Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Fifeville historic register nomination marches on

The motivation for her remarkable request [that the board vote down the nomination] was the failure of city officials (including herself) to meet terms they had set for themselves respecting response to community concerns.

Opposing the details

(Antoinette W. Roades, Charlottesville, Virginia, Letter to Editor Apr. 1, 2008, C-ville Weekly)

I am glad C-VILLE considers the matter of a state and national historic district for Fifeville worth coverage ["Opposing history: State approves Fifeville historic district," Development News, March 25, 2008]. I am sorry, however, to see much that is misleading in your item on that district’s March 20 review by Department of Historic Resources boards in Richmond.

To begin with, no one who made the effort to speak at that meeting opposes history, nor do any of the property owners who took the trouble to file 20 notarized letters of protest with DHR. Those speakers and letter-senders oppose mistreating history, making up history, and imposing historic designation on a community that repeatedly said no to it.

Regarding the "Castle Hill" aspect of the "Fifeville-Castle Hill" nomination reviewed, your reporter wrote that I and others "objected to the name, arguing it’s an anachronism." No one argued any such thing. We objected to "Castle Hill" because it was a fiction—something confirmed at the meeting by both DHR’s director and one of the consultants who prepared the nomination.

Regarding testimony by former City Councilor and Vice Mayor Kendra Hamilton, your reporter wrote that she "asked the board to vote down the district, arguing that it did not include enough on the subject [of African-American history]." Ms. Hamilton did note that lack. But as she explained eloquently in her opening statement, the motivation for her remarkable request was the failure of city officials (including herself) to meet terms they had set for themselves respecting response to community concerns and questions posed by the incorporation into the nomination of material taken from a protest letter I had written.

Regarding Jane Covington, the lone speaker who supported the nomination, your reporter wrote that she is "a Fifeville homeowner who is interested in the state and federal tax credits that come with historic designation in order to help pay for renovations." Ms. Covington’s home is in Albemarle County. She is interested in tax credits because she is a for-profit restorer to whose business plan they are crucial.

The matter of a Fifeville historic district became a contentious mess because those in charge consistently failed to focus on detail, sort disparate issues and interests accurately, or hear what people were really saying. To get that story right, a reporter must do better than the mess-makers. Careless coverage will only aggravate the civic corrosion already caused.

The invisible women
(Blair Hawkins, Charlottesville, Letter to Editor Dec. 11, 2007, C-ville Weekly)

I write to criticize your coverage of Fifeville's historic designation controversy. "Council did amend its approval, decoupling the NRHD designation with any action that could lead to design control, a separation that existed to begin with. Two residents still spoke out against approval" ["Will a 'historic' Fifeville be history," by Scott Weaver, Development News, December 11, 2007].

But the December 3 Council agenda states, "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" (

If the next step is in the schedule, how can you say a separation exists? Councilor Kendra Hamilton asked Mary Joy Scala if, indeed, the nomination is the first of a two-step process. Indeed it was, and still is. They plan to wait a while and later propose design control.

Why did those two residents speak against it despite the decoupling? They had already signed up to speak. Council had only discussed the decoupling. They had not yet voted on it.

Of more serious concern is who the reporter decided to name in the article and record in the archives of C-VILLE Weekly: Mary Joy Scala. The two residents who spoke out and won this political contest? They don't have names or arguments. It's as if Scala had written the article as part of her resumé, explaining again how dumb Fifeville residents are (this issue came before Council February 5).

Anne Carter and Antoinette Rhodes were the two who spoke against increased city regulation of the neighborhood. But to the C-VILLE reporter, they were invisible. He has learned nothing from his cover story of two weeks ago ["The echo of Vinegar Hill," November 27, 2007].

FifevilleFifeville neighborhood (Courtesy C-ville Weekly)

"Fifeville historic status, Mall cameras move forward" by Blair Hawkins, Dec. 3, 2007 Coverage of the City Council meeting and the terms they set for themselves, background on the process, recent minutes of Planning Commission, and my report of Feb. 6, 2007, posted as a comment to Charlottesville Tomorrow.


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