Dust devils: Amtrak lot gets Durasoil after West Main complaints

snap-dustWest Mainers have called the dusty Amtrak parking lot a "blight" on the neighborhood.

It looks like Amtrak parking lot owners Gabe Silverman and Alan Cadgene have finally begun taking steps to pave the pot-holed dirt and gravel Amtrak station parking lot they own, which some West Main business owners say has become a health hazard to customers because of the dust.

Silverman has been publicly promising to pave the Amtrak parking lot at least since 2004, when he proclaimed it "was going to happen." In January this year, Neighborhood development chief Jim Tolbert told the Hook that Silverman and Cadgene had told him they were going to pave the lot “as soon as the weather is appropriate.”

Eight months later, some West Main business owners have decided that it's been bad behavior, not bad weather, that's left the parking lot unpaved. For instance, Maya restaurant owner and Midtown Association member Peter Castiglione called the lot a "blight" on the neighborhood. Indeed, as an early morning photograph taken by the Hook shows, the dust from the lot can nearly block out the view of West Main. Along with several other business owners, Castiglione finally decided to talk about a lawsuit against Cadgene and Silverman to get them to finally do something about their dust. Not to mention the sizable potholes that have plagued the lot.

Apparently, Castiglione got the duo's attention. He says that Cadgene suddenly promised to treat the parking lot with a product called Durasoil, a synthetic-organic fluid that controls road dust. Preparation for the Durasoil began on the morning of Tuesday, November 2.

"They have been very responsive since our lawyer got involved," says Castiglione. "I have little faith that this treatment will be a long term solution. We will watch and wait."

onarch-amtraklot-gradeOn Tuesday, November 2, a bulldozer was busy grading the Amtrak parking lot in preparation for the Durasoil treatment.

Meanwhile, Castiglione says he's been taking video of the lot every day on his way to work, and if the treatment should begin to wear off he's prepared to follow through with a lawsuit. While a reporter was unable to reach Silverman or Cadgene for comment, Castiglione says he was told that they would treat the lot on a consistent basis to stop the dust problem until it is paved or otherwise developed.

"The sad part," says Castiglione, "is that the only way we could get them to do anything was to threaten a lawsuit and go back to the media."

Dish recently asked city officials if the lot violated the blighted property ordinance, which includes "deleterious land use," i.e. one that is "detrimental to the safety, health, or welfare of the community."

"If I don't cut my grass, the city sends me a letter with a picture forcing me to do so or be fined," says Castiglione. " It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that the parking lot situation is not treated in the same way."

"This would have to be a legal research project that Council or the acting city manager has not requested of the City Attorney’s office and would not be able to be completed without that initiation," says city spokesperson Ric Barrick. " That being said, to date we have done all that we know that we can to convince the owners of that property to pave over that lot."

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Have the stairs from the sidewalk been closed lately?

The city has building codes and a parking lot with pot holes that could cause someone to twist an ankle is an immediate safety situation. Would they allow a businss to have an upheaved sidewalk or a broken step? What is the difference? The dust issue is negotiable from a legal standpoint but the potholes are a no brainer.

Why do they need to consult their lawyers? Write em up and let them pay the lawyers.

Like the comment above, the fact that they have been allowed to lock the other exit from the property forces one to travel through the horrible lot. The City should make them stop the road closure.

@cookieJar: There are many elderly, disabled, and toddler Amtrak passengers (and residents who need to pick them up or drop them off at the train) who could not navigate those stairs, even without luggage. I'm not a lawyer, but I would think access to the trains would be an ADA issue and current conditions would fail a test of adequacy.

In most cities (I don't know about C'ville), property owners do have fundamental responsibilities. The city provides basic services. In some cities, private-sector "business improvement districts" with authority to collect mandatory payments form to supplement (not replace) the efforts of individual owners and the city (see http://www.centercityphila.org/about/CCD.php). Might such an entity (to which Silverman would presumably have to contribute) provide a vehicle for representing the legitimate interests of the surrounding businesses/community and negotiating with owners?

Should this property ever be sold, is there any legal requirement that new owners would have to retain vehicular access to the station from Main/7th Sts? Buses also use that lot for staging....

I, too, wish they'd leave the back way open. It's really annoying to drive around back, only to have to come around front anyway. I dont even stop and talk with the parking lot people anymore. I had heard something about a private lot management company that staffs the lot guys. Anyone heard anything about this?

I can remember what a neat Train Station we had there. In fact Charlottesville boasted two stations with the other one being downtown that was for east/west bound trains. The interior of the both stations was like a throw back to the good ole days of the passenger railroads and should have been renovated to serve their proper purpose. But I guess the City saw the tax base of a restaurant more appealing. It seems to me the restaurant could have been the addition with vision to have it blend in with the architecture of the station. That is when all of the Parking lot should have been paved. Someone is getting their palms grease with all of this, it's always been about the money. Perhaps the city should double check to see how the Parking Lot's income is accurate and charge taxes appropriately. Are they afraid to pave it because it would be then accessed to be worth more? In that fact the taxes would be higher on the real estate and so it's a game to them at the health, aesthetic quality and safety of citizens and visitors alike.

As a recent arrival, I have been wondering about this train station. No one has said a thing about the responsibility of AMTRAK or the rail line owners in this matter to ensure that passengers have something other than a dusty, nasty parking lot at which to get off. What is it exactly? Why is there no decent platform for arriving and departing passengers? Why can't the city/state force AMTRAK to build something for public safety reasons? What happens if the owners simply close the access to their property? Alternatively, why can the downtown train station be reopened? It is a lovely thing, and accross the street from the bus terminal.

"...to date we have done all that we know that we can to convince the owners of that property to pave over that lot.” The city spokesman doesn't seem to think that the city has any control over the matter.

"The city has no say so what kind of commerce goes on there" - sure, but they DO have a say if what goes on there infringes upon the quality of life of those around the property i.e. dust raining upon properties, hurting businesses and keeping people from even being able to open their windows.

Also, you're right that fixing the lot might not be in GS's interests. But that does allow me and others to call him out - if you're going to claim to be "part of a community" and want to make Midtown a nicer place, you don't sit on this property and milk it after the City basically handed it to you for dirt cheap.

"...it’s always been about the money" So has your job. Being a landlord is GS's. "He really cares about his own interest" He'd better, because, obviously nobody on this blog is. That property, as well as the property that used to house the east-west train has always been private commercial property. The city has no say so what kind of commerce goes on there. Why don't all of you go to the next City Council meeting and complain during Maatters From the Public or write to the train company and complain? Maybe the train company will move its station elsewhere and you won't have to deal with driving around pot holes. The city government does exist just to make businesses do what YOU want them to do. To provide ample parking the station ought to move to the county anyway. It seems the City has already abandoned its offices at the bus station on West Main and maybe the bus station will move to the county and stop congesting traffic on W. Main.

Good work Petey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just great! Tomorrow I'm to take Amtrak from Cville. Was planning to drive there and park (as I had long ago). Sounds like I better get someone to take and pick up--is it really that bad? Do you really have to pay for parking in such a bad lot?

And as I'm pondering -- I wonder if the City really can absolve itself of responsibility for ADA and other safety matters surrounding public interstate transport -- maybe the city could still be on the hook, and if so, THAT might just make it start to pay attention and force the issue.

Pretty ironic, now that Mr. Silverman now wants to develop on west main? He needs to smooth over more than his parking lot. So predictable. He really cares about his own interest.

" It is a lovely thing, and accross the street from the bus terminal?" The bus terminal is in the 300 black of West Main. The old CSX train station is in the 600 block of East Main, I believe.

Don must be new to this country, its customs, laws, and traditions as well. Train stations have always been dirty, nasty places. Businesses that lease buildings usually have contracts specifying what they get in the deal, like access. Laws govern what the government can and cannot force.

A local government that neglected that downtown mall to the tune of a $7+ million repair job has no business dictating how any one else manages their property unless a law is being violated, which no one has yet show. The ââ?¬Å?deleterious land use” idea is really a stretch, since the use of the land is as a parking lot, which are in abundance around here. Anyone who thinks local government should have ANY more power than what it does hasn't seen how inept this one is.

CVE, he means the Water Street station across from the bus transfer station which you may know better as the federally funded outhouse for the pavilion.

Thanks, I gorgot that two-story building was there. The train station is privately owned. I wonder why there is an element in this town that would like the government to confiscate anything that is availble for public use.

the owners seem not interested in fixing the problem so open the back entrance and when they need some re-zoning or something from the city :remember.

If the city gets vindictive with the train station, you're going to be next.

@ train station this morning and the dust is just one of the problems. How about the sinkholes that swallow your car driving in and driving out ? I noticed that they are filling the holes, but how long before they are back . Does this new surface prevent them from forming ?

As a major transportation hub, and place where many visitors get their first glimpse of the City, this certainly is an embarrassment.

Pothole: a hole about the size of your average stove-top pot.
Crater: A large hole that threatens to consume your whole car.

Seems like about 20 tons of gravel ($400+/-) and a few guys with rakes and shovels ($80 a day x 3 guys = $240)
Grand total: $640.00
Could go a long way to help the problem.
Maybe we could launch a "adopt-a-crater" program, for say $5 a piece.
I'd adopt 2!
Who's with me?

The city has allowed this developer to turn a public transportation center into a laughing stock. Gabe Silverman has been promising a solution since 2004? Is this guy Lucy from Peanuts? Are we going to watch one more time as he pulls the football way before we try and kick it.

I been there at night and heard his parking lot goons stop everyone who is there to pick some one up from Amtrack and try and make them pay for parking. I've watched several irate people cuss the goons out (which they perversely seem to enjoy). They now lock up the back entrance to the parking lot that I used to pick up folks from the train. This makes me now drive over their war torn Bosnia battelfield re-creation instead of being able to bypass it all together. The city has chosen to ignore this blight because Gabe is one of the "good guys".

The city is giving Silverman a pass that almost no one else would get. But watching the city play favorites is as old as time here. I wait for your next installment of "Gabe Silverman promise to fix the parking lot this time - he really does!"

Silverman and Cadgene don't just own the Amtrak property; they own many of the properties along W. Main St between the Corner and downtown (they just don't own the properties across from/right next to the lot that deal with the dust). Silverman himself has been quoted in the Hook as saying that he prides himself on being part of a community and claims to want to help Midtown become a more vibrant, thriving community. So how exactly is copping a deal with the City to score a property for $700,000 and then putting it on the market 13 years later for $13.5 million (the most expensive property on the market in town) without doing anything to the property helping the community? Are they waiting for the City (the taxpayers) to take over the lot and help them turn a huge profit? Sure doesn't sound like being part of a community to me.

It is correct that the City and the property owners both failed in reaching a deal to build the transit center on this site. Now the City is left with what should essentially be a public entity (the lot for our train station) in the hands of a private entity. It's a bit of a sticky situation for sure - I don't know how much, if at all, the City can "force" the owners to pave the lot or make it not look like poo-poo other than making sure the dust doesn't infringe upon others.

I would just like an answer as to how the developers can possibly call themselves part of a community with the state that they've kept this property in, all while trying to reap a huge profit. The lot is an eyesore; it's more than a nuisance to neighbors; and it's dangerous to non-4-wheel-drive vehicles. Amtrak's service is about to increase here even more. How about stepping up to the plate and doing something good for the community? Maybe then you'll be able to sell the place!

I wonder what happened to Silverman's lawsuit on Court Square saying 222 Court Square shared wall was over too far across his property next door. It had only been that way since the 1840s but for him it wasn't correct...

"The city has allowed this developer...." "The city is giving Silverman a pass..."

Can anyone who feels this way give an example of an ordinance that is being violated or show what might give the city any authority to force the property owner to do work he doesn't seem to want to do? You don't have to park on his property if you don't like the potholes.

If I didn't have to go to the Amtrak station I wouldn't care about it either but you can't get to the station without going over the potholes in the parking lot.