth Lewis, the chair of the Greenville-based Save Our County Committee, which has been involved in the effort to organize local opposition to the megasite.

"The fact is that there's not a sizable number who hold that view. What I want to know is, who are these supervisors listening to?" Lewis told the AFP.

Coleman has a ready answer to that oft-asked question.

"They keep coming across that we're not listening to the public - and I've said before, 'Let me make sure I understand. You think that the people in this room and the comments you're making represent the public?' " Coleman told the AFP.

"We have worked diligently to listen and to reinforce the fact that we are listening - and I have heard from some people who have expressed their concerns, sure. But I've heard from many more people who are on the other side of the issue," Coleman said.

"People say, Well, if there is so much support, then why don't they come to the meetings? I'm at the point where maybe we need to see as many people coming out in support as opposition - if indeed they're out there, as I believe that they are," Bailey told the AFP.

It might prove difficult for those so inclined to mobilize whatever number of megasite supporters there is out there, said Bob Roberts, a political-science professor at James Madison University who has been monitoring the developments on the megasite front.

"It's interesting that you don't have at least a core of boosters trying to promote it here at the outset," Roberts told the AFP.

"Usually you have a chamber of commerce and local leaders coming out strongly in support of such a thing because they're trying to push economic development. It's kind of unusual that you don't have a strong group of businesspeople, local-government people, county people, initially behind it," Roberts said.

"It's quite common to have people opposed to it - particularly in an area like this, where you don't have high rates of unemployment. Most of these plants have been located in areas where they badly wanted them - and this is not an area where you have high rates of unemployment, et cetera, so it's not a type of plant that would normally find this type of support in this type of region," Roberts said.

Frye thinks that message is getting across loud and clear in the current discussions.

"My guess is that there are many more people opposed to this than there are people who support it. I think there is a solid majority out there," Frye said.

Sorrells agrees.

"It's interesting to me that we haven't heard much outside of a few people speaking at supervisors meetings who support the megasite. It does tend to make you wonder how many people are out there who support it," Sorrells said.

Mega-Site Upate WHSV-TV Harrisonburg.

Weyers Cave mega-secrecy, fears of eminent domain June 26, 2006

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weyers Cave mega-secrecy, fears of eminent domain

Potential 1,600-acre industrial complex near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, Virginia. The feasibility study has been the subject of some controversy because the board has refused to release it. At a board of supervisors meeting earlier this month, hundreds of residents voiced opposition to the proposed development and what many view as the secrecy surrounding the study.

"Megasite Study May Be Released Next Week"

By Dan Kipperman, June 26, 2006, The Daily News Record.

WEYERS CAVE — A $440,000 megasite study in Augusta County could be made public as early as next week, officials say.

Earlier this year, the county Board of Supervisors approved the study, conducted by the Timmons Group, a Richmond engineering firm, which researched the feasibility of a potential 1,600-acre industrial complex near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave

The study has been the subject of some controversy because the board has refused to release it. Board members say they didn’t want to release the study until they finished reading it.

Public Outcry

At a board of supervisors meeting earlier this month, hundreds of residents voiced opposition to the proposed development and what many view as the secrecy surrounding the study.

"I can’t think of anyone that has contacted me and been in favor of the development," Supervisor Kay Frye said on Friday. "The community has accepted that there will be development in this area — people just want to make sure it’s done right."

Supervisor Wendell Coleman announced Friday that the study would be made public sometime in the next week.

"I’d like to make an announcement, as to when the study will be released, by Wednesday at the latest," he said. "The board is keenly aware of the public’s concerns."

The majority of the supervisors wanted to hold off on the release of the study until it had been completed.

"There were a lot of things that went into that study," Coleman said. "The industrial site was not the only item in that study. We wanted a complete look at it before we gave it to the public."

Supervisors Frye and Nancy Taylor Sorrells voted to make the study public earlier.

On Monday afternoon, the board will listen to a presentation given by Jeff Anderson, executive director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, about potential megasite issues.

"The presentation is intended to be informational," said the partnership’s communications manager, Christie Miller. "It will cover economic development issues in the region, including issues surrounding the potential megasite."

Too Little, Too Late?

While Frye is pleased the study will be released in the near future, she would have liked to see it released earlier.

"I thought it should have been released two or three months ago," she said.

As a representative of the Middle River Magisterial District — the location of the proposed site — Frye says she wants to represent her constituents fairly.

"I see these people quite often and they have no idea what is going on," she said. "Most people are not opposed to development, they are just opposed to development on such a large scale."

Frye said the complete study is a 5-inch thick document of almost 400 pages.

Contact Dan Kipperman at 574-6274 or

"This land’s taken: Eminent domain issue moves to front"

By Joel Banner Baird/staff,
June 23, 2006. The News Leader.

WEYERS CAVE — Ronnie and Linda Peale are nervous about living a short way down a gravel road from the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

It’s not the airplanes or the helicopters. It’s the possibility that their property will be price-tagged and sold to a big industrial development.

The Peales live in a part of the county that is increasingly identified by its inclusion in a plan that has not yet been released to the public. Their small acreage is ground zero for an industrial mega-site.

Whose mega-site?

“They say the first line of defense is knowing who your enemy is,” Ronnie Peale said. “We have no idea. It’s not quite what I envisioned to be the American Dream.”

Augusta County Administrator Pat Coffield said that eminent domain land transfers are rare in the county; the vast majority of the county’s negotiations for land have involved roads, schools and other public amenities.

“In 16 years, we’ve never had to go to court,” Coffield said. “For the most part,
it’s been willing buyers and sellers.”

He said condemnation was a “tool,” one that supervisors have viewed consistently as a last resort.

Is it a tool for economic development?

“The law says it is, within certain parameters,” Coffield said. “Eminent domain is not your first choice. But it is on the table.”

That possibility, even a slender one, troubles the Peales.

If the county government — or a large factory — wants their land, the Peales want to know about it. Soon.

They are not alone. Exactly one year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court legitimized a Connecticut city’s seizure of houses to make way for a large-scale development.

Those increased tax revenues, the court ruled, fell into the Constitution’s definition of beneficial “public use” of private land.

“This is a scary time,” said Linda Peale. “We’re living one day at a time. It’s enough to give you ulcers.”

Fears that the mega-site’s appetite for acreage might include their 1840s-era house and garden prompted her to search for help online. She found that Crozet businessman Arin Sime, the Libertarian candidate for Virginia’s 24th Senate District, had time to listen.

Sime paid the Peales a visit Wednesday morning. The threat of condemnation, he said, was common.

“You’d have to ask yourself, ‘what would it cost us to fight this?’ It won’t be worth your time to fight it in court,” he said. “But this isn’t just a numbers game. It affects real people.”

Eminent domain that benefits private industry, Sime said, amounted to corporate welfare.

Ronnie Peale said he and his wife hadn’t made up their minds what they would do if they were asked to sell.

“We might sell, but to replace anything in real estate is high,” he said. “When we moved here 25 years ago, there were five trees. We planted 219 more.

“Whoever wants this, they need to understand they’re buying more than just a house,” he added. “Never mind that it’s historical; they’d be buying my whole root system, my way of living.”

"Sime aims for Senate seat: Libertarian hopes to replace incumbent"

By Joel Banner Baird/staff,
June 23, 2006. The News Leader.

WEYERS CAVE — Libertarian Arin Sime, a Crozet businessman, traveled to mega-site territory Monday in his campaign to unseat incumbent state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, next year.

Sime announced his bid for the 24th state senate district earlier in the spring, but his focus on property rights has sharpened over Augusta County's plans for an industrial mega-site between Mount Sidney and Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport.

Speaking one-on-one with Weyers Cave property owner Ronnie Peale, Simes said he would oppose attempts by state or local government to expand an industrial site at the expense of private landowners.

"I don't have a problem when eminent domain (the process of condemning property) is used for a utility or a road, when small parcels are shaved off a property," he said. "But it's not all right when we're talking about acres and acres for an auto plant. I think it's wise for people to start raising those red flags now."

Simes said the Libertarian Party was a "natural fit" in the defense of property rights.

"Eminent domain has gotten way out of hand in Virginia," he said. "It's become a signature issue for the Libertarians."

Hanger said the Virginia legislature is in the process of clarifying eminent domain policy, but abuses are rare.

"There's a clear and unanimous consensus (in the General Assembly) that courts should not grant state or local governments the right to condemn land for economic development purposes," he said. "The intent of the existing statutes is clear, and it would certainly be ill-advised to circumvent the intent of the law."

Virginia's 24th senate district encompasses Augusta County, Staunton, Waynesboro, Lexington, Highland County and parts of Albemarle, Rockingham, Rockbridge and Greene counties.

Annexation Monster

Graphic of Annexations
Historic Preservation Guide, Charlottesville, Virginia. July 1980.

Dates of Annexations

"The Annexation Monster". Charlottesville Tomorrow. May 23, 2006.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Libertarians protest Kelo

Newsletter 6/22/06

$1 million Jefferson School makeover: Council hears 3 B.A.R. appeals

Jefferson School 1865-2002, this incarnation 1926

Charlottesville, Va. City Hall Council Chambers June 19 2006 as viewed on Adelphia Cable channel 10 on June 24 at 5 p.m. I watched 3 hours 40 minutes until Council took a break at 10:40 their time.

When I tuned in, Councilor Blake Caravati was saying goodbye to the public in the announcements/recognitions portion. This was his and Rob Schilling’s last meeting. On July 3 newly elected Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro will assume their offices.

I counted 13 speakers in the Public Comment. Six of them spoke against approval of partial demolition at First and Main Streets for a 9-story mixed use building with underground parking.

Some worried about the building’s height while not seeming to notice a 8-story building already on that block (123 E. Main Wachovia, erected 1914 as National Bank and Trust). Also nobody seemed to notice that the buildings can’t be seen because of the 5-story trees on the pedestrian mall.

Three spoke on the noise level from the Pavilion at 7th and Main. Points made: noise brings down property values; Schilling voted against the Pavilion; noise abatement wall could be built; shut down Pavilion before 10 p.m. on weekdays.

Naomi Roberts and Jim Moore thanked Rob Schilling for his service and leadership on Council.

Marshall Slater, attorney for Donny McDaniel, said the city is trying to shut down single room occupancies at 1623, 1625 and 1505 Meridian Street in Belmont. Slater said a Norfolk study has shown that single room occupancies are the most economic and successful residences for a segment of the population. He was to appear in court Thursday June 22 to block the threatened evictions.

John Gaines said that at the last Council meeting he presented a petition to name the 9th/10th Street connector after Roosevelt Brown. On June 5, 2000 the Council held a public hearing to name the connector for Sally Hemings, slave of Thomas Jefferson, but public outcry stopped Virginia Daugherty’s proposal. Gaines also pointed out the conflict of interest of Gate Pratt—president of 10th/Page Neighborhood Association and architect for a project in that neighborhood now before the Council.

Then followed the Consent Agenda. Purchase of 407 E. High Street was lifted out for consideration at the end of the meeting.

Historical Marker

Assistant city manager Rochelle Small-Toney, joined by consultants, made the case for a million dollar facelift of Jefferson School. Originally the private black school opened in 1865 five years before the city’s first white public school.

Small-Toney is requesting $1,032,905 to repair and restore the brick exterior. $172,190 of that is for a contingency fund. $60,000 for scaffolding. $30 per square foot to rake out old mortar ¾ to 1 inch deep and tuck-point fresh mortar meeting restoration guidelines. The estimate includes double-cleaning of the façade and caulking around windows.

The cost estimate comes from a Maryland contractor who has jobs as close as Culpeper. Other than erosion of mortar, Jefferson School is structurally sound.

100% of the mortar joints of the 1926 building will be raked out and replaced with lime mortar; 50% for the 1938 portion; 30% of the 1958 portion. 200 bricks must be replaced. The work would require 6 to 9 months.

Council postponed a decision on the appropriation until a citizens’ committee can be appointed to oversee the project. Councilor Kevin Lynch thought the cost estimate seemed exorbitant.

Then followed the 3 BAR appeals.

Council approved 25 square-feet for The Melting Pot restaurant sign to be placed on the new Holsinger building at Water and 5th. The approval was a compromise bteween 28 sq-ft requested and 22 sq-ft recommended by BAR Chad Hornick owns the restaurant and restaurant space as well as 7 other Melting Pot franchises.

Council sent back to the BAR John Crafaik’s request to demolish the 3 houses on Wertland Street nearest 10th NW to clear the way for higher density student housing. Crafaik is now willing to sell or donate the houses to Habitat for Humanity or anyone who agrees to move them. The BAR is to review the request considering the option of relocating the houses.

123 E. Main Wachovia, proposed demolition next door

The third appeal is the BAR denial of a request for partial demolition of 101 and 105 East Main, the old bakery (now Community Design Center) built 1916 and Cato’s clothing store built 1892.

Council will revisit this appeal after a joint work session with BAR within the next 2 months. If Council denies the demolition permit and special height permit, the owner can appeal to Circuit Court

The request is to save the facades but take down the rear wall and interior wall, then build a 9-story tower. The tower would be set 20 feet back from the 3 story facades to make it less noticeable from street level.

There would be 80 residential units, up to 10,000 square feet of office and commercial space, and 180 parking spaces below ground—120 for residents, 30 for businesses, and 30 for the public and a car stacker to squeeze them all in.

The new building promises to bring $563,000 annually into city coffers. It was argued that the vitality offered by the new development would offset the loss of what you can’t see. The upper floors have been vacant for more than four decades and storefronts for 6 years.

Tonight’s hearing is at least the fifth appeal to Council concerning these two, and the two adjacent buildings at 107 and 111.

In 1988 Jefferson National Bank next door in the National Bank tower received a certificate to demolish all 4 other buildings on this block. But Jefferson National never acted on the permit. Since then, Council has said no to Wachovia in 1997, Danielson and Rolph in 2000, Gale and Bates in 2002.

Mall looking toward Wachovia on left

Then Council took a 10-minute break. Upon returning, they began discussing sister cities in Europe. I had to go do other things. So I missed the vote on the affordable Housing Tax Grants that would give up to $250 off your home’s taxes if you qualify. Both WINA and Daily Progress report that the city charter amendment was passed.


Historic Preservation Guide
Charlottesville, Virginia. July 1980.

Prepared by:
Community Development Services
Satyendra Singh Huja, Director
Ronald L. Higgins, Planner
Jaynee Whalen, Secretary

School of Architecture, University of Virginia
K. Edward Lay
Robert Brennan
Stuart N. Siegel
Jack Abgott

Page 2

In 1959, the City Council of Charlottesville created the “Restricted Design District” immediately surrounding Court Square…The City Council also created a seven member Board of Architectural Review (BAR) whose purpose is to maintain and enhance the character of this District by reviewing proposed improvements in the ADC to ensure its conformity to the general historic, cultural and artistic tone of the area

Page 14

The following criteria have been selected by the City of Charlottesville, VA for use in evaluating projects which fall within the following categories:

A. All buildings within the Architectural Design District
B. All buildings outside the ADC built before 1870
C. Historic Landmarks identified by the Landmarks Commission and designated by City Council.

The B.A.R. acts on the exterior architectural character and the environment visible from any public street or place for the above structures. It should be noted that these criteria are presented as guidelines for use in developing a project for B.A.R. Review…

The criteria have been expanded upon from the four categories…It should be noted that few projects, whether minor additions and alterations or new construction, can expect to fully satisfy all of, or even most of, these specific criteria.

A. Harmony of Scale…
B. Harmony of materials, textures, colors, and motifs…
C. Impact on the Surrounding Environment…
D. Historic or Architectural Significance of the Proposed Action…

Even though these criteria seem to stress harmony and unity, the intent is not to prevent variety which is as important to the character of the area as any other element.

Page 51

No such permit [height waiver from Council] shall allow a building height in excess of seventy-five feet from grade to cornice line…

The height of the street façade in one plane of any building constructed under such permit shall not be higher than forty feet from the grade, and any portion of the facade higher than forty feet shall have a setback of at least twenty feet from the front and rear property lines…

The special permit for seventy-five feet height from grade to cornice line shall only be considered when the proposed request encompasses an entire block of the city as designated on the official U.S. Census Map…

Page 52

In any building constructed under such permit, the total area of any floor constructed more than forty feet above grade shall not exceed fifty percent of the total site area of the proposed development.

Friday, June 23, 2006

New superintendent: Both bad and good gangs in city schools, maybe

That’s a tough question. It depends on the definition of gang. Do we have groups of young people who cluster together for one common cause, and sometimes that common cause can be negative? I’m sure that that exists -- Rosa Atkins, Superintendent of Charlottesville Public Schools

"New schools chief addresses challenges, goals of the job"

By John Yellig, Daily Progress staff writer, June 22, 2006

Charlottesville’s incoming school superintendent, Rosa Atkins, took the oath of office last week at Charlottesville Circuit Court. She begins her new job July 3 after working as assistant superintendent of the Caroline County school system. The Daily Progress caught up with Atkins for a discussion about what’s next for her and the school system.

Q: Charlottesville schools have had two key problems recently: A) School violence B) Failure in closing the achievement gap. How will you deal with these problem areas?
A: We have a task force in place right now looking at discipline in our schools. We’re going to continue to let that task force operate and look at the suggestions that are coming out of that task force. We are currently looking at our code of conduct book to see how that’s structured and see if there are any changes that need to be made with that. We’re also looking at how we operate from the time the school opens until it closes in the day: How much time is being spent on the instructional process and where are some of the areas in the building during the day that we have weaknesses? Are we vulnerable?

Achievement, I’m excited to say that all of the teachers, and especially at our high school, are feeling that this is their year, that the achievement levels of our students will certainly increase and be evidenced by the [Standards of Learning] testing results this year. We’ll continue to build on the efforts that were put in place this year with the acting superintendent, Mr. [Bobby] Thompson.

Q: Do you believe there is a gang presence in the city and its schools, and if so, what can be done about it?
A: That’s a tough question. It depends on the definition of gang. Do we have groups of young people who cluster together for one common cause, and sometimes that common cause can be negative? I’m sure that that exists not only in Charlottesville but in many areas, and when that happens, we have to make sure that what we have to offer those young people is more appealing than what they’re getting from the clustering together in those groups.

Q: What are the key ingredients for a successful school system, and do you have any models in mind?
A: Passion. Passion for education is one of the key ingredients in a successful school year. Everyone is focused on the same thing: a common vision. Everyone knowing the vision and responding to that vision is what successful school divisions do. We could list a number of activities that come along with focusing on the vision, but you have to have a clear vision in mind and articulated throughout the division and the community in order to be successful. You have to know where you’re headed.

Q: Did the problems the city had with its previous superintendent [Scottie Griffin] make you nervous at all about the position?
A: It inspires me, actually. I think we learn from all the experiences that are behind us. I think the school division, the community, we all learned a lesson from what happened in the past that will help us to move forward in a positive way.

Q: Are SOL tests a tool for learning or an obstacle?
A: Absolutely a tool for learning. SOL tests are simply testing what we teach. The SOL tests are based on the curriculum that we teach every day, so certainly we want to measure how well we taught that curriculum. It comes all at one time, at the end of the year, which causes stress for many of us, but it’s a very healthy tool, and structured in the right way leading up to the SOL tests we can be successful.

Q: With school out, what’s next for you?
A: School out? The school is out for the students but certainly not for us. I intend to be going full force. July 3 I will be meeting with staff, be meeting with principals. We will do a great deal of planning this year for how we’re going to operate. Our School Board has a board retreat in July.

We will be planning how we’re going to operate, articulating our vision and setting forward our goals and objectives, implementing the strategic plan that has been developed. So it’s not rest for the rest of us.

President limits eminent domain for federal agencies on Kelo anniversary

"Bush Order Would Limit Property Seizures"

Friday, June 23, 2006
By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush ordered Friday that federal agencies cannot seize private property except for public projects such as hospitals or roads. The move occurred on the one-year anniversary of a controversial Supreme Court decision that gave local governments broad power to bulldoze people's homes for commercial development.

The majority opinion in the Supreme Court case involving New London, Conn., homeowners limited the homeowners'rights by saying local governments could take private property for purely economic development-related projects because the motive was to bring more jobs and tax revenue to a city.

But the court also noted that states are free to pass additional protections if they see fit. In a backlash to the decision, many have done so, prohibiting so-called takings for shopping malls or other private projects.

Many conservatives _ particularly in the West _ see the decision as a dangerous interpretation of the"takings clause"in the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which allows the government to seize property for public use with just compensation. They have argued such takings are an unjustified governmental abuse of individual rights.

Cities, though, backed by some liberals, see the takings power as an important tool for urban renewal projects crucial to revitalizing cities.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, welcomed Bush's executive order. But since the federal government has only a limited role in such projects, he said Congress must do more. Cornyn has introduced legislation that would also bar federal funding for any state or local projects in which the land was obtained through eminent domain.

"The protection of homes and small businesses and other private property against government seizure or unreasonable government interference is a fundamental principle of American life and a distinctive aspect of our form of government,"Cornyn said."The Supreme Court's decision last year represented a radical departure from the decisions handed down interpreting that constitutional provision over the last 200 years, and the president's action was an important step toward righting that wrong."

Doug Kendall, executive director of the Community Rights Counsel, which backed the city's right to take the homes in the Connecticut case, said Bush's order is relatively benign precisely because it doesn't include the funding ban Cornyn and other property-rights advocates want.

"This order appears to apply to a null, or virtually null set of government actions. ... I'm not aware of any federal government agency that takes property for economic development,"he said."It's an effort to appease the property rights base, while ignoring the difficult question of when eminent domain should be used to help downtrodden communities."

The White House defended the president's approach.

"The president is a strong supporter of private property rights, and this executive order put the federal government on record opposing eminent domain for merely economic development purposes,"said Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for Bush.

Bush's executive order directs the attorney general to make sure all federal agencies follow the new policy. The kinds of projects that Bush's order says justify the taking of private property include parks, roads, medical facilities, government office buildings and utilities. Takings also would be allowed to prevent land uses that are harmful to the environment or public safety or to acquire abandoned property.

On Capitol Hill, conservative property defenders and liberals _ worried that it could become too easy to tear down poor neighborhoods _ have joined to advance legislation.

And Bush's executive order tracks a trend being set in state legislatures.

Since the Supreme Court decision, 31 states have passed laws restricting the use of eminent domain for economic development, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Governors in three states vetoed such legislation, but 21 state legislatures have passed measures that have been signed by their governors. Bills are still sitting on the governor's desk in three states. The remaining four states are letting voters decide the issue through constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Such measures also will be on the ballots in Florida and Georgia because those states required approval not only by lawmakers and the governor, but by the voters as well.

Larry Morandi, who follows state actions on eminent domain at the conference of state legislatures in Denver, called the president's executive order"middle-of-the road"compared with some state laws that are more stringent.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Drought Watch: here we go again

Monday’s vote set the stage for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to possibly impose restrictions at its July 5 meeting that would allow residents to water their lawns and gardens only between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The Albemarle County Service Authority has issued a DROUGHT WATCH for their customers in Albemarle County. The DROUGHT WATCH requests that customers begin voluntary water conservation efforts and restrict their automatic irrigation systems to working between the hours of 8:00 PM and 7:00 AM.

The DROUGHT WATCH is the first stage in the three stages of drought identification. The second stage is the DROUGHT WARNING and the third stage is DROUGHT EMERGENCY.

Water restriction rules for the 3 levels of action(pdf)

Rising Reservoir Baffles Officials"(doc) Nov 19 2001

“The water supply has risen from 68.2% to 70.7% of capacity during the past week. But it hasn’t rained in 30 days.

Albemarle service authority director Bill Brent theorized that the ground water flow into the reservoir had increased because trees are becoming dormant for winter.”

Full and Overflowing: Near Drought Over, Christmas Miracle"(doc) Dec 20 2001

“The South Rivanna reservoir was “full and overflowing” on December 3rd as reported on WINA radio. Albemarle service authority director Bill Brent confessed he had no good explanation since there had been no significant rain. Only three weeks before, media warned of imminent mandatory water restrictions. The miraculous recharging of our water supply has not received the same fanfare. […]

Change in Volume [water supply] = Inflow – Outflow
= Runoff + Underground flow
– Consumption – Discharge downstream
– Evaporation – Sedimentation

Underground water flow has proven to be the significant unknown, this the third dry autumn in a row. […]”

If reservoirs drop a half percent a day, we have about 60 days until mandatory restrictions if last drought is a guide. 70% was the trigger in ‘02 up from 65% trigger in ‘01. And theoretically we have about 200 days of supply right now. The '02 restrictions followed several dry years. Today's drought follows several wet years. The underground water flow has kept the reservoirs full despite half the average rainfall so far this year.

The CvilleNews angle

"Rivanna issues drought watch"

by Jessica Kitchin, Daily Progress staff writer, Monday, June 19, 2006

In light of exceptionally dry conditions, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority board on Monday wasted no time in issuing a drought watch for the region, something RWSA director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. said was an important proactive step.

“The idea is to step in and keep the public informed,” he said. “I am convinced that we are, today, in a drought.”

The board’s vote came at a meeting that also included a landmark move for the county’s long-term water needs.

The National Weather Service reports that the area has received only 10.3 inches of rain this year, nearly a foot below normal. And in Frederick’s report to the board, he pointed to severely low stream flow at Mechums River, which is flowing at only 17 percent of the seasonal average. The Ragged Mountain and Sugar Hollow reservoirs are both below capacity, and if the weather remains dry, Frederick said he expects the South Fork Rivanna Dam to stop spilling water for the first time since 2002, when the area suffered one of the worst droughts in history.

“I’m not sure we need a lot of discussion on this,” Albemarle County Executive Robert W. Tucker Jr. said before the unanimous vote. The board members agreed that the first of three drought stages should be declared - a drought watch, which involves calls for voluntary water-conservation efforts from residents.

Monday’s vote set the stage for the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to possibly impose restrictions at its July 5 meeting that would allow residents to water their lawns and gardens only between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. If conditions worsen, the RWSA board might issue the more serious drought warning or eventually a drought emergency, both of which carry more extensive restrictions, such as a ban on residential car washing.

Eleanor Butner, an Albemarle County resident since 1972, said such restrictions would probably result in her losing much of her garden, but she said she wouldn’t hesitate to stop watering. “You lose your plants, you lose your grass, but if everyone cooperates, maybe we won’t be in the same position we were in a few years ago,” she said.

Butner said she doesn’t water her plants too often anyway, but if word comes from the county that she should stop, she would use her outdoor spigot only to provide water for the five baby bluebirds in her garden’s birdhouse. “And let’s just hope and pray that it’s going to rain for everything else,” she said.

At Monday’s meeting, the RWSA board also took the final local step regarding the county’s long-term water supply plan. The group unanimously approved a plan to expand Ragged Mountain Reservoir and construct a pipeline between it and the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

After years of contentious debate on the water supply issue, the South Fork pipeline option emerged late last year and was widely praised by residents, government officials and local advocacy groups. Now that it has unanimously passed all four local governing boards - the Board of Supervisors, the Charlottesville City Council, the Albemarle County Service Authority board and the RWSA board - it will go to the state for approval. “I can’t say enough about the cooperation and support from the community,” Frederick said as he presented the plan.

RWSA board Chairman Michael Gaffney and the rest of the board smiled brightly as they voted. “We finally made it here, Tom,” Gaffney said. “That’s wonderful.”

This story can be found at:

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Rainbow over Charlottesville

600 block of Market Street looking east

Monday, June 19, 2006

Drought Watch: Lawn watering only at night, reservoirs full, half normal rainfall

People shouldn’t be waiting for us to tell them what to do.” -- Gary
Fern, Director Albemarle County Service Authority

"Rivanna likely to declare drought watch"

By Jessica Kitchin, Daily Progress staff writer, June 19, 2006

Central Virginia may have received a visit from Tropical Depression Alberto last week, but it didn’t do much to dampen drought fears in the area, and local leaders are expected to take action soon.

The National Weather Service on Sunday reported that the Charlottesville area had received 10.3 inches of rain so far this year - less than half of the 21.8 inches of rainfall normally received by this point. And even with the tropical system coming through on Wednesday, the area is below normal precipitation for the month by more than an inch and a half.

As a result, Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. is planning to ask the RWSA board today to declare a drought watch in the area. “We’re going to be making a strong call to the public to voluntarily conserve water and not use water that’s not necessary,” Frederick said. “Since no one knows what the future weather will bring, we have no way of knowing exactly how serious or mild this drought could be.”

RWSA reports show that Mechums River at Garth Road is flowing at 20 percent of its normal level for this time of year, and the Ragged Mountain and Sugar Hollow reservoirs are each down 7 inches. The South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is still full, but officials predict that its dam might stop spilling water within the next few weeks. “We are not weather forecasters, we can’t predict what’s going to happen,” Frederick said. “But what our hydrologic models can do is assess risk.” Those assessments, he said, warrant a drought watch declaration.

Drought watch is the first of three drought stages that can be declared by local officials - drier conditions could bring a drought warning and then a drought emergency, which carry more rigorous restrictions than a watch. An effort to coordinate actions among the RWSA, the Albemarle County Service Authority and Charlottesville and Albemarle local governments has been under way for several years, but a joint drought management plan hasn’t been passed yet. Consequently, there are some questions about what “drought watch” means for local residents.

Traditionally, a watch involves voluntary water-use reductions from residents and businesses. But in April, the Albemarle County Service Authority board voted to impose irrigation restrictions on county customers, meaning people would only be permitted to water their lawns, gardens and shrubs between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. The power to impose such a restriction, however, lies in local government, and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors doesn’t meet again until July 5. “The plan is to ask the board to impose those restrictions at their next meeting,” ACSA Director Gary Fern said. City officials do not plan to adopt such a restriction.

Still, “you’re really hoping people are conserving anyway,” Fern said. “People shouldn’t be waiting for us to tell them what to do.”

In terms of a coordinated drought management plan, Free Union resident John Martin said he’s frustrated that the four bodies haven’t finalized anything. “It’s been four years since the worst drought on record, and the fact that we don’t have a drought management plan is inexcusable,” he said. “The system is broken.”
Martin was referring to the 2002 drought, when much of Virginia was under “exceptional drought” status - the most serious ranking - and state and local authorities imposed bans on lawn watering, residential car washing and the filling of swimming pools, among other things. That year, the majority of the state’s agricultural counties applied for federal drought disaster designation.

Fern said the drafted guidelines, which were initiated in response to the 2002 drought, are followed even if they haven’t been formally passed. “The plan is in place and I think it’s a good plan,” he said. “Whether we say it’s a draft or a final doesn’t matter in my mind. We’re all on the same page and we’re all together on this.”

The groups have agreed to hold a public forum - scheduled for 6 p.m. July 13 in the City Council Chambers - before the plan is fully adopted.

Business owners who are worried that water restrictions could hurt their operations will have an opportunity this week to voice their concerns. Those meetings will be held Wednesday at the Albemarle County Office Building. At 9 a.m., local authorities will meet with restaurant owners, at 11 a.m. with apartment complex managers, at 3:30 p.m. with nursery workers and at 5:30 p.m. with car wash workers.

But Fern thinks the drafted plan avoids having disproportionate effects on any single industry. “When we get to certain stages, we’re going to be asking for restrictions. … We won’t be targeting any specific businesses; it’s going to be addressed [by imposing an even percentage of water reduction] across the board.”

"Council approves Ragged Mountain option: Water for another 50 years" Jun 5 2006

"The Last Drought: Has time stood still for 25 years?" Sep 3 2002

"Drought Perspective" Sep 18 2002 (Comparison of droughts 1930, 1977, 2002)

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tax cuts hurt HUD but help homeowners

    1. “Any plan to cut spending hurts HUD programs” --Barbara Sard.
    2. “Save Our Housing, Save Our Homes,” an all-day conference.
    3. More tax cuts will help save our homes from HUD.

"Housing group criticizes Bush's budget proposal" by John Yellig, Daily Progress staff writer, June 10, 2006

In an effort to trim a ballooning federal deficit, President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal 2007 asks Congress to make steep cuts in social programs such as public housing, community development block grants and Section 8 housing vouchers while maintaining tax cuts, the real cause of the deficit, a housing analyst told a group of public housing residents and activists Friday.

While the domestic discretionary spending that funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development accounts for only 6 percent of the $3.4 trillion deficit projected to accrue by 2011, the tax cuts account for 50 percent of that figure, said Barbara Sard, the director of housing policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

That deficit is in stark contrast to the $5.6 trillion surplus forecast when Bush came into office, she said, adding that many people mistakenly blame the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Hurricane Katrina for the deficit.

“The big, big, big issue is the tax cuts,” Sard said.

“Wars come and go. Hurricanes come and go. But tax cuts stay.”

Sard was the keynote speaker at “Save Our Housing, Save Our Homes,” an all-day conference put on by advocacy groups, including the Public Housing Association of Residents, the Legal Aid Justice Center, the Virginia Organizing Project and the Quality Community Council.

Held at First Baptist Church on Park Street, the conference hosted workshops on topics such as voter registration, gentrification and affordable housing.

Even if Congress passed Bush’s budget with the proposed cuts in social spending, the deficit would still increase $281 billion over five years, Sard said.

“Any plan to cut spending hurts HUD programs,” she said.

Luckily, Sard said, Congress has been reluctant to approve many of the cuts in the past.

Nevertheless, she said, last year’s budget cut $494 million from the Community Development Block Grant program, which pays for neighborhood improvements in low-income communities.

The proposed 2007 budget asks for a 22 percent cut in the program, she said.

Locally, shortages in federal funding for Section 8 vouchers, which help poor families pay rent, have helped to create a deficit for the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“We’re in one of those situations where we spent more last year on vouchers than we received,” Executive Director Noah Schwartz said.

The authority is authorized to issue 341 vouchers, Schwartz said, but received enough funding for just more than 300 vouchers.

There are about 200 additional people on a waiting list for the vouchers and 1,200 waiting for public housing, he added.

“The trend has been that the federal government does not provide enough funding to run a functioning housing authority, even by their own calculations,” he said.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Technicality saves Norfolk junkyard from eminent domain for Coke parking lot

Though it upheld the circuit court overall, the high court struck down the ruling that a 15-year delay from the time the authority declared the conservation area blighted until it filed for condemnation had violated C&C's rights to due process.

"Salvage yard wins condemnation case"
by Greg Edwards, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jun 9, 2006

The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a junkyard owner's circuit-court victory over the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which had tried to take the business through condemnation.

Opinions differ, however, on whether the court's ruling was a precedent-setting victory for all Virginia property owners. One legal scholar said the court had shot down the most significant part of the junkyard owner's case.

In a unanimous decision, written by Justice Elizabeth B. Lacy, the court found that the housing authority had failed to follow state law in developing the plan by which it condemned the junkyard.

The court also ruled that the authority had not given the property owner, C&C Real Estate Inc., the required one year's notice and a chance to correct problems with the property.

Norfolk lawyer Joseph T. Waldo, who represented C&C, said the court's most significant ruling was that a plan for condemnation cannot go beyond what state law allows.

"It is very rare that a housing authority when challenged is not allowed to take what they try to condemn," Waldo said.

However, Eric Kades, director of the property rights project at the William and Mary School of Law, said the ruling is basically a victory for government. Although C&C won the appeal on technical grounds, it lost a more significant constitutional due-process challenge that it had won in Norfolk Circuit Court, he said.

The high court didn't agree with C&C's due-process argument, and it accorded incredible deference to the government in determining what properties are blighted, Kades said. "There doesn't look like much hope for the future as the Virginia Supreme Court is presently constituted."

C&C bought the auto salvage yard in 1997 and leases it to Downtown Used Auto Parts, which had rented it from the original owner.

The housing authority had included the property in a 1987 conservation plan intended to eliminate blighted and deteriorating property in Norfolk's North Church Street area.

According to the court's opinion, the authority did not notify C&C that it intended to acquire its property until December 1999. The local Coca-Cola Bottling Co., which had plans to expand, suggested to the authority that the junkyard be converted into a parking lot for Coke employees.

Between August 2000 and October 2003, when the authority authorized condemnation, the authority made offers of $400,000 and $560,000 for the property but C&C refused to sell. After a Norfolk circuit judge ruled against the authority last May, it appealed to the Supreme Court.

Though it upheld the circuit court overall, the high court struck down the ruling that a 15-year delay from the time the authority declared the conservation area blighted until it filed for condemnation had violated C&C's rights to due process.

Kades noted that C&C had, neverthe- less, won a small constitutional victory, as the court ruled the housing authority must base condemnation for blight on a property's condition at the time legal proceedings begin. Still, the court put a heavy burden on landowners to prove the property is not blighted, he said.

Waldo strongly disagreed with Kades. Though C&C failed to prove that its property is no longer blighted, the ruling on when blight must be determined is a major victory for Virginia property owners, he said.

Spokesman Ed Ware said the Norfolk authority has not had a chance to review the court's opinion in any detail and will not comment until it has.

Waldo said the authority could try to condemn again but would have to give C&C a list of what is wrong with the property and a year to fix it. C&C will seek to recover legal fees from the authority, he said.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Council approves Ragged Mountain option: Water for another 50 years

Ragged Mountain plan

Ragged Mountain southwest, Rivanna northeast
Blue= I-64, yellow= 250 bypass, green= 29North
Red= western bypass VDOT right-of-way
B= Birdwood, W= Walmart, U= University Hall
2 possible routes for pipeline shown

Charlottesville, Va. City Hall Council Chamber. Monday June 5, 2006

I arrived late at 8:30pm. Council was finishing up with a $776,000 grant for the new public works transit center on Avon Street Extended to replace the old city yard between Jefferson School and Westhaven.

I missed the public hearing on the Affordable Housing Tax Grants. Fortunately it was the first of two readings. We’ll all have another chance to help Council craft a good policy at the next meeting Monday June 19.

This new program will take effect July 1 and started out as city charter amendment Section 50.7 approved by the Council on November 21, 2005. Because of the Dillon Rule, in Virginia the state assembly must approve such changes requested by localities.

A Senate committee stripped out of the amendment broad eminent domain language. The Housing Tax Grant program is a more humble version of the amendment introduced by Councilor Blake Caravati, who shortly thereafter announced he would not seek a third term. The Council approved the eminent domain provisions with Rob Schilling in the awkward position of having to oppose “affordable housing."

8:37pm Rivanna Water Authority director Tom Frederick gave a report on the latest Longterm Water Supply plan—expansion of the city’s first reservoir at Ragged Mountain.

Council unanimously authorized the agency to file a “joint permit application” to the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Environmental Quality. Councilor Kendra Hamilton being absent, the plan was approved on a 4-0-1 vote; 4 yes, zero no, 1 abstention.

How and where to set aside new wetlands to replace flooded habitat is the current point of contention.

Frederick outlined the next three steps to a new reservoir.

(1) The agency will have to submit a mitigation plan to be approved by state and federal regulators.

(2) Council must sign a contract with Rivanna.

(3) Phasing of the project and financing plan must be determined.

Frederick acknowledged two water supply plans of controversy. Land was acquired by the agency in 1983 for Buck Mountain Reservoir near Free Union. But the endangered James River Spiny Mussel was found there. The agency could not get a permit to construct the dam.

In a February 2004 report to Council, RWSA’s new chairman of the board Mike Gaffney said this reservoir might not be built for a hundred years, but the agency is keeping the land as an “insurance policy” against future water demands. This land was seized by the agency using eminent domain and for 26 years not under the public use for which it was seized.

Tonight, Frederick reassured the public that no private land is needed for this new project. The city already owns Ragged Mountain and all the land that would be inundated.

The Rivanna Authority was created in 1972 to consolidate city-county municipal water services. Despite the consolidation, the city continues to own all the reservoirs, which were built before 1972.

Frederick also acknowledged the 4-foot bladder plan for the South Rivanna dam, which was approved by Council but not approved by regulators.

The director reported that at the last two public meetings, most recently April 18, only one person had stated opposition to the Ragged Mountain plan. That person endorsed the James River pipeline option. Frederick reported a rare community consensus on a complex endeavor.

The Ragged Mountain expansion and pipeline from South Rivanna will deliver the projected need of 9.9 million more gallons a day in 50 years. But 4.0 million of that will be lost to siltation of Rivanna between now and then, he reported.

Among those who support the Ragged Mountain option are the Nature Conservancy, Southern Environmental Law Center, Piedmont Environmental Council, Rivanna Conservation Society, Friends of Rivanna, and Chamber of Commerce.

Councilor Kevin Lynch asked whether land will have to be acquired to offset city land lost to reservoir expansion. As part of the mitigation/remediation plan, he hopes the 130-some acres of flooded city land will be balanced with land set aside in the city. He said we need to preserve urban streams as well as rural streams.

In response to a question as to who originally paid for the “park” land encircling the Ragged reservoir, Frederick said the land was acquired in the 1880s by the city before the federal government began subsidizing such local projects.

Since the reservoir is in the county, it is possible that no eminent domain was used either.

There were four more Council Agenda items to follow. The utility rate hike to fund the city’s new CityLink computer system was the final vote even though, as I understand it, there was a buzz with several speakers on this issue three hours earlier. At the end of the meeting, someone spoke about it again.

Here is what I had to say:

Good evening. My name is Blair Hawkins. [address]

When someone comes here to speak so late, either you’re speaking to the future or you’re speaking to history.

I first spoke on water issues in the year 2000 when I ran for City Council. My first full speech on water issues was August 2001 where I pointed out that siltation is a threat to capacity and quality of the water supply.

When the drought came in 2002, I requested of the water authority information on the drought of 1977. It wasn’t until 3 years later that the new director Tom Frederick responded to a new request. The response was that Rivanna does not keep its historical archives. The result of both requests was the same—no information.

But Mr. Frederick actually responded. His style of leadership and active listening has built trust and good will with the community.

I support the expansion of the Ragged Mountain reservoir and the pipeline from the Rivanna to fill it. Ragged Mountain went into operation in 1885. The land encircling the reservoir is not park land. The land was acquired for water storage and is simply now being used for recreation.

Finally, I’d like to thank Rob Schilling for his service on Charlottesville City Council. Although he wasn’t reelected and he is not perfect, he still has a lot to be proud of. One person really can make a difference.

Thank you.

At the end of the meeting, one other member of the public spoke seeking funding for Abundant Life Ministries.

But the meeting dragged on with Council Reports. At this point I’m a little tired. But I think it was Blake Caravati who wondered if we should name the 9th-10th street connector after someone.

Tonight’s meeting was the sixth anniversary of the public hearing to name that street after Sally Hemings, slave of Thomas Jefferson. The Chamber was packed that night. I gave 2 speeches on eminent domain and launched a campaign to stop the abuse right here in Charlottesville.

Letter to mayor Virginia Daugherty to investigate urban renewal

"PROPERTY STREET" for Sally Hemings and Laura Dowell
Naming of 9th/10th Street Connector in Charlottesville

Close-up of Ragged Mountain's third dam and pipeline from Rivanna

Close-up of Ragged Mountain's third dam and pipeline from Rivanna

South Rivanna dam the day after Hurricane Isabel, Sep 19 2003

South Rivanna dam the day after Hurricane Isabel, Sep 19 2003

“Council Beat: Rivanna water update, Matters by the public”, February 9, 2005, Charlottesville Independent Media (defunct)
Monday, Feb 7 2005, 7pm, City Hall Council Chambers



Tom Frederick, the agency's executive director since last summer, presented the briefing. The process has moved further forward since he last spoke to Council on November 1. Since then, the agency has focused on 4 options that seek to comply with federal regulations and respond to public input and concerns. In a series of outreach forums, each option was presented and discussed. The feedback from those meetings was highly positive both in the amount of information shared and opportunity for public input.

The goal of the process, as defined by the federal regulators, is to identify the alternative that is least environmentally damaging, practical, and allows us to take into account our overall cost purposes and feasibility. From the perspective of logistics, all 4 alternatives pass the test, are able to provide the new water to either the Rivanna or Observatory Hill treatment facility. For technical feasibility, a similar conclusion. In technical memoranda, consultants go into a fair amount of detail on the Rivanna website. We're not at preliminary or final design stage, but currently at the concept level of detail.

"Each of the 4 concepts is technically feasible. They can be implemented. And they can be implemented in a way that will meet the supply deficit for this community with the exception that 2 of the concepts do not supply the entire deficit. Dredging supplies 5.5 MGD (million gallons per day), and the 4 foot crest would supply 3.3 MGD." If these 2 alternatives were selected in combination, you'd still need a third option to add up to the 9.9 MGD deficit projected in the 50-year planning period.

Environmental impact is given the heaviest weight by the regulators for permitting. At this point, a survey shows that none of the 4 options would be stopped by a threatened or endangered species. The James River Spiney Mussel was found in a tributary of the Rivanna but is outside the foot print of the expansion. Cultural and historical impacts are considered part of environmental impact. There are such issues with each alternative but not threatening to the project.

Two other impacts considered by regulators are wetlands and streams. Dredging of South Rivanna has minimal impacts to wetlands and streams. James River Intake concept has minimal impact on wetlands. The pipeline would have 30 stream crossings, which are considered temporary impacts. And the regulators look at temporary impacts with less importance than permanent. The Ragged Mountain option has very low impact on wetlands but moderate impact on 9,300 linear feet of streams. The Rivanna crest gate has 30 acres of wetland impact, which is the greatest of the 4 concepts and 18,000 linear feet of stream impact, which is also the greatest of the 4 concepts.

The other big issue is cost. We should have updated figures in time for the March 3 joint work session, to include effects on water rates. At this point, the Ragged Mountain expansion would be the lowest cost and dredging the Rivanna the highest cost.

There's been considerable public comment to us at each of the meetings. In an unusual show of active listening, the director summarized some themes of public input for these 4 concepts:

- interest from the public on how the decision will be made locally and by the regulators
- watershed management
- growth and development
- instream flow
- maintaining existing resources
- water conservation

Mr. Frederick concluded his report and invited questions from Council.

Councilor Blake Caravati asked if the $127 million cost for dredging is to dredge the entire Rivanna reservoir or just a portion. Frederick said it was for all that is feasible to be dredged. Caravati then asked, how do you maintain existing assets if you don't dredge? Frederick replied that, if dredging is not selected as a water supply option, it should not be ruled out as a maintenance need.

Frederick recommended that a maintenance program be established for the South Fork Rivanna reservoir to ensure we collect data on where the sediment is, how much is being added over time, physical and chemical tests so we understand the water quality and if it's in anyway being impaired, physical surveys to look for qualitative affects such as on vegetation. There are creative ideas on how to use the silt but no sense of how that use could bring down the cost of dredging.

Mayor David Brown asked for an idea of startup cost for dredging, with costs declining as it becomes more routine. Frederick said he will make inquiries but didn't know the figures.

Councilor Kendra Hamilton asked how quickly does the reservoir siltate and how often would we have to dredge. Frederick said there are ways to mitigate erosion from agriculture and development, but some amount of siltation may be beneficial.

Councilor Kevin Lynch said that dredging would have to be a maintenance activity. He said he was less than convinced with the figures because the numbers have been changing, would like a second opinion, and the community has suggested that dredging could be much less costly than presented. He feels we're being steered toward the James River option because it's the cheapest, which may not be the most sustainable option. And its cost has dropped from $100 million a few months ago to the current estimate of $50 million.

Frederick said the costs presented are for raw water and do not include the cost of treatment or delivery to the treatment plants or maintenance. The figures presented in July inluded all those costs. This is not "apples to apples" comparison with what you saw in July.

Lynch said he has noticed that the cost for the South Rivanna expansion has gone up just as dramatically. In August 2002 Council sent Rivanna a letter saying it wanted to go with the Rivanna expansion option, "the most bang for our water rate buck." At the time we thought the 4-foot crest would bring 7 MGD. We now know it's 3.3 MGD. The price in 2001 was $2.2 million and now we're looking at $25 million. We may have to spend $6 million to replace the Earlysville Road bridge over the reservoir. A 3-foot bladder may be a better idea. The $18 million for environmental remediation costs seems "ridiculous." He said he was frustrated that an option funded 2 years ago is still an option, and not a project that has already been decided upon. The James River option is a 50-year solution. The bladder option is a 10-15 year solution.

Councilor Rob Schilling asked how far into the future does the 3.3 MGD of the 4-foot crest get us? Frederick replied 15-20 years, one third of the 50 years. The instream flow might give us less available water than before. Frederick said that the process requires the permit to be applied for and then the regulators would say if flow satisfies the permit. The regulators could deny the permit if the flow is too small or too great. The Nature Conservancy, with their own money, is collaborating with Rivanna to study the watershed and hopes to determine what stream flow is appropriate.

Related Information:

RWSA executive director Tom Frederick responded today to an email I sent yesterday for information on the 1977 drought. This inquiry was first made right after mandatory conservation was enacted in 2002. It has taken two and a half years, exposure in the press, a new chairman and a new director for RWSA to respond to this request.

"In general, Rivanna is not required to store documents dating back to 1977, and many of them that old are no longer being stored by the agency. However, I will have someone look to see if we still have a file on the 1977 drought and get back to you. Thanks for your inquiry." -- RWSA, Feb 8 2005

The inquiry:

Subject: drought management plan

Dear Tom,

It was nice to meet you last night at the city council meeting.

Please tell me the official process for requesting archival data from your agency (the process that gets a response). I'm interested in information on the 1977 drought, one of the top 3 droughts nationally and locally in the past hundred years. This drought prompted mandatory water conservation in Charlottesville/Albemarle. A yahoo search of the internet returns 117,000 articles mentioning 1977 drought. A yahoo search of the Rivanna website returns no articles referencing this well-documented drought.

Blair Hawkins

All about "The Last Drought," Sep 3 2002

"Drought Perspective," Sep 18 2002 (comparison of droughts 2002, 1977, 1930)

South Fork History

1962 South Fork Rivanna Reservoir land purchased and still owned by the City.
1966 SFRR filled and water production begins in August.
1968 First Albemarle zoning allows high density development.
1969 Four fish kills at night possibly due to low oxygen. Hurricane Camille in August.
1970 SFRR closed for two weeks after fish kill attributed to Endrin discharge at Crown Orchards.
1972 Fish kill at Lickinghole Creek attributed to ammonia spill at Morton Frozen Foods. RWSA formed. Clean Water Act. Hurricane Agnes in June.
1973 RWSA forms advisory committee on reservoir pollution.
1974 City asks county to downzone near SFRR. UVa says SFRR is "sick."
1975 EPA says accelerated pollution is occurring.
1976 Albemarle begins downzoning. Nature Conservancy, City, County, and Virginia Commission on Outdoor Recreation purchase 80 acres as Ivy Creek Natural Area.
1977 Clean Water Act tightens restriction of discharge of toxins. Worst drought on record. First mandatory water conservation for 35 days.
1979 Watershed Manager official created. Hurricane David in September.
1980 Downzoning appealed to Virginia Supreme Court, Albemarle prevails.
1981 81.5 acres added to Ivy Creek Natural Area.
1983 Land purchased for possible future Buck Mountain Creek Reservoir.
1988 Hydro power plant installed. Virginia bans phosphates in detergents.
1995/ Major flooding in region.
1996 Sugar Hollow Reservoir placed on dam failure alert after heavy rains. Blizzard of '96 in January, Hurricane Fran September.
2002 Second mandatory water restrictions begin August 23. Letters of Charlottesville will compare the two droughts' daily demand versus water supply when authorities release the data."

"Thomas L. Frederick Jr., 47, will replace interim RWSA executive director Lonnie Wood, who was appointed after the previous permanent director Larry Tropea left in June, who replaced interim executive director Cole Hendrix, who replaced permanent director Author Petrini early in 2001. Wood will return to his post as director of finance for both authorities." ( "More local leaders from faraway lands", May 2004)

"A consultant for Arcadis G&M in Greensboro, N.C., Frederick manages various professional teams in engineering and utility management services. Before that, he served as director of water resources for three years in Asheville, N.C., where he managed a department of 106 employees providing water to more than 110,000 people." ( "Rivanna appoints executive director," May 14 2004, The Daily Progress)