Monday, January 24, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development: Green vs Affordable

Charlottesville, Va. – The proposed William Taylor Plaza will likely change again with yet another rezoning.

In the latest proposal, some environmental standards may be sacrificed if the previous 30% becomes 100% affordable housing. The project would have 80 housing units instead of 50, EarthCraft instead of LEED certification, 120,000 square feet instead of 80,00 to 100,000,

The changes are requested by William Park, who developed Treesdale Park on Rio Road between Towne Lane and Stonehenge Road, an Affordable Multifamily Rental Community, where ground has recently been broken. Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) is also involved with Treesdale. (See below for links.)

The next final public hearing is February 8.

Antoinette Roades update January 22, 2011


This message updates my alert of 28 December 2010 vis-a-vis what's afoot for the almost 3-acre Ridge-Cherry property. In October 2009, City Council approved a Southern Development project (William Taylor Plaza) for the site. A year earlier, CC had agreed to sell SD two City-owned parcels on Ridge Street without which the subsequently approved WTP could not be built.

Now, however, as the result of an extraordinary act of bait-and-switch that will also constitute a bailout for Southern Development, City Council is poised to approve a radically different project for the site under the pretence of making "changes to the [WTP] PUD" -- a profoundly dishonest maneuver.

Indeed, it would appear that the goal of the "changes" requested is to convert WTP into something very like "Treesdale Park (Affordable Multifamily Rental Community)," a project developed by William Park in concert with AHIP (a nonprofit housing agency in Albemarle County) for which ground was recently broken on Rio Road. And City Council is poised to do that after offering the public exactly one opportunity for comment -- a Joint Public Hearing with Planning Commission at PC's 8 February regular meeting.


I sent my 28 December alert because Neighborhood Development Services had issued notice on 21 December that CC and PC would hold a Joint Public Hearing on WTP changes on 11 January 2011. That hearing would be the only opportunity for any public comment. In that alert, I reported that subsequent inquiry had revealed that approval of the Rezoning Petition to be heard on 11 January would subject the property and the neighborhood to significantly greater impact than the NDS-issued notice had implied.

Indeed, inquiry had revealed that SD, which had begun advertising the Ridge-Cherry property for sale (at $2.3 million) immediately after securing approval for the WTP plan, had (after relisting at $1.8 million) found a buyer in William Park of Pinnacle Construction and Bluestone Land, et al., and that Park intended a project that would be notably larger while also being held to a lowered environmental standard.

On 4 January, I learned that the Joint Public Hearing was being deferred from the 11 January Planning Commission agenda to the 8 February PC agenda because William Park was "interested in additional changes" (quoth an NDS staff member). Yesterday, I was able to review his revised and expanded requests.

Note: Backup documents attached herewith are:
~~copy of my 28 December alert
~~Train &Partners plan approved in 2009
~~Fugleberg Koch plan submitted last month
~~detail of City Tax Map 29 showing relevant parcels
~~spreadsheet of zoning amendment sought by William Park


The combined "changes” – wich in fact constitute a new project – now include:
~~a project area of 120,000 square feet, rather than 80,000-100,000 square feet (an increase of 20-50 percent)
~~a project inventory of 80 residential units rather than 50 residential units (an increase of 60 percent and a factor that would certainly increase the project's vehicular traffic at what is already one of the City's most burdened intersections)
~~a project placement that would intrude more deeply into the fragile site's most fragile zone
~~a tree-preservation requirement that would allow more latitude for tree removal
~~a building-standard requirement that would apply Earthcraft Certification guidelines rather than the more demanding LEED Certification guidelines
~~a project that would include the two City-owned parcels contracted to SD (but not closed on or paid for by SD) without making the contract-required cash payment of $253,000 (Instead, "affordable housing" units would substitute for cash payment and, presumably, no cash whatsoever would change hands.)


In seeking to purchase the two project-critical City-owned parcels and secure approval for WTP, SD made much of the WTP project's alleged "green" aspects – aspects that would in no way mitigate the cutting of dozens of mature trees, the gouging of a critical slope, the piping of a stream, the destruction of a natural rain garden, etc.

In approving the sale and WTP, both City Councilors and Planning Commissioners made much of those "green" aspects – precisely the effect SD had sought. In seeking to reduce the project's purportedly "green" aspects, William Park is making much of "affordable housing" aspects seeking to likewise sway Councilors and Commissioners easily.

For some time, "affordable housing" has been the abracadabra phrase that has won for in-City developers anything they have demanded. That's been true despite the fact that the financial formula used to determine what "affordable" means has allowed unit prices upwards of $300,000 – affordable to some undoubtedly, but far beyond the reach of many others. And the process has also been susceptible to abuses as when buyers of "affordable" units have quickly flipped them for profit and as developers have bought the "affordable" units in their projects and turned them into personal income property.

Meanwhile, as William Park dangles formula-defined "affordable housing" as bait, the City is awash in truly affordable housing and especially in cheap condos – a situation experts foresee lasting far into the future. Indeed, no less than an official of Piedmont Housing Alliance told Councilors at a recent meeting that the City now had abundant "affordable" rentals.


In sum, what is being sought by William Park via the Rezoning Petition to be heard before the public for the first and last time on 8 February is not a few changes to SD's much opposed but approved anyway WTP project. The Park plan has a different size, a different shape, a different position on site, different standards, different impacts, a different design in the Ridge Street design control district, and a different developer. Therefore, it is a different project.

N.B. On the way to approving the sale of City property to SD and the WTP project, Councilors made much of involving "the neighborhood." A number of meetings – presentations, discussions, etc. – were scheduled and opinions solicited. Nothing of the sort has been done for this very different project. Instead, it is being advanced very fast and very far below public radar.

I question whether Mr. Park even has legal standing to bring his petition, given that his declared status is "Contract Purchaser" of City parcels contracted to SD but never actually purchased by SD. Whether he has such standing or not, however, for City Councilors and Planning Commissioners to address this as mere "changes" (the word NDS uses over and over) of an existing plan is nothing short of dishonest.


William Taylor Plaza was the culmination of a process that began in 1999 as the now infamous housing bubble was beginning to balloon. Its specific plan was introduced in 2007 when that bubble was fully inflated. It is in every respect a perfect example of the wretched excess that characterized that destructive and now completely discredited artificial boom. There is good reason that Messrs. Silverman, Cadgene, and Kuttner abandoned a very similar plan for the nearby Ix property. There is equally good reason that Bill Atwood – saying "Fundamentally, the world has changed...” – radically scaled back his similar Waterhouse project on nearby Water Street. And a number of other large projects have also been downscaled or cancelled entirely

David Neuman, U.Va. chief architect and non-voting member of Planning Commission, described WTP in 2009 as essentially "City-sponsored." That was true. Given today's market and forecasts for the foreseeable future, there is every reason that WTP should now be dying a natural death rather than being reinvented by City intervention that can benefit no one other than City Councilors' very good friends at Southern Development. As a neighbor simply put it, "This is nothing but a bailout for SD." Yes, a bailout that would return SD more than $1.7 million on an initial investment of $90,000, the price SD's creator Dr. Charles Hurt paid for five Ridge-Cherry parcels in 1999.

Note: City Council is currently on track to approve in February the sale to SD of an already under-assessed City-owned parcel on Elliott Avenue for a further discounted price. (The 8,268 square-foot, prominently-located, and sidewalk-served City parcel, assessed at $50,000, will be sold to Councilors' very good friends at SD for only $40,000. For comparison, my 6,000 square-foot parcel two blocks away on a sidewalk-challenged side street is assessed at $60,300.)


If any of this troubles you -- the potential impact, the process by which it is being effected, ad inf. – please let City Council and Planning Commission know that both via e-mails and at the Joint Public Hearing now scheduled for 8 February.

Please note that there is long history of Councilors and Commissioners coming to such hearings with minds made up – and that's been especially evident when Southern Development has been involved. Consequently, stating your position in advance may have more weight than just speaking at the hearing, the primary value of which is often educating the public.



Many of you will have followed the long running water-supply debate and noted its most recent dramatic turn. If the position taken this week by three City Councilors is indeed determinate, the extraordinarily valuable Ragged Mountain Natural Area will be stripped of tens of thousands of trees as its rugged topography is destroyed to build a massive dam and reservoir.

It has always been difficult for people not closely acquainted with the Ridge-Cherry property to understand why those who have fought for its retention as a natural asset believe as strongly as they do. Even in a slow-moving vehicle, its almost 3 acres flash by in seconds and that quick glance, which inevitably captures invasive bamboo and pervasive litter, can suggest that it is of little value. But it has great value.


In fact, the Ridge-Cherry property is in many respects a miniature of Ragged Mountain, with which it shares geological origin. It is a steep-sided wooded ravine bisected by a creek created by a natural spring that was once a deed-cited feature near the intersection of Oak Street and 4th Street N.W.

In more recent times, the declivity formed by the creek has been pressed into use as a storm drain site. That channel now carries massive amounts of polluted runoff into the heart of the property -- a highly efficient rain garden -- from which, after most runoff is absorbed, small residue leaves as a clear trickle. (This creek feeds a creek that feeds Moores Creek, the cleanup and protection of which is a declared priority of both concerned citizen groups and public agencies. Therefore, it is – as former Planning Commissioner Bill Emory noted in '09 – an integral part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.)

Left unmolested for a century and a half – and rightly considered unbuildable until the thoroughly irrational decade just passed – the property suffered serious insult after its purchase in 1999 by Dr. Hurt. An enormous bulldozer cleared a swath through it by knocking over large trees and pushing them into piles. The resulting destruction of canopy and disturbance of earth allowed various alien species – bamboo, Ailanthus, briars, brambles – to rush into what had been an almost undergrowth-free forest floor. Nevertheless, an extraordinary array of both flora and fauna remains.

In July 2004, Wintergreen Nature Foundation director Doug Coleman led a tour of the property. That event did more than any other to galvanize opposition to plans subsequently advanced by Southern Development. People saw for themselves that it was quite simply a treasure.


The property's plant stars are a towering, wonderfully healthy, double-trunked sycamore, which City Forester Tim Hughes calculated to have a circumference of more than 9 feet in 2004, and a naturalized grove of rare-hereabout Kentucky coffee trees (Gymnocladus dioica). The coffees are likely descended from trees introduced by the land's early 19th century owner, Alexander Garrett. Garrett was an associate of Thomas Jefferson, who received the tree's seeds from George Rogers Clark in 1783. (For more on these living artifacts, see Peggy Cornett's excellent article on them in the 2009 issue of Magazine of Albemarle County History .) The property also features particularly fine black walnut and tulip poplar specimens. Those are accompanied by mulberry, wild cherry, box elder, dogwood, catalpa, etc. Meanwhile, a couple of big Norway maples stand as reminders that VDOT demolished a number of handsome, hundred-year-old houses on the Ridge Street high ground in the 1970s.

As for critters, sightings have included squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, possums, raccoons, a fox, bats, and a wide array of birds – from titmice, swallows, chickadees, cardinals, robins, blue jays, mourning doves, mockingbirds, wrens, and crows to a wild turkey, a sharp shinned hawk, and several woodpeckers including pileated.


The property's human fauna have been distinguished as well. The entire block now bounded by Ridge Street, Cherry Avenue, 4th Street S.W., and Oak Street was purchased from Alexander Garrett in 1830 by Allen W. Hawkins. Hawkins had come to Albemarle from Bedford to work as a bricklayer at Mr. Jefferson's new Academical Village and stayed on to build both buildings and builders -- white and black, slave and free. Four houses that can be traced to Hawkins' skilled hands still stand on the block, including his circa 1831 brick-cottage home at 418 Fifth Street S.W. and the landmark Greek Revival residence at 505 Ridge Street. Others stand nearby.

In 1857, Allen Hawkins was buried in a family graveyard on his property. Evidence both documentary and eye-witness points to Parcel 157 on Tax Map 29 as the site of that graveyard, which could contain as many as ten burials. Parcel 157 bore the brunt of the 1999 bulldozer onslaught. It would also bear a large portion of William Taylor Plaza, which William Park seeks to intrude even further.

Again, people, if you care whether such assets are degraded and/or destroyed by a massive project that is also a massive developer bailout please speak up forcefully and soon.

Thank you.


Antoinette W. Roades

Ridge-Cherry development proffers for rezoning again, Jan. 5, 2011 Includes 2 schematics of William Taylor Plaza, 6-page rezoning application, public notice of the Jan. 11 hearing postponed to Feb. 8.

AHIP: Affordable Housing: Treesdale Park “Treesdale Park is a planned 88-unit multifamily community, to be located on East Rio Road in Albemarle County. A mix of two- and three-bedroom units, the new neighborhood will be home to households who earn up to 60 percent of the area median income. (Sixty percent of area median income is about $36,000 for a family of four.)”

Albemarle Planning Commission weighs in on Treesdale, Sep. 1, 2007 “AHIP wants 6.6 acres to be moved from R4 zoning, which would allow 4 units per acre, to Planned Residential District which would allow between 3 and 34 units per acre. "What the applicant is proposing is 90 units," said County Planner Sean Dougherty. The plan is to have three multi-story buildings, with parking underneath. By right without a rezoning, 39 homes could be constructed. “The applicant has proffered to do 15 percent affordability, but that’s in case the developer is not able to get federal tax credits. If they’re able to do it with federal tax credits, it would be more like 100% affordability.”

County Planners approve Treesdale Park affordable housing development on Rio Rd., Nov. 11, 2009 “Because of federal tax credits, all units in the development will be made available for rental to residents who earn below 60 percent of the area median income.”

Affordable Housing Treesdale Park in Charlottesville Breaks Ground Photos of the site.

Albemarle County: AHIP Welcomes Funding for Treesdale Park: First New Affordable Multifamily Rental Community of its Kind in Greater Charlottesville in 15 Years. 11/19/2010

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Councilor Huja defends 30-foot dam

“People before us planned for our water supply we are benefiting from. We need to do likewise for future generations.” – Councilor Satyendra Huja.

Charlottesville, Va. – Following Tuesday’s City Council vote, Councilman Satyendra Huja explained Friday the shift away from the 13-foot dam height increase, the Mayor Dave Norris plan.

On Wednesday Norris claimed he didn’t know about the vote ahead of time. But Huja said Councilor Kristin Szakos had told Norris prior to the meeting. During the actual meeting, Norris did not seem surprised as the vote unfolded.

Appearing on Coy Barefoot’s “Charlottesville Right Now” radio talk show Friday on WINA AM-1070 (Podcast 16m 50s), Huja was treated with disrespect by the host and two callers: Richard Lloyd, a civil engineer, and Dede Smith, a former school board member.

Barefoot poisoned the well by setting up his own view before Huja spoke. Barefoot ganged up on Huja and repeated the questions from Lloyd and Smith. “Who told you” this or that? – they cross-examined repeatedly. Is Huja not able to look at a situation and draw his own conclusions?

Huja is the only councilor born outside the USA. He is a Sikh Indian. Now an American citizen, Huja received in 1968 his degree in urban planning from Michigan State University.

Huja was Charlottesville’s official chief urban planner 1973 to 2004, during which time much has changed. Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority formed 1973; negotiations began March 1972. Huja was city planner in 1977 for the city and county’s first mandatory drought restrictions. He was city planner when the Buck Mountain Reservoir was acquired in the early ‘80s. Guess what: Huja was city planner in the 2002 drought.

Huja is the only person of political power in the city or county with enough local historical knowledge of water issues to plan 50 years into the future. The water supply is not an engineering problem. It’s a political question.

Caller Frank reminded us there is an upcoming election. He and caller George applauded Huja, Szakos, and Brown for taking a stand. Huja’s campaign slogan was “Think outside the box.”

On Friday Huja got a taste of the demonizing the critics Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply have used against RWSA director Tom Frederick and Chairman Mike Gaffney at public board meetings. This contempt and incivility are headed for city council and a broader audience.

On previous shows just this past week, critics have stated that those in disagreement are either stupid or dishonest, misinformed or being manipulated. In a spectacle at a recent Council meeting, a fourth grader said basically – if you disagree, you’re dumber than a fourth grader. This is the level of discourse.

Angel in the details

As to why the majority of Council split from the mayor, Huja explained what has changed since the September unanimous vote for 13-feet.

(A) We now know the Department of Environmental Quality would not approve the 13 feet because it does not provide enough water.
(B) We now know the University will double their water use from 1.5 to 3.1 million gallons per day (MGD), a hundred percent jump.

Huja said most of the plan is still the same: dredging and conservation. But now the dam is to be “at least” 30 feet high for water supply and if needed go to 42 feet. The taller dam would also provide normal stream flows for the Moormans and Rivanna rivers.

Richard Lloyd called and said the DEQ was misinformed in its letter to Mayor Norris and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Ann Mallek. Lloyd asked “who had told him [Huja]” the Norris plan would not work.

Huja responded, “I don’t quite agree with you. I think DEQ did say very clearly that, with the current assumptions, we need more water than we could employ with 13 feet.” Lloyd claimed the letter was based on a 45-foot dam.

Barefoot rephrased the question. Huja said, “You can change the plan anytime you want to change the plan. But you need to meet certain basic water requirements…People before us planned for our water supply we are benefiting from. We need to do likewise for future generations.”

Barefoot kept asking questions based on the spin from Mayor Norris. Where does this change put dredging and does it obviate the need for dredging?

Huja: “I don’t agree at all.” He said we need to perform two types of dredging: restorative to regain the 22% volume lost to siltation in the last 50 years and maintenance dredging to maintain the supply. “We hope there will be a market for the silt.”

Dede Smith called in and started with this line: “Hello, hello Huja. How are you?” She asked, “I would like to know who told you the DEQ letter said we could not, they would not permit 13 feet plus dredging? Because it has been refuted many times and I’m just curious where you are getting that information?”

Smith tried to muddy the water with numbers in an effort to say UVA is not a major consumer of municipal water. Barefoot repeated the question: Who told you that?

Huja: “First of all the letter itself says that.” Smith repeated the question several times more and then answered herself. “DEQ never said that…In fact Dave Norris has made this point many, many times and Dave Norris has talked to the DEQ [in secret meetings]…UVA is being used as a tool but in fact it’s just not a big player in this projection of adequate growth.”

Huja: “UVA is a big player, not a small player.” Smith’s opposition to the latest plan has led her to claim the University of Virginia is a “small player” in the community’s water needs.

Barefoot followed up with another biased question. You clearly knew Tuesday’s vote was coming because you had a “prepared statement” and Norris said he had no idea the vote was coming. “When did you know…?”

Huja said the dam change had been discussed at a couple meetings. “We wanted to take some kind of action. We don’t want to talk about this for the rest of our lives…Szakos did talk to Mr. Norris.”

Barefoot: “Before that meeting?” Huja: “Yes…I’m not sure how the mayor is surprised because at the last meeting before that, we indicated we are going to discuss this matter again on January 18.”

Barefoot conducted the toughest interview of his career. The Council Agenda did not call for a vote. Huja said Council can vote anytime they want and Barefoot was forced to agree. Barefoot asked: Who else knew? Did the Board of Supervisors know? – implying that Huja now represents the county and not the city. Is Huja part of a conspiracy?

Huja didn’t know how the Board of Supervisors could have known. Council doesn’t typically get approval from the county on anything. But again, since Huja is in disagreement, innocent things are called into suspicion, like being prepared for a Council meeting.

Barefoot eased up and let Huja make a final statement before the last call. Huja said the plan is for 50 years, not one or two years. The latest plan is for 109 gallons of water per person per day.

The Norris Spin Machine

The interview made clear which side has the misinformation. As you would expect, the ones crying Misinformation! the loudest are the ones disseminating the false and misleading information. How many untruths can the mayor speak until no one pays him any mind?

It was clear Barefoot doesn’t follow local politics except for what his favorite politicians tell him. This anti-water, anti-growth campaign has relied on smear and grandstanding. The critics accuse dissenters as anti-intellectual, not wanting more information. But it is the critics who are locked into a position.

The Citizens group have worked themselves in to a frenzy. It’s now a power struggle. Any plan other than theirs is a personal attack against them – just as they turned their disagreement into personal attacks. Don’t expect the alternative compromise – the Brown-Szakos-Huja dam – to be treated fairly on “Charlottesville Right Now” as we have seen.

Maybe there are other media outlets where diverse views can be discussed on their own merits, and not through the lens of a mendacious mayor or misleading activist group.

Council wants 30-foot dam, nixes Norris plan, Jan. 18, 2011.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Council wants 30-foot dam, nixes Norris plan

“Going down this road is like going down the rabbit hole.” – Councilor Holly Edwards

Charlottesville, Va. – Council has changed the compromise plan from a 13- to now a 30-foot dam height increase. They voted 3 to 2 to amend their September resolution calling for a 13-foot dam height increase at Ragged Mountain.

Councilors David Brown, Kristin Szakos, and Satyendra Huja voted yes, with Mayor Dave Norris and Holly Edwards no.

Brown made the motion. There was some confusion right before the vote, whether it was for 30 feet or a range of 13 to 30 feet. But all three compromising councilors stuck by their decision even though the mayor argued against them.

Mayor Norris said his plan would not encroach on Interstate-64, would preserve biologically diverse forest to be inundated, and allow for expansion.

Szakos said 13 feet is not enough according to Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Norris responded that “DEQ never said no.” In some semantic game, Norris said his plan would satisfy the permit requirements for stream-flows but it would take years longer to reach those goals.

Edwards said it best: “Going down this road is like going down the rabbit hole.” The hypocrisies and ironies were breath-taking.

Edwards thanked City Public Works Director Judy Mueller for telling the truth when describing the process as “adversarial.” On the latest study’s ability to trump all previous studies, Edwards made the analogy: would you rather take medicine from 2006 or meds from 2008 or 2009?

Mueller said the city and county have been negotiating the Cost Share Agreement for two weeks so far. All the councilors wanted the county to pay as much as possible.

Szakos asked Mueller if the cost sharing agreement includes dredging and conservation. Mueller responded no. Szakos wanted a slush fund for rebates and incentives for conservation. Mueller said the only thing they’ve done is to subsidize rain barrels.

Chris Webster of Schnabel Engineering, designing the earthen dam, answered questions from Council. He said the full 42-foot height built all at once would be the most practical for the price and would take 18 months to construct.

City Council and County Board of Supervisors met this afternoon to discuss the water issues.

It’s unclear whether Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply will be upset. In public comment, Betty Mooney was okay with the 13-foot compromise. She promised “we won’t march on the city.”

The main buzz in the public comment was the issue of a Special Use Permit to play music in a restaurant. Music + restaurant = Music Hall. Cville Coffee may need a cabaret license for open mike night. “For-profit only” music venues were derided.

No Council meeting would be complete without a real estate shenanigan. The city wants to sell the Region Ten site at 4th and Preston as a Single Room Occupancy public housing project owned and operated by Virginia Supportive Housing. Council voted that this first reading is the second reading and voted again unanimously to sell the property. The actual ordinance was not read, only discussed with two people speaking in the public hearing.

Also Southern development wants another two city surplus lots, for $40,000, this time in the southwest corner of Ridge-Cherry-Elliott adjacent Burnet Commons housing project.

City Council Jan. 18, 2011. Streaming Media Archive Page for Charlottesville City.

City to take over 2006 water plan, Jan. 3, 2011.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development proffers for rezoning again

"This is yet another shameful act in a seemingly endless series of shameful acts." - Toni Roades

Charlottesville, Va. – The northwest corner of Ridge Street and Cherry Avenue, like most issues in town, has been a controversy for decades. The proposed site includes two surplus lots sold by the city.

It’s located in a distressed area of town known as Fifeville, now a historic conservation district despite neighborhood opposition to the regulatory designation. In 2006 the city threatened to seize two allegedly blighted houses across the street. At the last Council meeting, the city discussed leasing the city-owned house at 608 Ridge at the south[east] corner of Ridge-Cherry-Elliott.

In the rezoning application at a fee of $2,000, Bluestone Land LLC agrees to “contribute approximately $253,000, per the terms of the Land Purchase and Sale Agreement, to a Fifeville neighborhood affordable housing fund, another affordable housing fund designated by the City, or for improvements to Tonsler Park, in the discretion of City Council. The contribution shall be made within 30 days of the approval of the final site plan or final plat approval, whichever occurs later.

– OR –

The Developer shall provide at least 20 Affordable Housing Units or 30% of the total number of units, whichever is greater, on site, as part of the project….”

But that’s not all!

  1. A city bus stop.
  2. Public arboretum.
  3. LEED or EarthCraft Certification.
  4. $10,000 in cash to Capital Improvements Program for pedestrian safety or traffic calming.
  5. $15,000 right turn lane from Ridge onto Cherry. (Cash proffers required for Certificate of Occupancy.)
  6. Below ground parking. Cars not visible from street.
  7. 6- to 8-foot wide sidewalks.
  8. $5,000 for striped crosswalks and countdown pedestrian signals.
  9. One bicycle rack for every 10 parking spaces.
  10. Minimum 45% total area to remain Open Space.
  11. Minimum 20% site to be the arboretum open to the public in daylight hours.
  12. 6-inch+ diameter trees to be saved unless blighted.
  13. Retention basin for storm drainage.
  14. Plant and maintain landscape trees along Ridge-Cherry.
  15. Document that only local construction debris recycling facility is used.

Needless to say, this property has flipped several times in a half-decade. The application lists Cherry Avenue Investment LLC as the current owner. Southern Development was the owner in the 2009 rezoning Planned Unit Development (where developer is exempted from zoning laws in exchange for money).

In Sep. 2007, the former Mooney Oldsmobile at Vinegar Hill was approved to become a 9-story tower. The proffer for BAR approval was $300,000 to the city’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the agency which bulldozed Vinegar Hill but spared the then-new Mooney Oldsmobile built 1957. After doing business here for six decades, the Mooneys seemed surprised that the Planning Commission also wanted proffers to approve the development. Currently the site houses a furniture and book store.

Concerned citizen Antoinette Roades has been following this story and researched the many details. She will talk about the Ridge-Cherry project with Rob Schilling on Thursday.

Antoinette Roads on Schilling Show on WINA AM-1070.
Airs 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. Thursday Jan. 6, 2011. [Corrected date.]

The only remaining public hearing is on Tuesday Jan. 11, 2011.

[ Update: Charles Hurt has owned since 1998 the site parcels except the two owned by the City. Hurt also owns Southern Development, Cherry Avenue Investment, and Bluestone Land, according to Antoinette Roades on the Schilling Show. A developer called in and said it's not unusual to buy a property but not close until the second buyer closes the deal so the deed records two sales on the same day.

Jan. 6, 2011 podcast first hour with Antoinette Roades. | Schilling Show Podcasts ]

Antoinette Roades’ Email December 28, 2010

People who care about such things:

As some of you already know, City Council and Planning Commission will hold a Joint Public Hearing on 11 January at which PC will decide whether to grant a request to rezone the Ridge-Cherry property (aka William Taylor Plaza). That hearing will be the only opportunity anyone will have to comment on this matter.

As this request is summarised in the 21 December notice mailed from City Hall and a newspaper advertisement that will run in The Daily Progress on 28 December and 4 January, changes asked seem relatively small. In that summary, what stands out most is a retreat from the much touted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards that Southern Development pledged when Councilors voted to sell SD two City-owned parcels on Ridge Street in 2008 and when Planning Commission approved WTP in 2009. But there's much more to this situation and much more at stake.

Within weeks of obtaining key approval for WTC from PC in '09, SD put the property up for sale. Initial asking price was $2.3 million. By this fall, it had been cut to $1.8 million. Apparently, that attracted a buyer.

On 15 December, William Park of Bluestone Land LLC -- styled as "Contract Purchaser" -- submitted a Rezoning Petition to Neighborhood Development Services. (N.B. The property package described in this petition includes the two City-owned Ridge Street parcels that City Council voted to sell SD but that SD appears in City Assessor online records never to have closed on or paid for.) With it was a drawing prepared by Fugleberg Koch for Pinnacle Construction & Development Corporation (same address as Bluestone Land) and dated 20 December. A supporting owner's statement dated 15 December was signed by Charlie Armstrong for SD on 21 December. That same day, notice of the Joint Public Hearing was issued from NDS. So this matter is proceeding at warp speed under cover of holiday distractions and City Hall closures. (And it thereby follows the same scrutiny-dodging strategy that has characterized the whole sorry Ridge-Cherry saga.)

The submitted drawing and related text show a plan with a building area 20 percent larger than the projected maximum approved in '09 -- 120,000 square feet versus 80,000-100,000. Not surprisingly, it also shows greater intrusion on the core of the site -- that is, on the super fragile creek and ravine bottom area. Further, it shows a much modified facade on Ridge Street, which lies in both local and national historic districts.

(Of course, nothing about any of the plans submitted for this site has conformed to oft pronounced City goals vis-a-vis critical slope protection, storm water management, water quality maintenance, tree canopy preservation, green space retention, traffic mitigation, historic recognition, global warming reduction, ad inf. Indeed, all plans have violated all those goals. Also, all plans have heavily impinged on the parcel where all empirical evidence and sightings place the Hawkins family graveyard.)

Despite the profound and diverse impacts of the changes proposed, however, the matter's scheduling allows no more than a very few days for concerned parties -- individuals, environmental groups, historic preservation groups, neighborhood and other community groups, relevant agencies (e.g. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), etc. -- to review the matter and formulate a position before the one and only opportunity to comment (11 January) comes and goes. (Note: The staff report on this item is not expected to be available until the end of the day on 4 January.)

In my opinion, this is yet another shameful act in a seemingly endless series of shameful acts. I will register my disapproval of both the request and its timing with City Council, Planning Commission, and BAR (which seems not to be involved but should be). I hope that some of you will speak out as well.

I wish us all a better New Year than this matter foreshadows.


Antoinette W. Roades

William Taylor Plaza

William Taylor

Historical summary of Charlottesville

“Mixed use development at Ridge-Cherry intersection recommended for approval” by Brian Wheeler, Sep. 11, 2009, Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Minutes from Planning Commission Aug. 11, 2009. Rezoning from R-2 to Planned Unit Development deferred because “there was discomfort about the level of clarity about the existing proffers and whether they would be enforceable and whether all of the possible impacts from this development have been effectively mitigated by the included proffers.” The PUD was approved Sep. ’09.

Monday, January 03, 2011

City to take over 2006 water plan

Charlottesville, Va.—At their next meeting, City Council will vote whether to hire engineering firm Black & Veatch to proceed with final design for the city’s “compromise” plan, the 2010 water plan.

Black & Veatch delivered its first study to Council July 19, the most optimistic of all the studies and critiques dating back to 1912. The latest plan is to build a 13-foot addition atop the 1908 Ragged Mountain Dam.

Company rep Greg Zamensky said it would take only 3 to 4 months to get within 50 to 60% design process where the 2006 earthen dam is now. The mayor asked the spokesman to place a warranty on the compromise dam, 30 to 40 years or longer? He wouldn’t specify a number and said dam failures are rare in the U.S. and depends on many variables such as flood or earthquake. As a result the infrastructure is often neglected.

Black & Veatch sent the right spokesman—combination of athletic presence and confidence talking numbers and scientific jargon. Zamensky was feeling it himself when he described a dam spillway design as not as “sophisticated and sexy” as the other two designs. The line was accompanied by a potent smile.

After two hours—heated public comment, report that PHA wants to “take” 24 rental houses for affordable housing, lease city-“owned” 608 Ridge St to Local Energy Alliance Program, and lengthy questioning by Council of the dam study report—the drama reached a fevered climax.

Councilor Satyendra Huja, city’s urban renewal planner 1973-2003, got in the face of RWSA executive director since 2004 Tom Frederick and called Frederick out to speak for County Supervisors. Frederick has been demonized by the Citizens for Sustainable Water Supply, who packed the Council meeting.

Frederick came to the podium and replied: “What’s your end goal? Take over and run the project?” A few other remarks, then Frederick sat back down. A few councilors spoke.

Councilor Kristin Szakos ridiculed Frederick sitting in the front row by asking: How could anyone be “upset” if someone found a cheaper plan, “saving money largely for the county.” Characteristically, audience members laughed.

But Frederick came back to the podium and called Szakos out on her insolent remarks. Frederick said the city and county are “in different places right now” as he threw up his arms. The city and county need to talk to each other. Frederick is caught in the middle.

Szakos questioned why Frederick used terminology like “take over the project.”

In the last few sentences before the intermission, Mayor Dave Norris made clear the take-over threat:

— As owners of the dam, we have a responsibility to maintain assets. We are moving forward with the compromise plan.

After the intermission Voter Registrar Sheri Iachetta was at it again—trying to get Council to update the election precincts. Council has refused at least four times this decade to make the improvements. A 2004 commission on Council representation, 2006 commission of School Board Elections, a subsequent request from Iachetta and the Electoral Board were all ignored by City Council.

Jan. 3, 2011 City Council Meeting

Streaming Media Archive Page for Charlottesville City.

“Why city & county can’t coopreate on water plan”, Dec. 14, 2010

“Public Hearing on 125-year-old Water Plan”, Sep. 19, 2010. Includes links to stories by this author on this topic since 2001.

"City to revisit election precincts", Sep. 23, 2008