Since December 21, Autumn Hill has been known as Landmark at Granite Park.
Matt Baldwin was astounded that his landlord towed the leased car he drove because its registration had expired.
photo by lisa provence
Landmark at Granite Park is the latest moniker for one of Charlottesville's most renamed apartment complexes– one that is known for generating tenant complaints.
The 425-unit complex on Commonwealth Drive, built in the 1960s, began as Westfield. It then became Trophy Chase and subsequently was in the news for several murders, including that of a UVA student killed by her husband in 2003, and 19-year-old Ashley Toney, who was shot to death in 2005.
Colonial Properties Trust in Alabama purchased the complex in 2009, and renamed it Autumn Hill. Although the homicide rate dropped, some tenants complained about other problems, such as unusually high water bills.
Tara Stankovic and Scott Lester received a $181 bill for their three-bedroom apartment last fall. In 2009, residents contacted the Hook with the same problem. The average household water and sewer bill in Albemarle is $53, but Colonial insisted its billing method measuring water usage was accurate.
Former resident Matt Baldwin had a different problem: The complex towed his car shortly after he moved there in 2011 because the registration had expired. "This is a draconian policy," says Baldwin. "The police wouldn't even tow a car. They'd give a ticket."
While Baldwin got a refund for his $125 towing bill, he's still puzzled by why the complex would tow its own tenants for legal requirements regulated by the state.
"I can see them not wanting people to work on their cars or to leave a dead car," says Baldwin. "But why not just ask before towing?"
"There are a number of reasons why vehicles could be towed," says Colonial Properties spokesperson Jim Spahn, listing parking in a handicapped space, parking without a complex permit, or leaving a disabled vehicle that created a hazard." We'd go out of our way to notify the owner," says Spahn.
High-water-bill resident Stankovic says she's had cars towed twice while residing at Autumn Hill. "Our inspection sticker had expired by one day," she recalls. "They towed the car." The other time, she says, their car was parked over the line of a space. "They claimed we took two spaces," she says. "I've never lived in any place like this."
Stankovic has better news about her water bill. She reports that Colonial told her not to pay it. "They claim my service meter isn't working," she says.
However, when her lease expires in the spring, Stankovic says she'll be moving. Baldwin paid a penalty to break his lease and move.
In December, Colonial Properties sold Autumn Hill to Tampa-based Landmark Residential for $32 million, according to the Albemarle County clerk's office.
Whether the new owners of the newly dubbed Landmark at Granite Park will address the issues that have hastened the departure of some tenants is unknown. Executive VP of operation Scott Baad did not return multiple phone calls from the Hook.