Wednesday, December 05, 2007

City sues over Elks Lodge-Juvenile Courthouse renovation

Charlottesville Lodge No. 389 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks organized 1897, built 1902.

Juvenile and Domestic Relation Court since 1975 at 411 East High Street (Photo May 9, 2002)

Charlottesville, Va.-- “The work at the juvenile courthouse was slated to be finished by August 7. But the project was severely derailed by the collapse of the back wall more than a year and a half ago, as the excavation company J.A. Walder, hired by Kenbridge, was digging an extended foundation. The estimated completion date has been pushed back to December 2008. Yet across the street, in the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse, a lawsuit file has had no problems growing fatter and fatter as the city, contractor, subcontractor and sub-subcontractor lay out claims for who's to blame for the still unfinished courthouse.

Characterizing that the March 2006 collapse happened because Kenbridge and Walder tried "to cut corners" and "increase [their] profits at the expense of the City," the city has sued the companies on 16 counts of negligence and breach of contract, charging Kenbridge $500 a day until construction is completed, and seeking additional damages. After the wall collapsed, says the city in its complaint, the city had to hire an engineer to come up with new designs while Kenbridge did nothing for months, and didn't return to work until June 11, 2007. The city also makes charges against Structural Engineering Concepts, the company hired by Walder for additional project design.

After receiving the suit, Kenbridge lashed out at both the city and Walder. The city provided "inaccurate or inadequate" plans, argues Kenbridge in its $2 million countersuit. Kenbridge also wants $2.8 million from Walder for breach of contract and negligence.” (“City sues over collapsed courthouse: Builder blames subcontractor, city for damage” BY WILL GOLDSMITH, Dec. 4, 2007, C-ville Weekly)

“In 2004, Charlottesville and Albemarle County officials approved what they described as long-overdue renovations, which include three new stories, a three-level, 91-space parking deck, and renovations to the old Albemarle County Jail and the Levy Opera House. But the structural mishap stopped the project in its tracks. Scaffolding was erected to stabilize the corner of the 110-year old building, and all construction ceased while a $100,000 engineering study was conducted to determine the cause of the collapse and the cost of repair versus demolition.

According to city attorney Craig Brown, the engineering study by Manassas-based engineering firm Whitlock Dalrymple Poston & Associates concluded that demolishing the building would cost "three times as much" as stabilizing and repairing the corner.

As for the cause, Brown says he's not ready to release that information until Kenbridge Construction has had a chance to respond to the findings.

"If there's a disagreement with the contractor over the cause," says Brown, "it could go to litigation, although I'm not anticipating that happening."

Brown says the project has been sent back to the architects, Mosley & Associates, which will perform additional design work and issue a plan for restoring the corner. Reconfiguring the corner out of a pile of old bricks could be complicated, time consuming, and expensive, but Brown can't say just how expensive until the architect and the contractor work out a solution.” (“ON ARCHITECTURE- Façade and effect: Courthouse collapse raises questions” by DAVE MCNAIR, published September 7, 2006, The Hook)

Last week, the entire northeast corner of the old Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court building fell off. While no one was hurt in the March 30 structural mishap, the incident could drive up the price and set back the schedule of the $13.5 million renovation.

And that's the good news. If structural engineers investigating the collapse find more potential failures, the entire 110-year-old building might have to come down. In fact, according to city spokesman Ric Barrick, the firm in charge of the project, Kenbridge Construction, is building a wide barricade around the site in case the structure collapses on its own.

Built in 1902, the Colonial Revival building was originally Elks Lodge No. 389 and housed a library, a card room, a billiard parlor, and even a bowling alley. Early photographs of the lodge show the building with a big four-column portico on the front with a giant moose head under its peak.

A major fire in the late 1940s destroyed much of the building, and when it was later renovated, local architect Floyd Johnson chose not to rebuild the portico. Other distinguishing features include double fan arches over the front door and the window above, two pilasters corresponding with Doric columns, and a rusticated façade on which every fifth brick is indented.

In 2004, the City and County approved the long-overdue renovation of the juvenile courthouse, which also includes touch-ups to the old Albemarle County Jail and renovation of the Levy Opera House. Incidentally, the old jail was where Charlottesville mayor Sam McCue (the subject of the Hook's October 30, 2003 cover story) was hanged in 1905 for murdering his wife in their Park Street home.
According to city building code official Tom Elliott, the collapse occurred while workers for Kenbridge Construction were in the process of "underpinning," or reinforcing, the foundation for a three-story courthouse addition. They were using a converted trackhoe to drill holes at the base of the old courthouse's foundation.

Bystanders may look at the excavation pit that extends to within inches of the courthouse foundation and begin making judgements. But [Tom] Barber, who specializes in vibration, isn't ready to blame the incident on drilling too close to the old building.
Barber also questions the integrity of the brick wall. "If you notice, the bricks just crumbled into a big pile, instead of sheets of wall, which means the mortar was probably bad," he says.

Barber also points out that the wall was 110 years old and unusually thin. Barber likens a wall like that to a yardstick that begins to bow when you push on it. "Today, we'd use cinder blocks with a brick face," he says. When asked if sandblasting layers of old paint off the building might have compromised the mortar, Barber admits it's a good possibility.

Barber is optimistic about the building's future. "It's not the most gorgeous building, but it's worth saving.”
(ON ARCHITECTURE- Courthouse collapse: Engineers' time to shine (a light)
by DAVE MCNAIR, published April 6, 2006, The Hook

3 photos of corner which collapsed March 30, 2006 at 12:20pm. “Apparently, workers on the site noticed a crack forming on the wall and had time to clear the area. About 20 minutes later the corner of the building came crashing down. No one was hurt.”

Worst kibbitzing by City Council: Council doesn't approve the joint city/county juvenile courthouse expansion presented by city engineers and approved by the county, and instead calls for a June 3 public hearing, according to a story in the Progress. (4 BETTER OR WORSE- The week in review, 05/30/02, The Hook)

Search Charlottesville online real estate

Address: 411-417 EAST HIGH STREET
Deed Book 365 Page 85
Date: 6/16/1975
Sale Price: $261,500
Owner: City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle
Image taken 5/9/2002
Year built: 1903
Stories: 2
Gross Area: 17,624 square feet
2007 assessment Land $266,000
Improvements $855,900
Total $1,121,900


The Circuit Court of the County of Albemarle, part of the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Virginia, is the court of record in the County. This court has general jurisdiction of all types of cases - civil, equity, and criminal. In addition, the Circuit Court is the court to which appeals from the General District Court and the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court are taken.

The General District Court exercises original jurisdiction over all misdemeanor cases and civil matters where less than $10,000 is involved. Preliminary hearings in those criminal cases classed as felonies are heard in the General District Court. This court also decides traffic cases, zoning, and hunting and fishing license matters.

The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court consists of two components. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit which provides support and follow-up service such as probation and aftercare, investigations for youths, intake services to the community, and domestic relations counseling. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is concerned with issues involving the welfare of children and families. The Court has jurisdiction over cases involving violations of the law committed by or against persons under the age of eighteen, family disputes, or other domestic-related problems. For more information, call the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court at (434) 979-7165 or the Court Services Unit at (434) 979-7191.

The Commonwealth Attorney represents the County and State in criminal cases and is the chief prosecuting officer for Albemarle County. The Commonwealth Attorney is elected by Albemarle citizens every four years.

The Clerk of the Circuit Court, a constitutional officer elected every eight years, is responsible for the recordation of deeds, deeds of trust, mechanics liens, partnerships and fiduciary accounts, the docketing of judgments, financing, and termination statements under the Uniform Commercial Code. The Clerk also processes motions for judgments involving vehicle accidents, suits for divorce, condemnations, injunctions, partition of land, appeals from District Court, adoption proceedings, and name changes. Other duties include appointing and advising executors, administrators, trustees, guardians, and probating wills of the deceased.

The Sheriff of Albemarle County, a constitutional officer who is elected for a term of four years, is responsible for maintaining courtroom security at each of the courts, transporting prisoners and mental patients, and serving civil papers in the County.

Charlottesville Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court

16th Judicial District of Virginia

In Virginia, a juvenile is any person under 18 years of age. The juvenile and domestic relations district court hears all matters involving juveniles such as criminal or traffic matters. Juvenile delinquency cases are cases involving a minor under the age of 18 who has been accused of committing an offense that would be considered criminal if committed by an adult. Other juvenile offenses may be referred to as status offenses. Status offenses are those acts that are unlawful only because they are committed by a minor.

In addition, this court handles other matters involving the family such as custody, support and visitation. The court also hears family abuse cases, cases where adults have been accused of child abuse or neglect, and criminal cases where the defendant and alleged victim are family or household members.

There is a juvenile and domestic relations district court in each city and county. The judges of the juvenile and domestic relations district court are elected by the General Assembly for 6 year terms.

Coutesy The Daily Progress Historical and Industrial Magazine 1906

History from Wikipedia

The Elks had modest beginnings in 1868 as a social club (then called the "Jolly Corks") established as a private club to elude New York City laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. Early members were mostly from theatrical performing troupes in New York City.

It has since evolved into a major American fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members, both men and women, throughout the United States. Current members are required to be U.S. citizens over the age of 21 and believe in God.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fifeville historic status, Mall cameras move forward

Charlottesville, Va.—Despite wide opposition, the 5-member City Council voted unanimously to recommend the Fifeville neighborhood be added to the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Residents fear the designation would lead to a design control district. The historic status would allow tax breaks for approved renovations. The design control would require permission from the Board of Architectural Review as to the color you could paint your house among many other “guidelines”. A ruling by the BAR can be appealed to the Council, who don’t like to over-rule their agencies. The BAR has proposed a lesser degree of regulation in the form of a “conservation district.”

Councilor Kendra Hamilton asked the petitioner, Mary Joy Scala of Neighborhood Development Services, if the historic designation is indeed the first step of the process to control designation.

Scala stuttered and had no real answer. The fear that historic status is the first part of control designation was confirmed.

Ann Carter spoke at the public hearing on this matter. At first she supported the nomination of the neighborhood to the National Register. But then it became clear to her that the purpose of this designation is to support the control designation. She said when this issue comes up again, in 5, 10, 15 years, she’ll be older and less able to fight the inevitable regulation.

Antoinette Rhodes accused Scala of plagiarizing a letter Rhodes had written criticizing the plan. Rhodes said a revised plan was submitted using her own words to support what the letter objected to. She appreciated that, moments before, the Council had “de-coupled” the historic status issue from the control design issue.

Council voted to move forward with the nomination process stipulating that:

(1) Council not move forward with regulation designation until the neighborhood is ready and desirous of those limitations
(2) The issue of intellectual property used without permission or credit be explained.

Council lacked all credibility on several fronts. Councilor Dave Norris said the public should be involved in the sale of 3 city lots at Cherry Avenue and Ridge Street. This development was opposed in 2004. The developer withdrew the proposal because of public opposition. Here it is again.

Once city staff proposes a program, it can be stopped only temporarily.

For a third time, Police Chief Tim Longo asked Council to approve surveillance cameras on the Mall. This time Council said yes with only David Brown voting no. The ordinance would issue Request for Proposals to get a better idea of how much the 30 cameras will cost. In February Longo will have been police chief for 7 years.

Longo said there would be 10 cameras on Garrett Street, 15 on the Mall positioned so they could also look down side streets, and 5 at public buildings such as City Hall. Then there was some confusion when Hamilton said 10 cameras on Water St. Longo said Friendship Court has its own surveillance camera system.

Longo talked at length how cameras help deter and catch people who commit property crimes. But Mayor Brown pointed out the concerns of downtown are violent crimes. Hamilton remarked the cameras also record police misconduct.

During public comment, David RePass, a resident of north downtown, listed numerous, serious crimes that have occurred since Septemberin downtown. But Longo reported that crime statistics are down.

Longo said one downtown business owner was interested in possibly funding the cameras. Several councilors said downtown is already under surveillance, for example such as banks.

Councilor Dave Norris was concerned the cameras be flexible and redeployable to hot spots. The cameras will transmit to a wireless network on a frequency of 2.4, 5.4, 5.8, or 1.9 Gigahertz. Councilor Kevin Lynch suggested a lower frequency, perhaps 700 Megahetz might provide greater range but be more susceptible to interference.

City Council Agenda Dec. 3, 2007 includes background on the Fifeville designations and various objections.

(1) National and State districts designated through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) provide recognition for Virginia’s and the Nation’s most significant districts and buildings and provide incentives such as tax credits for rehabilitation, but do not impose regulations. There are currently five districts and 57 individual properties listed on the State and National Registers in Charlottesville.

(2) Local districts designated by City Council, called architectural design control (ADC) districts, require review and approval by the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) of proposed demolitions, new construction, and certain changes to the exterior of buildings. In Virginia, design review is only permitted in a locally designated historic district or a designated entrance corridor. A local historic district designation is the only means to require approval of a proposed demolition. There are currently 8 ADC Districts and 66 individually protected properties designated in Charlottesville.

In addition, the BAR has recommended an alternative type of local design control district called a Conservation District, which will be scheduled for possible adoption by City Council in the spring. It is intended to be less stringent than an ADC district, intended to protect the character and scale of the more modest historic neighborhoods that are facing increased development and tear-downs, without imposing excessive requirements on the current residents who may want to remodel their homes.

The revised Fifeville-Castle Hill National Register nomination document, with changes tracked, is available online on the Board of Architectural Review’s web page. A notification letter was mailed to each property owner in the proposed district on November 12 regarding the revised document and this public hearing. One email has been received dated November 25 objecting to the revisions.

The objection states that the nomination report is flawed and plagiarized and should be discarded.

Comment by Blair Hawkins to “Council decides to keep Old Lynchburg Road open and ask the County to make Fontaine-Sunset Connector a priority” Feb. 6 2007, Charlottesville Tomorrow

Another story last night you won't hear about elsewhere was the proposed historic district for the city's Fifeville neighborhood. Notification letters were sent out the day before Christmas, Dec. 24.

Councilor Kendra Hamilton acknowledged blacks have historically opposed historic designation, but she didn't know why.

Mayor David Brown said the purpose of historic designation is to prevent property owners from demolishing their historic homes. Brown doesn't know that blacks want a designation to prevent the city's agencies from demolishing historic homes.

Councilor Julian Taliaferro was the biggest denier of Charlottesville history by saying the concerns of blacks is an example of "perception greater than reality." During his campaign for office, at least twice, Taliaferro dismissed statements by the public as untrue, based solely on his inability to believe the truth.

Tonight, the councilors were responding to Ann Carter... In her public comment, she listed out some history the councilors continue to dismiss as untrue. But I don't believe Ms. Carter is a lier…

City of Charlottesville, Board of Architectural Review, July 20, 2004, Minutes"

Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue

Ms. Scala gave the staff report. The applicant was requesting a second preliminary discussion. The applicant had submitted: a perspective view, elevation drawings on Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue, a photographic montage of views on Cherry Avenue looking towards Ridge and Fifth Street, Southwest, and a conceptual site plan. Letters had been received from Preservation Piedmont and Toni Rhodes.

Mr. Bill Atwood, architect for the project, was present. Another plan had been generated after input from the Board, City Council, and neighbors. He made use of the original and current sketches to demonstrate differences between the two. The concept was to push forward and reinforce the corner leaving an urban forest. More green space had been added back to the corner. The cottages between the two projects would be redesigned after discussion with a tree expert.

Ms. Heetderks called for questions from the public.

Ms. Antoinette Rhodes stated that three of the lots belonged to the City; the applicant did not have a contract on them and there was no guarantee the applicant would get them. She wanted to know why the plan showed substantial building on those lots. Mr. Atwood explained that they only had drawing rights; there had been no discussion of ownership on those lots.

Ms. Rose also asked what was being done to preserve the cemetery located in that area according to an 1883 deed. Mr. Atwood stated the original property owner was researching that. As the architect, he had no design solution for it at the moment.

"City of Charlottesville, Board of Architectural Review, June 15, 2004, Minutes"

Ms. Antoinette Rhodes...spoke against the Board of Architectural Review’s suggestion that the Cherry Avenue edge of the Ridge/Cherry site be widely commercial; it was a stunningly bad idea. Ridge Street has never had a commercial component. Ms. Rhodes gave a history of Cherry Street. Removal of the trees along that strip is a bad idea. She stated she had taken the City Forester to the site; he had been impressed by the trees, many of which had measured diameters over four feet. Ms. Rhodes presented the members with photographs and other materials regarding the site. Ms. Fenton thought they could look at the materials during their break.