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.


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