Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Council endorses 30-foot earthen dam, denies Ridge-Cherry

“Above what the City chooses to pay, the County will pay the remainder,” – City Public Works Director Judy Mueller.

Charlottesville, Va. – Tonight City Council clarified that the new dam of the 2006 water plan be earthen, not concrete. The surprise vote of Jan. 18 for a 30-foot dam height increase didn’t specify whether it be a concrete or earthen dam built atop the existing 1908 Ragged Mountain dam.

Councilors David Brown, Satyendra Huja, and Kristin Szakos maintained their dam coalition. Mayor Dave Norris was willing to vote for 30 feet, despite his 13-foot plan unanimously resolved by Council in September, but insisted it be of concrete. Holly Edwards wanted the phased approach of the Norris plan but, if she had to, she would vote for the concrete.

The Council discussion was a civics lesson in how to argue a case. Szakos has matured since she voted for a plan not approved by Citizens for a Sustainable Water Supply. Szakos has seen the dirty side of politics and sobered up. She said she has received email from supporters of the 2006 plan who are afraid, if they speak out, they’ll be ridiculed the next day in The Hook.

While Szakos has matured, Edwards has become less mature. Edwards announced yesterday she will not seek a second term but warned she will be speaking out at public meetings. She’s now a lame duck, not running for reelection so now she can be honest. On Council she has political power and can do something. As a minority of one speaking at occasional gatherings when it’s convenient, she will be dismissed as irrelevant. What an opportunity she walks away from!

Brown is also retiring this year, but after two terms. Huja, the third leg of this 30-foot dam triumvirate, is expected to announce next month that he will run for a second term. He certainly acted like it tonight. He didn’t back down from Norris on concerns about integrity and safety of the existing dam.

Norris keeps saying he hasn’t seen anything to question the dam’s integrity despite dozens of concerns documented back to 1912. Norris’ preference for concrete didn’t advance because he dismisses the concerns, does not address them. Huja’s right – Who builds a new dam on a 100-year old dam regardless of any expressed concerns?

It’s $1.1 million cheaper to build the earthen in the design alone. Black and Veatch would charge up to $1.4 million to finish design, which could be changed if further research or digging confirm the safety concerns. In that case the dam could cost more than estimated.

It would cost close to $250,000 for Schnabel to complete the earthen design. At one point, Norris said the concrete dam is cheaper. Huja responded that the concrete estimate is for 50% of design, not 90% where Schnabel would be after the expenditure.

If the Black & Veatch concrete dam is selected, the timeline as discussed in November would be 6 to 8 months to final design plus 2 to 3 months public review time. The construction time would be 2 to 8 months less than building the earthen dam.

City Public Works Director Judy Mueller delivered the water progress report. She and her assistant answered half the questions Council posed; the other half went unanswered. Mueller talked about the cost sharing agreement. The cost of water is divided into maintenance and additional supply. City uses and pays 55% of maintenance, but County will pay most or all of the cost of the new supply.

“Above what the City chooses to pay, the County will pay the remainder,” said Mueller.

In public comment, Bob Fenwick was back to defend his statement at the last meeting that Ragged Mountain reservoir would silt in. But the claim was refuted because the watershed is undeveloped forest. Fenwick named several lakes that have silted in. “They all silt in.” He echoed Huja from Jan. 22 and said, this is a “50-year plan not a one or two year plan.” Fenwick said the efforts of Citizens for a Sustainable Water supply have saved this community “tens of millions of dollars.”

Phyllis Koch-Seras, whose house overlooks the South Rivanna reservoir and added sedimentation to the reservoir when it was built, said dredging should be put in the cost sharing agreement. “We could have a drought this summer,” she said. This water plan is a “crime against nature.”

Rebecca Quinn said the Rivanna authority has finally issued RFPs for an updated water demand analysis after delaying for a year. The demand predictions should be for 50 years to compare with Ganett-Fleming water plan, not 30 years as the RFP is advertised.

Dede Smith, a former school board member, seemed like she was addressing a class of children, giving them false choices to choose from. She listed three reasons to delay a vote. (1) RWSA has just issued an RFP for a firm to conduct a water demand analysis. (2) The RFP process for dredging should be completed and advertised. (3) The cost sharing agreement has not been completed.

Stratton Salidis talked about the “legalized corruption” and ironically thanked Edwards for her one term of service. Edwards is an official supporter of urban renewal. Salidis described the “sprawl-growth industrial complex” as subtle “showering and shunning” He said this area’s local government has as much corruption as you see at the national level. He indirectly called Council corrupt.

After the water vote just after 10 pm, Edwards asked for a break and the mayor declared a ten minute recess. I turned off Council meeting to write this article.

Magic Money

What if you could invest $1 and get $10 or $11 back? Well, you wouldn’t call it investment. You would “leverage” one dollar into ten.

Karen Waters, Chairman of the Housing Advisory Committee (HAC), said “for any of this to work”, the plans require that every $1 have a $10 to $11 federal match. She wants the Charlottesville Housing Fund (CHF) to be fully funded and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)/HOME to be leveraged or put at risk.

Jennifer McKeever, a member of HAC, wants Council to keep the two funds separated, “not co-mingled.”. CHF should be fully funded from city general funds and CDBG/HOME to be leveraged. CHF funds new housing unit while CDBG/HOME targets neighborhoods. For a longtime, Council has designated its public housing as the neighborhood in need.

Jennifer Jacobs, director of Albemarle Housing Improvement Program (AHIP) and member of HAC, wants the city to contribute $1.5 million to CHF. She said there are 176 homes on the waiting list for rehab and 25 for emergency repair within the city.

Council denies Ridge-Cherry: New plan inferior

Council wants the developer to build what was agreed in 2009 when Council first approved the sale of two city-owned lots, once known as 521 and 529 Ridge Street before VDOT came through with 5th Extended more than thirty years ago.

The developer wanted to amend the Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning exemption to a new PUD. But Council said no. So now this site remains zoned for the original PUD. Only that plan can be built. So effectively the land will remain open space for years to come.

Ten people spoke in the public hearing to sell the city land. The Planning Commission meeting Feb. 8 denied the zoning from PUD(A) to PUD(B) 4 to 2, and two dozen citizens spoke for denial of the rezoning request. That decision was appealed to City Council for tonight. And tonight the comment was more favorable for the new mixed income apartment complex, 30 affordable (subsidized) and 50 market-rate (independent) units.

Antoinette Roades described proffers as “legalized bribes.” She said this area doesn’t need anymore affordable housing. If you stand within sight the PUD site, you’re guaranteed to see 659 affordable housing units. We don’t need more affordable housing in this location.

Herb Porter said, most of the project’s supporters are from outside the neighborhood. He said the actual residents have opposed this and other measures such as conservation district designation. Council has ignored the desires of Fifeville. Porter was offended anyone would call his neighborhood “blighted.”

Paul Bussiere lives a few blocks away on 7 ½ St. He moved here from France 2 ½ years ago with his wife and son and bought the Updike House, a Victorian house built 1896. Bussiere fully supports the William Taylor Plaza approved in the 2009 PUD and the latest plans also. Any development in this part of town would be beneficial.

City Council Meeting Feb. 22, 2011, Charlottesville City Streaming Live and Archive Media

Council: Dueling dams, PUDs, dialogue on race, immigration, Feb. 8, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development goes to Council Feb 22, Feb. 24, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Global Warming: Another letter too radical to print

February 6, 2011

Dear Editor:

RE: “Fanning the flames”, Feb. 1, 2011, C-ville Weekly

In my opinion, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s investigation into state funding of Michael Mann’s climate change research at UVA is politically motivated. It’s payback for how the University treated former State Climatologist Patrick Michaels. Cuccinelli is sending a message that state colleges should think twice before fostering an environment hostile to academic and intellectual freedom.

If it’s about global warming, allow me to save taxpayer money and debunk the idea right now. Global warming is a three-part theory, a trinity of postulates.

(1) The average temperature of the earth is warming.
(2) Some or all of the warming is caused by man.
(3) The warming is abnormal and bad.

Mann and Michaels agree on the first two points. But Michaels is not alarmed because his hockey stick temperature chart is much bigger.

If you go back only a thousand years, it looks like a hockey stick. But if you go back 3 million years, it looks like a straight line of ice with occasional heat waves. If you go back 300 million years, it looks like a hockey stick again but turned upside down because of the recent ice ages.

Only one percent of geologic time has been as cold as we are today. Earth is 99 times more likely to have alligators at the poles than to have ice. You might say, too much carbon dioxide has been bound into fossil fuels, causing the ice ages.

With cooling since the 1998 El Nino and growing scrutiny of the science, global warming morphs into: (1) We have cooling. (2) We want warming. (3) Warm is good and normal. CO2 is plant food. Plants provide all the oxygen. I leave you with this moral imperative.

If you truly care about the environment, you should generate as much greenhouse gas as you need so Mother Earth can warm back to normal and the polar regions can once again recycle CO2 into oil and natural gas for future generations.

Blair Hawkins
Charlottesville, Virginia

[ Update: Letter published in the Feb. 22 issue of C-ville Weekly.]

My general policy is to wait 2 weeks or 2 issues of a weekly paper to seek publication elsewhere. Most letters policies require that your letter be exclusive to the paper you’re writing to. So they have first publication. In my experience, C-ville Weekly and The Hook do not call or notify you. The letter simply appears.

The Daily Progress calls the writer to verify you actually wrote the letter. From time to time, there are actual fake letters written. Usually I hear from the Progress within a few days and then it’s a week or two for publication. So if I don’t hear from them in more than 5 business days, I’ll call and ask if they intend to print. If not, I’ll seek to publish the letter elsewhere.

The latest global warming letter does provoke thought and tests the limits of intellectual expression accepted in C-ville Weekly.

“Investigation into forged letters planned” by Brian McNeill, Aug 1, 2009.
“A top congressman announced Friday that he is launching an investigation into a half-dozen forged letters sent to U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello in an attempt to sway his vote on a landmark piece of climate change legislation.”

Previous letters too radical to print:

Historical Society: Jefferson School 1865

Race Violence in our Schools? Apr. 4, 2006

“Staunton didn’t self-destruct”, Apr. 1, 2004. I sent the letter to The Hook in response to Feb. 19 cover story. But the Hook didn’t print it until I had waited 2 weeks, then posted it to Charlottesville Independent Media in mid-March 2004.

The NASA Temperature Chart 1880 to 2006 zooms in on the 1980s and 1990s when National Weather Service and other weather services worldwide modernized and automated their equipment. The new temperature sensors have a documented warm bias and explain why you still hear news stories of record warmth despite the obvious cooling.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development goes to Council Feb 22

[This repost corrects the date for the Council meeting.]

Charlottesville, Va. – “A majority of [Planning] commissioners felt the revised plan for William Taylor Plaza fell short of the original project, which was originally approved for Southern Development in October 2009…

"At least two dozen neighborhood residents rose in opposition to plan at the public hearing. Architect and former mayor Maurice Cox said he could not support the project…

"However, not all public opinion was against the plan. The owners of Charlottesville’s Flower Man, a business on Cherry Avenue…[and] Pascal Bussiere, who bought a house on 7 1/2 Street in 2008, wrote the commission” in support of the development…

The item goes before City Council on February 21, 2011.” ( “Commission denies request to add more homes to William Taylor Plaza” by Sean Tubbs, Feb. 9, 2011, Charlottesville Tomorrow. )

Planning Commission Meeting Feb. 8, 2011 Video. City of Charlottesville.

City of Charlottesville Streaming Live and Archive Media.

Antoinette Roades talks to Rob Schilling Feb. 7 about the project the day before the Planning Commission meeting.

Ridge-Cherry development: Green vs Affordable, Jan. 24, 2011.

Ridge-Cherry development proffers for rezoning again, Jan. 5, 2011.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Virginia eminent domain amendment fails on party vote

Charlottesville, Va. – This year’s effort to elevate the 2007 eminent domain reforms into the state Constitution passed in the House of Delegates but failed in the state Senate. The 2005 Kelo case inspired the reforms, which addressed known abuses in Virginia.

This time, Democrats sided with property theft while Republicans stood up for property ownership and the little guy. The bill passed the 100-member House 81–18 but failed in the 40-member Senate 18–22. Virginia is a purple state.

The Democrats oppose the civil right of due process, preferring instead to claim public use to seize and sell your home to a developer for imagined social benefits. Eminent domain is preferred because it’s easier to prove public use than to prove a crime and the property does not have to be sold at auction, thus guaranteeing the delivery of the seized property to the correct buyer.

A state Constitutional amendment must be passed by two General Assembly sessions separated by an election. The amendment then goes to the voters as a referendum for adoption or rejection. That the voters would approve the abstract property restrictions is not a certainty by any means.

Local representatives Delegate David Toscano (57th) and Senator Creigh Deeds (25th) voted with their party.

Toscano is a longtime supporter of eminent domain to seize and sell property. He was a sitting city councilor on June 5, 2000 when Blair Hawkins delivered two landmark speeches on eminent domain abuse specific to Charlottesville. Toscano has remained silent on these community grievances and remains complicit.

Toscano and Deeds opposed then voted for the 2007 reforms. On a radio show in Dec. 2006, they argued that eminent domain is not a problem in Virginia, despite all the abuses that have been told to their faces.

Toscano has posted his most recent legislative update to the Augusta Free Press. He mentions the eminent domain amendment in a list of bills but doesn’t disclose his position or his vote. On other proposed Constitutional amendments, Toscano indicates a statute or state law is sufficient protection.

Delegate Rob Bell (58th) cosponsored the 2007 reforms as well as this year’s attempt to elevate the restrictions to Constitutional stature.

Of course this entire debate is absurd. Government employees are not following the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled they don’t have to unless their state says otherwise. So we passed a state law to enforce the federal law. Somehow we think people will follow the state Constitution when they have ignored state and federal law, and the national Constitution.

Still no mention of the enforcement mechanism. It’s not until Attorney General Ken Cucinelli or a commonwealth's attorney brings charges against an eminent domain abuser will we know the meaning of the 2007 reforms.

Follow SJ307 in the state Senate.

Follow HJ693 in the House of Delegates

“Va. House tries to limit taking of property” by Bill Sizemore, Feb. 9, 2011, The Virginian-Pilot.

David Toscano: The calm before the storm? Feb. 1, 2011, Augusta Free Press.

Deeds and Toscano: Eminent domain not a problem in Va., Dec. 14, 2006, Blair’s Blog.

Va. 36th state to reform eminent domain, Apr. 8, 2007, Blair’s Blog.

2007: Virginia reforms eminent domain, Jan. 12, 2008, Blair’s Blog.

Del. Rob Bell explains why property rights belong in the Va. Constitution, Feb. 7, 2011,
“That’s what the Fifth Amendment’s supposed to protect and it doesn’t any longer.”

Va. Att'y Gen'l Ken Cuccinelli endorses curbs on eminent domain in constitution, Jan. 20, 2011,
“This is a fundamental right and it should be enshrined in the constitution.”

State Senator Mark Obenshain discusses property rights and eminent domain reform, Jan. 17, 2011.
“It prevents the economic development/employment-type of eminent domain exercises that have been subject to abuse across the commonwealth of Virginia. It gives us the opportunity to memorialize that [language] in the Constitution so that it can’t just be undermined by efforts of the General Assembly in years to come.”

Virginia’s current Constitution was adopted in 1971.

Virginia’s Constitution 1776.

SJ 307 Constitutional amendment; taking of private property for public use (first reference).

Mark D. Obenshain | all patrons ... notes | add to my profiles
Summary as introduced:
Constitutional amendment (first resolution); taking of private property for public uses. Limits the exercise of eminent domain for the purpose of public use and specifies that, with the exception of property taken for public service corporations, public service companies, or railroads, property may not be taken if the primary purpose of the taking is private financial gain, private benefit, an increase in tax base or tax revenues, or an increase in employment. No more property shall be taken than is necessary to achieve the stated public use.

Full text:
01/05/11 Senate: Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/12/11 11100710D pdf

01/05/11 Senate: Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/12/11 11100710D
01/05/11 Senate: Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
01/14/11 Senate: Assigned to P&E sub: Constitutional Amendments, Reapportionment, Referenda
02/08/11 Senate: Left in Privileges and Elections
02/08/11 Senate: Motion to suspend the rules rejected (18-Y 22-N)

HJ 693 Constitutional amendment; taking or damaging of private property for public use (first reference).

Johnny S. Joannou | all patrons ... notes | add to my profiles
Summary as passed House: (all summaries)
Constitutional amendment (first resolution); taking or damaging of private property; public use.

Revises the prohibition on the enactment by the General Assembly of laws whereby private property may be taken or damaged. An existing provision authorizing the General Assembly to define what constitutes a public use is removed. The proposed amendment states that (i) no private property shall be damaged or taken except for public use without just compensation to its owner for the property taken and for damages to the residue caused by the taking or damaging and (ii) that no more private property may be taken than that which is necessary to achieve the stated public use. Just compensation shall be no less than the value of the property taken and the damages to the residue caused by the taking. A public service company, public service corporation, or railroad exercises the power of eminent domain for public use when such exercise is for the authorized provision of utility, common carrier, or railroad services. In all other cases, a taking or damaging of private property is not for public use if the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development, except for the elimination of a public nuisance existing on the property. The condemnor bears the burden of proving that the use is public, without a presumption that it is.

Full text:
01/17/11 House: Presented and ordered printed 11103856D pdf
02/04/11 House: Committee substitute printed 11105102D-H1 pdf

01/17/11 House: Presented and ordered printed 11103856D
01/17/11 House: Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
02/04/11 House: Reported from Privileges and Elections with substitute (17-Y 2-N)
02/04/11 House: Committee substitute printed 11105102D-H1
02/04/11 House: Incorporates HJ647
02/04/11 House: Incorporates HJ515
02/04/11 House: Incorporates HJ498
02/07/11 House: Passed by for the day
02/08/11 House: Taken up
02/08/11 House: Committee substitute agreed to 11105102D-H1
02/08/11 House: Engrossed by House - committee substitute HJ693H1
02/08/11 House: Agreed to by House (81-Y 18-N)
02/08/11 House: VOTE: ADOPTION (81-Y 18-N)
02/09/11 Senate: Reading waived
02/09/11 Senate: Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Ridge-Cherry development goes to Council Feb 21

[ Correction: The City Council meeting may be Tuesday Feb. 22 because of President's Day on Monday. The City's website says City Hall will be closed 8 am to 5 pm but still has Council meeting scheduled for 7 pm on separate pages. ]

Charlottesville, Va. – “A majority of [Planning] commissioners felt the revised plan for William Taylor Plaza fell short of the original project, which was originally approved for Southern Development in October 2009…

"At least two dozen neighborhood residents rose in opposition to plan at the public hearing. Architect and former mayor Maurice Cox said he could not support the project…

"However, not all public opinion was against the plan. The owners of Charlottesville’s Flower Man, a business on Cherry Avenue…[and] Pascal Bussiere, who bought a house on 7 1/2 Street in 2008, wrote the commission” in support of the development…

The item goes before City Council on February 21, 2011.” ( “Commission denies request to add more homes to William Taylor Plaza” by Sean Tubbs, Feb. 9, 2011, Charlottesville Tomorrow. )

Planning Commission Meeting Feb. 8, 2011 Video. City of Charlottesville.

City of Charlottesville Streaming Live and Archive Media.

Antoinette Roades talks to Rob Schilling Feb. 7 about the project the day before the Planning Commission meeting.

Ridge-Cherry development: Green vs Affordable, Jan. 24, 2011.

Ridge-Cherry development proffers for rezoning again, Jan. 5, 2011.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Council: Dueling dams, PUDs, dialogue on race, immigration

Charlottesville, Va. – Questions of process overshadowed the content of tonight’s City Council meeting.

In response to complaints that no one can figure out which items Council will vote on, Councilor David Brown explained the traditional policy. “If it’s on the agenda, it’s a candidate for a vote.” Only items up for a vote are placed on the agenda anyway. Peter Kleeman complained at the end of the meeting that there was no way to know which items will be acted on.

Mayor Dave Norris accepted “full blame” and understood there had been an expectation of action on the water plan—earthen or concrete 30-foot pool increase at Ragged Mountain. In recent years Council has become more casual. They agreed to postpone the vote but they should have voted to postpone the agenda item. Council is inconsistent.

The Jefferson Park Avenue Neighborhood Association also had issues with the process of notifying adjacent residents of sale of city surplus land prior to the deadline for proposals or bids. You’ve heard of the pile of other people’s money (OPM)? What about the pile of other people’s property (OPP)? Council routinely redistributes real estate.

Dueling Dams

Two engineering firms presented reports from the two perspectives: earthen vs concrete dam height increase.

Black and Veatch went first with a PowerPoint “summary of where we stand.” Engineer Greg Zamensky said it’s feasible to build onto the existing 1908 Ragged Mountain dam up to a 45-foot pool elevation increase. The actual dam increase would be about 55 feet.

Zamensky explained the process of building onto the existing dam.

(1) Install anchors drilled through the dam into the bedrock. “Don’t want the dam to become unstable.”
(2) Install grout curtain to prevent water seepage through and under the dam.
(3) Excavate the foundation for the new concrete to stand. Remove the “big pile of earth on the other side” of the dam, added previously to assuage fears the dam might not hold.
(4) Construct the dam raise.
(5) Add cap to top later for final 12-foot pool raise.

The project would require 45,000 cubic yards of roller compacted concrete. Cement and aggregate would be trucked in and mixed onsite with water from the reservoir. If the 42-foot is built but filled only to 30 feet, the spillway would be a bigger notch for overflow.

Zamensky estimated the costs with a 40% margin of error. If the project is phased: Primary Phase (30-ft) — maximum $15.3 million. Second Phase (12-ft) — only up to $2.7 Million more. To build the full concrete dam all at once — $18 million.

Chris Webster of Schnabel Engineering gave the PowerPoint presentation given to the last Rivanna Board meeting. Lead Dam Designer Randy Bass was also there and answered questions.

Webster listed the advantages of the earthen dam.

(A) Uses all onsite soils, which means several thousand fewer trucks. Only the cement would be shipped in and mixed onsite.
(B) The rock spillway would provide riprap and fish habitat structures.
(C) Smaller staging area, less stockpiling.
(D) Natural appearance.
(E) Increased opportunity for local contractors.

The full height earthen dam would cost up to $19.5 million. Building the 30-foot extension would cost 99% of the 42-foot dam. Over $3 million of that includes 70 test holes and 340 water pressure tests, which revealed most water seepage below 50 feet of water.

The earthen dam would sit atop the existing dam, but rely on mass instead of tensile strength to hold back the water. The grout curtain would be double layered and 100 feet deep. Closing off the 1908 quarry will eliminate some seepage.

Webster showed photos of one concrete and two earthen dams, which gave a good idea of what dams look like when not filled to built capacity. One hundred percent of the design for the earthen dam is scheduled to be completed for April report.

Webster said you’ll be able to walk across the dam, which blends in with the two ridges it connects. The earthen dam will need two spillways. Bass pointed out that concrete costs $100 a yard but dirt only $3 a yard.

Council discussed among themselves. Kristin Szakos said 30 feet is all she wants to go and was concerned the concrete dam might be ugly, “visually jarring.” Satyendra Huja said he’d rather have a new dam instead of the old since costs are similar. David Brown was comfortable with earthen or concrete but “firm” on the 30 feet.

In response to Szakos saying the earthen dam has less environmental impact, Dave Norris said “not even close.” His plan allows more flexibility, less clearing, less earth moving, less destruction to natural area. Huja interjected that the earthen dam looks like natural area. Norris responded, “It’s still artificial. And that's a fact, buddy.” Huja responded the only place he agrees with Norris is that Black and Veatch did a good job.

The public comment was heated before and after the 3-hour meeting. Joanna Salidis was disappointed in the Jan. 18 move. She addressed these misconceptions:

(1) Obvious more water stored means more available.
(2) 18+ million gallons per day for waterdemand in 2055 is flawed.
(3) We’re using 22% less water than 2 decades ago.
(4) Never wants to hear about DEQ. The Aug. 2 letter didn’t say 13 feet would not be approved. It says the permits would have to be reworked.
(5) Never wants to hear 2006 plan is good for rivers. Salidis closed by saying “I love the Ragged Mountain natural area…I care about my habitat.”

Downing Smith waved a headline: “County praises vote on dam.” He was disgusted and disappointed you’re not representing the city. Smith read anonymous comments from The Hook: “The gang of 3…These 3 stooges don’t care about facts…Dumber than a box of rocks…Landmark Hotel—rooms available in 50 years. Why are Huja, Brown, Szakos selling out? Terrible negotiating on city’s part. Szakos should go out and see what people are saying about you.

In Council comment Szakos pointed out how discourse has reached a new low. She had never been called “dumber than a box of rocks” before.

Bob Fenwick speculated revenue sharing as the real reason City is cooperating with the County. “What sense does that make?” “The point of a reservoir is water supply, not to float a boat.” Where is the dredging plan for Ragged Mountain. There will be a huge cost. His water bill has already gone from $20 to $70 a month. The dam won’t be filled for 20 years. “What do the homeless do?” And food banks? Do they also wait 20 years for food. Payback time for County politicians. “End-around play” $18 million. If city is well off, why not give small business owners a tax break. “We’re not sheep to be shorn”

All the comment wasn’t negative.

The 2nd speaker (whose name I missed) [ Martha Levering ]: Thanks for raising the dam by 30 feet. The cost of 30- vs 42-dam is less than $200,000 out of $19 million. You can spare future generations from tearing up ground again. Trails will be restored. “Please vote to go full height.”

Bill Ross claimed the Ragged Mountain dam is of questionable integrity. City and County are working to 30-ft pool level and option to go to 42-feet. Larger pond a distinctive ability to be available during dry periods. “Opportunity to plan for a more secure future.”

Other Matters

Longwood Park PUD (Planned Unit Development) highlighted another process matter. Tonight was the first “reading.” Council has to hear the item at a second meeting in order to vote the bill through. This two-meeting rule was devised to address concerns that legislation is rushed through.

This ordinance would swap two land parcels in exchange for two larger ones. The change is needed in the redesign of the cul-de-sac to allow two access points through the development and convey to the city two corner lots.

Councilor Holly Edwards has opposed the Longwood Drive development and therefore opposes the change. Brown made the motion. Norris seconded the motion. A minimum of two votes are required to bring a motion to a full vote.

The city is selling 409 Stadium Road, vacant corner lot at JPA, Emmett and Stadium. There were four bidders in response to RFPs with deadline of Oct. 29. One was late and rejected and another not present. John Crafaik and architect Gate Pratt want to build Charlottesville Apartments.

Rick Jones owns the adjacent lot with an old stone house condemned for 5 years until Jones bought it 2 years ago and renovated it. Jones offers the same price, $250,000 for the prime real estate, but promises not to develop the property

This is the first reading. If you want to weigh in on these matters, go to the Council meeting 1st and 3rd Mondays. Loosely speaking, Council is set up so, if you just follow Council, you’ll have some time to comment or make a case. There is a distinct process, but it's not well-known.

City Council Meeting Feb. 7, 2011. Streaming Media Archive Page.

Councilor Huja defends 30-foot dam, Jan. 22, 2011.