Beta House comes down

Despite strong objections from local preservationists as well as from City Council, who denied additional bond financing to the Jefferson Scholars Foundation because they were not satisfied with efforts to consider preserving the Compton House (a.ka. Beta House), the Eugene Bradbury-designed private residence and fraternity house was reduced to a pile of rubble today.

To see recent photos of Beta House before the demo, click here.

From the start, the Jefferson Scholars seemed to show little interest in preserving the building at 124 Maury Avenue, despite repeated efforts from preservation activists like architectural historian Daniel Bluestone, who says he tried a number of times to contact Foundation president James Wright to encourage him to preserve the house. Bluestone says Wright never responded.

"We are not, as a foundation, in the business of historic preservation," Wright told City Council members at a September 17 meeting. Wright– who, according to several Council members, appeared physically agitated by Council's decision to block the requested financing– said then that the Foundation had not decided what to do with the building.

"It's definitely a significant historic structure," Mayor David Brown later told the Hook, "and we want to know what they plan to do before we approve the bond issue."

Following a diagnosis from project architect Bob Moje of VMDO Architects– who declared the house was too damaged to make historic renovation practical– the Jefferson Scholars Foundation applied for a permit to demolish the house. The Foundation also chose to avoid another confrontation with City Council by seeking additional funding elsewhere.

Although Moje admitted the structure was sound, he said the interior had been "decimated by 50 years of fraternity use." Moje described stair treads completely worn away, rooms haphazardly reconfigured, and completely unworkable electrical and plumbing systems.

"You wouldn't be restoring the house, you'd be recreating it," he said, "and to what purpose?"

That elicited a strong response from Preservation Piedmont's Aaron Wunsch, who pointed out that Moje was hardly a neutral judge, as his firm stood to make millions from the estimated $21 million project, a new headquarters for the Foundation.

"If he'd wanted to work this building into VMDO's design, he could easily have done so. Instead, he's given your readers an unpleasant display of partisanship bordering on hackery," Wunsch wrote in a letter to the Hook. " If this house is a patient on life support, Bob Moje is as qualified to pronounce on its condition as Bill Frist was to pronounce on Terri Schiavo's."




Built in 1886, the Timberlake-Branham House is a fine example of the vernacular house with Victorian detail which was quite popular in the City in the last quarter of the 19th Century. As such, it is an important part of the historical and architectural fabric of the City. The basic form of the house is vernacular: a 2-storey, 3-bay, single-pile house following the central hall plan. To this basic form have been added Victorian details such as a central gable on the facade and bracketed porch posts. The semi-octagonal projecting bay with floor-length windows is not quite like any other in the City. The entrance door with its circular-headed lights and moulded rails is an infrequent survivor of a popular form. The fact that many of its contemporaries have not survived increases the value of this house as a well-preserved example of the style.

The Timberlake-Branham House would contribute greatly to the architectural and historical significance of a proposed Woolen Mills Historic District. It is already listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Charlottesville Multiple Resource Area.

Of possibly greater importance than the design of the house itself, however, is the role that it plays in the neighborhood. The southern side of Woolen Mills Road was divided into five-acre tracts in the 1880s, and substantial Victorian houses were built along the road with gardens and pastures behind them.

The builder of this house, James E. Timberlake, was a foreman at the Charlottesville Woolen Mills. Several of these large houses have been lost, but with this one, enough remains to establish the character of the neighborhood and to maintain the rhythm and scale of the streetscape. The prominent location of this house on a knoll high above the street gives it special importance to the neighborhood. The loss of such a dominant presence would have a serious effect on the entire Woolen Mills area.

(text above from "Survey of 18 National Register properties and Proposal for Local Designation" Charlottesville, Virginia, 1993" (AB-73 Charlottesville MPD Survey)

Cville Eye: Boy, do I know the difference between National Monuments, National Historic Landmarks, the National Register of Historic Places, the Virginina Landmarks Register, Section 106 and Section 110 review proceedings, and local architectural control districts and overlay zoning. I have Article XI of the Virginia Constitution tatooed upside down on my abdomen. And, I am clear about the wide discretion that Council has in designating an IPP. But the National Register application and technical review standards are de facto measures by which any application that will some sticks from that bundle of property rights will be measured. And, the NR application, if it passes the Preliminary Information Form stage at the VDHR, formally declares the property as eligible for Commonwealth tax credits. If you've gone that far, you might as well take it through the whole NR\VLR process, particularly if it's a revenue producing property and Federal tax credits are a possibility. And, there's the general purpose that these nominations, today, are taken as good histories available for public review, and great weight is placed on their archival importance. So, no, the City and the NPS/VDHR classifications and registrations don't strictly have to match. But, neither do the Virginia-NPS/VDHR registries, but they are mirror images of one another, by design. (National Historic Landmarks are automatically listed on the National Register.) Of course, it requires an owner's non-objection to have properties listed on the Registries as a matter of law. Not so with regards to the City. I should also note that the City is a Certified Local Government, which gives it a prominent role in the Registration process and encourages further coordination between Federal, state, and local designations.

As noted above, I would suggest that the Council revisit their promises not to list over owner objection. (The Board of Supervisors in Albemarle have made similar promises that Register districts will not be converted to ACD if a historic preservation ordinance is passed.)

The Fifeville historians were paid, as was the historian for the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood, as will be the historian for the Woolen Mills Neighborhood. I don't doubt that Dan Bluestone could have written a Compton House nomination with his students. But, no registration or city designation is going to go forward in this era of reactionary property rights and litigation without a powerful and well-founded statement of the cultural value of the designated property or properties, and that means using the NR criteria and considerations. The good news is that Charlottesville and Virginia have plenty of professional historians willing to do this work and with experience in it.

Thank you, and that's all I'll have to write about this topic.

As for you, Dave, those are good questions, indeed. I had thought, and I could be wrong, here, that the JSF once intended to build much more modestly over near Alumni Hall at some point, but the project fell through and they ended up buying the Compton property and, apparently in consideration of the above, changing project scope. As I mention, 21 million dollars still buys a lot of building and everyone in a position to ask the JSF a questions should have kicked in the critical faculties at the mention of that figure. Certainly because one would assume that the JSF had developed its plans for the building to the point of being able to put a price tag on them. What are the headquarters like for, say, the CACF? The local United Way? The Office of Student Financial Aid at the University? A lot of money passes through the hands of these organizations, too. Are their buildings valued at $21 million? What is in the program for the new JSF headquarters besides administration and, maybe, housing?

Thanks to the comments by Mr. Wunsch and Mr. mcNair, I was able to find the online agenda of the June 18, 2007 meeting to actually get clarification. The item was tucked away in the Consent Agenda. It is as you both have said, the County issued the initial $18M in bonds. The City's only role was approved the County's issuance of the bonds as required by State and Federal law, according to the background material provided with the online agenda by the staff. The City has no actual involvement with the bonds themselves. Additionally, nowhere in the online documentation was any impact other than budgetary mentioned. Although Council often receives additional information in the form of email, letters and staff memos, there was no mention of any of that material in the text. I played the video for the parts dealing with MATTERS FROM THE PUBLIC and the vote on the Consent Agenda and no one brought up this issue. In other words, there is no indication that Council knew of any significance of this property to the preservation community. Is there anyway to rectify those situations in the future? What's going to happen to those lovely homes in the 2400 bloack of JPA (acroos the bridge)?

Victoria Dunham, sorry, I hadn't seen your post when I was playing with Mr. McNair. Please keep us informed. This is the first time I've heard of a court case invovling local design control. A gentleman who sometimes worked around my house said years ago that his house on Lankford Avenue was listed (there are two) over his objections and he was told there was nothing he could do about it. Possibly a dual application of the law, a change in legal interpretation or the City's real desire not to have that property under BAR review. Personally, I have always believed the last option. If the owner of the E. Market tract is Mr. C., I didn't hear that he took the City to court when his commercial property near Free Bridge was re-zoned in 2003 to exclude its current use as a car lot or filling station (I didn't know which parcel he owned) over his objections.

"When the JSF sought an additional $3M in bonds from the City" sorry, I was going by what I read (I keep saying not to believe what you read in the paper). The truth is JSF did not seek additional funds from the City since they had never received any in the first place. Since I hadn't seen that $18M item on the Council's agenda, I should have trusted my vigilance. Thanks for the correction.

lol...and here I thought the house might reassemble itself! Thanks for the laugh, my friend. Someone too cowardly to post their own name calling everyone else bed wetters...priceless!

Many thanks to Brian, Aaron, and everyone else for participating in this valuable and informative exchange about the process of preservation. Our city would be a much poorer place without the tireless efforts of preservationists and an interested citizenry.

Brian is right on when he states that the IPP list needs to be revisited. Here in the Woolen Mills we've been dealing with what
appeared to be the inadvertent de-listing of the largest portion of the protected Timberlake-Branham property. This was because the amended parcel numbers reflecting subsequent subdivisions mistakenly didn't make it into the IPP roster as it appeared in the 2003 zoning ordinance. (Remember, subdivision does NOT alter zoning. You can divide a protected property into 100 tiny pieces and each piece is just as protected as it was prior to the subdivision. But, in doing so, you have created an increasingly difficult paper trail for the city and preservationists to follow... if that was your goal.)

Anyway, that's the city's version of what happened. And every city document and map going back shows the entire property as protected. And individuals involved with the initial listing of the IPP, including a former mayor, remember the entire parcel being designated.

What I've found to be incredibly disheartening was the city's reaction after the mistake was discovered, we brought it to their attention, and they openly admitted to it. We naturally assumed they would then go through the usual channels, amend the ordinance to reflect the correct parcel numbers, look into the possibility this had happened with other IPPs, and then everyone would move on-- hopefully a bit wiser. And, after all, the property hadn't actually ever been de-listed anyway if it never went through the proper de-listing process as outlined in the Muni Code (so helpfully provided by Cville Eye above)-- so, no worries, correct? Instead, after meeting with the property owner's attorney, the city began circling the wagons and the spin and revisionism began.

We were told by the city that the only way to fix the mistake was for us, the citizens, to take it up before the Board of Zoning Appeals. A lawyer had to be obtained and, of course, paid for. Turns out that the advice the city gave us was bogus and the BZA wasn't the right body to fix the city's mistake. The BZA's counsel recommended to us that the City Council needed to take care of it. Dave Norris brought it up during a Council meeting and was basically rebuffed by his utterly disinterested co-councilors. It was suggested that the citizens would have to sue the city in order to have this mistake fixed.

I can't begin to tell you how distasteful and disheartening it's been for us to have to resort to using an already clogged court system in order to get the city to follow through and list the correct parcel numbers in the ordinance. The city has now joindered (legalese for "added") the property owner onto their side of the suit, thus making it necessary for us, the taxpaying citizens, to fight two sets of legal teams instead of one.

So, this begs several questions: 1) What on earth is planned for that protected parcel that the owner is so desperate that it not go under any form of BAR review? 2) What happened during the meeting with the owner's attorney that caused the city to alter their "official" version of the story, thus contradicting what they'd stated and written before? 3) When a long-term staffer told us that inadvertent de-listing might well have happened with other IPPs in Charlottesville during the passage of the 2003 zoning ordinance, was he imagining that the city would force other citizens and property owners into the court system to repair these errors as well?

Stay tuned to find out. The next court date is January 10th.

Maybe he's employed by an interested party. Or, maybe he's looking for employment and doesn't want his name to be Googled. Maybe he thinks he's being complimentary because he has positive memories of wetting the bed. Maybe there's some kind of twisted sexual fetish here, so I'd better leave it alone.

And apologies... didn't mean to high-jack the thread. Just speaking from painful experience regarding the context of politics, and the unfortunate and unwelcome role they can play in preservation.

The above reinforces the idea that the house was the protected property and is still protected, so where is the violation of the code and the protection?

So, tell me again: where were you for 50 years while this building was being gradually destroyed in its former use as a fraternity house? Can someone document the letter-writing campaign that surely must have gone on, directed at the national organization of Beta Theta Pi? I mean, come on! Their local chapter is destroying an architectural treasure!

What? There was no such campaign?

Fast forward to 2007: the property is sold to an organization that is actually going to make something constructive of the property, better serving the University and the community. The new building will surely improve what has long been an eyesore passageway to Grounds.

Cue the hysteria.

"According to the zoning code, subdividing the land is not supposed to alter the original designation." was in
I do not know where to find the section that states that. That, I think, is the crux of the plaintiff's argument. If it's in the City's code at the time the lots were approved for the PUD, then most likely the court will rule against the City's position.

A fire and rescue station would be even more constructive. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation has no mission to serve the community. The station will serve both the University and the community. Who's servicing those bonds anyway?

"So, tell me again: where were you for 50 years while this building was being gradually destroyed in its former use as a fraternity house?"

Um, the Beta fraternity left the house in an entirely restorable condition. It's structurally sound. No one disputes so. If the Betas were fired up about destroying it, they were certainly taking their own sweet time. (I went by the House yesterday, and looked, from adjacent properies, for cracked stucco, broken roof tiles, etc., the signs of serious deterioration. Didn't see any. Noted some window reworking might be necessary.) The JSF did in a day what the Betas couldn't. The items mentioned in the article--plumbing systems, electrical systems, and stair treads--would have been worn out by now even if the Betas had been scrupulous stewards. By the way, unless the new building is going to be far more primitive than I think, it will probably have plumbing, electrical, and stair treads. All new. Not sure where the savings is, there, compared to just replacing the old material.

If the digs are not of the sort the Jefferson Scholars find appropriate, then the Federal and State governments could subsidize the renovation to the tune of 45 percent of qualifying costs, via tax credits. Including plumbing, electrical, and stair treads. You can "improve an eyesore" and pay your taxes simultaneously. And, we don't even have to get into the fact you gloss over, which is that the JSF has not offered to give back the $18 million loan that it obtained lawfully, but apparently without a clear understanding by Council that the Compton House was to be demolished when the Council endorsed the loans. Or, that, if the JSF thought your "But the Betas were worse!" argument was a winning one, why they're not making it before City Council. After all, if it's truly compelling, don't you think that it would be worth the JSF running it out in a public hearing that could get them three million more dollars in low-interest loans? The question pretty much answers itself, doesn't it?

Whether there was anything salvageable in the building, we at least can see that several hundred tons of sound material will now most likely be hauled to the landfill, rather than reused in place. Reusing in place also conserves the energy spent in building a building, over and above disposal energy and used landfill space, and that's a considerable amount. The brick and tile were already kilned, the cement for the mortar mined and processed. Walls and roof set. Imagine the fossil fuels not consumed and carbon dioxide not released, the trees not harvested for roof framing and flooring, and then hauled to the building site, the workmen's transportation fuels not used. One expert thinks it takes decades for a new, extremely energy-efficient building to recover the lost "embodied energy" in an existing one. LEED ratings barely recognized this energy savings. The US Green Building Council, by the way, denies a credit to a building that destroys a wetland, farmland, or public parkland (with exceptions). But, you can tear down a register-eligible (see Compton House) or registered property, or even an National Historic Landmark, maybe dig up an 18th century African-American graveyard for your LEED project, no problem, at least so far as the USGBC's Site Selection credits are concerned. To say the USGBC is going to be pressured to change its rating system is an understatement.

On December 25, the Progress ran an article on the restoration of Varsity Hall, the University's first Infirmary. I can assure you that it was, more than likely, in far worse shape than the Compton House, and 58 years older. It had been ill-used for years, even spending (shudder) 1902-1912 as a fraternity house. Yet, it got picked up and moved, and restored, and the University is justifiably proud of it. I'd also point out that, far from being unrestorable, fraternity houses can be restored to pristine and durable condition. One architecture firm did practically all of the fraternity houses at W&L, in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, and did a good job, as well as several of the University's frat houses. That firm would be VMDO.

I guess VMDo goes where the money is. Did anybody offer to buy the house and move it? It seems to me the onus of preservation falls solely upon the owner of the structure. If the community is truly interested in historic preservation, it would identify fully those structures it wishes to preserve and add more money into the historic preservation fund that usually has $300k in it. When was the last time an individual property was added to the City code?
1404 Jefferson Park Avenue is the only structure on that street that is listed as an individual property in the City's code. Why hasn't the preservation community brought this up? All too often, it's crying over the spilled milk after the cow kicked the can over while running out of the open door. Then Council is called upon to rectify a situation in which its hands are tied. And, why wasn't Council asked to deffer approval of the $18M bond sponsorship until the preservation of the building could be secured? All questions and complaints. Preservation requires some intelligent actions.

The real reason why there is such a paucity of structures in that area deemed "historic" is because the City decided decades ago that the area around JPA would be reserved for UVA expanison and high-rise student housing. Council approved the $18M and did not approve the $3M in order to appear the hero in this matter and not lose the support of the preservation community (talk one way, act another fools a lot of people).
If this architect is of such importance locally, then are we to assume that the rest of his structures are listed in the City's ordinance? Since Council was so appalled, did it ask Mary Joy Scalia to look into the matter or did it prefer her continuing to work on placing Fifeville under historic designation without the support of the property owners?

1) In the United States, outside local controls, there are no laws preventing demolition of a historic structure. However, the Federal and every state government offers tax credits (note: credits, not deductions) for renovating historic structures acccording to Interior's standards. There's some arcane restriction. Virginia is generous, offering 25 percent of renovation expenses, raising the discount to 45 cents on the dollar. You can turn your statement around and say that, if the owner cares about his community and wants to strengthen the bonds between his organization and the town, he will do so by preserving those properties that physically define the town. People do good things without being forced to. In historic preservation, more often than not.

By the way, before a historic structure is taken down, it's my experience that the owner offers the building to be documented or documents it itself. (Preservation Piedmont and Colonial Williamsburg just finished measuring an African-American church in the County that's slated for eventual demolition.) That didn't happen here, so far as I know.

2) Well, gee, us in the preservation community are volunteers with other jobs. Yes, the city needs another survey to catch structures that its last survey missed. This one may have been overlooked because it wasn't 75 or 100 years old at the time of the last survey. The city has an employee, who is overworked, charged with preservation planning. What has occupied the city is Fifeville as a possible Neighborhood Conservation District and Martha Jefferson and Woolen Mills as Landmark Districts. (Fifeville, too.) That's not a bad record. By the way, how many other historic structures have been taken down in the City in the past decade? Other than a few Fifeville houses, none of which would be eligible for individual listing on the Register, I can't think of any. Nothing anywhere near as important as the Compton House. Really. So, I'd say that we're doing a pretty good job, the city and its supporters, and that Charlottesville has a decent preservation ethic. Note the success stories at 224 Fourth Street SE and the Nimmo House, recently.

3) The original $18 million went through without the Council realizing, by all accounts, that the house wasn't to be renovated. Same with the preservation community, which acted with what I consider remarkable speed when word got out. You might also ask why the JSF didn't show a plan of what they wanted to do with the property, one that would show the house demolished. Shouldn't they be proud of their plans? They talk about them a lot, about how "sustainable" the structure is going to be. The Council should have asked, too. The first tip off to them was this: what will a charity, one whose apparent charge is a) getting money b) investing it c) doling it out to worthy students do with $21 million dollars in headquarters? Maybe great, noble things. But, the Council should have asked, because $21 million is a lot of building, even in this day and age. Kendra Hamilton has said she assumed that the Foundation bought the property with the intention of keeping the house, otherwise, why buy it? Shame on her, shame on us all.

Go to Sec. 34-274 of the City's Code at To find it, using the content tree in the left panel, clikc on Chapter 34 ZONING/ARTICLE II OVERLAY DISTRICTS/DIVISION 2 HISTORIC PRESERVATION Sec. 34-274. There you will find the acutal code the City uses in adding or deleting from historic designation. Notice that each of the numbered items are not required to be satisfied in order for the property to be listed, nor is there an exact age, nor does it have to be recognized at the national or state level. Notice the clever use of "or" in the ordinance. It is probably as broad as it can be. Nor does it say that a nomination for local consideration can not come from a citizen or citizen's group. The onus is not upon Mary Joy Scala, the Planning Commissioners, the BAR or Council. In years past, a lot of the foot work was done by citizens, such as the documentation for Fifeville was done by a class of UVA students.

"I don't think that the high-rise housing was expected to extend down Maury." That's why University High Density zoning was invented. Look at the underlying zoning in that area. It certainly does not promote single-family type dwellings which has been the predominant style of structure in that neighborhood. The City knows not to rely upon expectations in future development, but to rely upon mandates in the City code.
"At least two are already in existing architectural control and Register districts." Then, for the most part, no.
"His houses and rental properties may not be. His work, and that of Stanislaw Makielski, is newer than most of the city's listings." Actually, age is not a prerequisite to be noted for architectural significane for inclusion. Nor if the structure is associated with a significant historical event or person. The use of the structure is not important and the City does not need the owner's permission to include it in the local designation.
"Not to be offensive, really, but do you have proof of this assertion?" The proof is in the pudding: the old Woolworth building.

"The real reason why there is such a paucity of structures in that area deemed ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??historic¢Ã¢â??¬ is because the City decided decades ago that the area around JPA would be reserved for UVA expanison and high-rise student housing."

I don't think that the high-rise housing was expected to extend down Maury. None of the other appartments would qualify as high-rise. There may have been an expectation that it would remain residential or that the houses would be converted to compatible office or other service uses. Obviously, they bet wrong with respect to at least one potential owner. The Fry's Spring Service Center is or will soon be put up for Virginia Landmark and National Register listing, with the City's help.

"are we to assume that the rest of his structures are listed in the City's ordinance?"

At least two are already in existing architectural control and Register districts. His houses and rental properties may not be. His work, and that of Stanislaw Makielski, is newer than most of the city's listings. I expect a press to protect the local work of these two architects that was done outside current control districts. I expect that Mary Joy will get the offer of a lot of help.

"Council approved the $18M and did not approve the $3M in order to appear the hero in this matter and not lose the support of the preservation community (talk one way, act another fools a lot of people)."

Not to be offensive, really, but do you have proof of this assertion? Because, if you do, it really needs to be made public.

"Actually, age is not a prerequisite to be noted for architectural significane for inclusion. Nor if the structure is associated with a significant historical event or person. The use of the structure is not important and the City does not need the owner's permission to include it in the local designation."

As a matter of discretion on the part of the city, perhaps not. Whether the city's statute has a peculiar age setting can be answered by consulting the City statute, which probably includes all four of the Register Criteria for listing, not just the two you mention. As a matter of policy, the Council has taken a position not to designate without the property owner's agreement--which is the impediment for Fifeville. But, the JSF's decision to vest the Compton House in the demolition process (by applying for the permit almost immediately after informing Council that the JSF would be demolishing it) and then to demolish it now, unless there are immediate new construction plans, is rife for inference.

"'At least two are already in existing architectural control and Register districts.' Then, for the most part, no."

Some of the work is in North Downtown or Rugby Road and may be listed as contributing to those districts, or in the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood, which will soon get city designation. It's possible the bulk of his City work is. Ask Dan Bluestone if you want to stop assuming.

As far as National and Virginia Landmarks registration goes, any properties less than fifty years old can be listed only if they have exceptional and transcendant importance by their association with the life of a person, broad patterns of history or a single event, artistic or craft mastery, or information potential. Newness is one of the several limiting "Considerations." Municipal ordinances often follow these national and state criteria but are, also, often more conservative because they're restrictive as well as honorific.

The Compton House would have been eligible in 1966 by the fifty-year statute. The National Historic Preservation Act wasn't passed until that year, so the restriction would never have excluded the Compton House. Local ordinances had existed since the 1920s in the United States (Charleston) and Europe (Warsaw), but I doubt that there was enabling legislation in Virginia before the NHPA was enacted. Without pointlessly dragging this research out, I'd guess that the when the city launched its survey it chose a number of years greater than fifty as a screen in order to get the zoning ordinance passed. Since the time of the original ordinance, too, historic preservation evaluation has advanced and appreciation for architects like Bradbury has grown. What is clear is that the City needs to revisit the issues of 1) Owner agreement 2) Property Inventory.

Different Mr C, I believe. The person hoping to develop the Timberlake-Branham property, and keep it from being under BAR review whilst doing so, is developer and BAR member Preston Coiner.

The error was discovered this time last year, when we were doing the extensive research for our pending historic district. A mini-storage complex had been built on protected property, but never underwent BAR review. I asked NDS staff why- they were actually extremely cooperative and helpful at that point- and the rest is history.

This has much larger implications for all of Charlottesville. If a zoning mistake is made- and we all understand that mistakes DO happen- what do we do about it? And why is it even remotely appropriate to suggest that the citizens try and fix it on their own dime when the Gov't, Council, and/or Planning Commission has all the necessary tools at their disposal to do so?

You can Google "taking by typo" or see our website for the particulars, maps, etc. Click on the News link. And documents? We got buckets of 'em.

Victoria Dunham, as someone said, Maury is demolished and there are many issues surrounding preservation and design control that needs airing and this place right now seems to be the only place.
What is unclear is whether the City's position is that historic designation does not convey to undeveloped tracts when subdivided and must be listed separately by formal ordinance (which was not done) or the City feels it does not need to formally remove a subdivided tract that was once a part of a tract that is listed. In other words, did the City need to undergo a formal process to include the new subdivided tracts in the list or undergo a formal de-listing process, both of which would require public notification. I have never understood how this is a typo, I make them all the time, so I know what they are. If I don't type at all, how is it a typo? Nevertheless, it seems that City Hall does not agree with the interpretation that some members of the neighborhood have.

Don't mix federal and state regulations with law.

The archaic English law dictionaries to which lawyers refer define "landmark" as, essentially, a milepost, and thus have been found in Virginia case law to be irrelevant. Modern cultural resource law gives wide latitude to the application of "landmark" by commissions or councils. The Virginia Landmarks Commission, and its successor, the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, could and do register "properties" as "landmarks." The word "property" as used in preservation law can define a building, structure (these may be moveable), object (such as, well, a "landmark" in the archaic sense), site, or district. The city could probably designate as an IPP an open site valued for its information potential alone. There is at least one IPP in Charlottesville that includes a large yard so valued, but also contains an associated dwelling. Then, too, the IPP ordinance is a creature of the Zoning Ordinance, which lays over lots defined by boundary, not by content.

And, having even more bearing, is the letter and intent of the law. No where in the letter of the law is the land mentioned and the City can say that it never intended for vacant lots to be listed and use the fact that none are listed as proof.

The City has not, nor will it, make that argument. Not only will the City not dismiss that authority, but it will not stand scrutiny. Virginia case law already defines historic or culturally-valued "property" and "landmark" in the above fashion. In the absence of a specific exclusion, the court will find the two designations all-encompassing. The critical issue is whether the IPP status is retained under subdivision even when not recorded at the time of subdivision.

Now that the Kmart building has been placed on the list of proposed protection list, the neighborhoods of southern Belmont, Greenbrier and Johnson Village should also considered. One of the criteria discussed is maintaining distinctive neighborhood charachter and each of these neighborhoods has that.

To the ever-vigilant Cville Eye:

You write,

¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??Council approved the $18M and did not approve the $3M in order to appear the hero in this matter and not lose the support of the preservation community (talk one way, act another fools a lot of people).¢Ã¢â??¬

Stop spinning conspiracy theories and get your facts straight. The $18M bond issuse came from the Industrial Development Authority of Albemarle County, not from City Council. The funding was approved before the JSF gave any hint that demolition might be in the works. When the JSF sought an additional $3M in bonds from the City several months later, City Council had the temerity to ask hard questions about the Foundation's plans. Rather than furnish a straightforward response, JSF opted to seek funding elsewhere.

While some documentation of Fifeville was done by University students, its comprehensive documentation, the basis for its potential Registration and an eventual NCD is the work professional historians. Without that work, there would be no Register nomination or potential NCD. Student work doesn't cut it anymore.

This is the Zoning Ordinance as written in 2003 and amended since. Was there an earlier one that designated individual properties? Probably. Even so, far from making the case that it's somehow not the fault of the City for not routinely updating and confirming its list, the ordinance as written gives heavy weight to the Planning Commission and BAR, requiring their study and report to Council on any change to it. One of the overworked Mary Joy's jobs is, as preservation planner, to plan governmental preservation efforts. Like, say, encouraging the BAR to update the inventory of protected properties--although its not like the BAR isn't doing lots of work for no money.

This is not merely a local problem: a great many state and national nominations, particularly the ones done in the late 1960s, particularly for landmarks of surpassing obviousness, wouldn't pass muster today. (I think the one for Mt. Vernon is being rewritten to expand on the original nomination's "Home of America's first president.") Historic districts in which newer properties were not listed as contributing can now have those properties added to the contributing list because they've aquired age and now enhance the district's integrity.

Since an addition is treated as a Zoning Amendment, only Council or the Planning Commission can perform it, and only a property owner can petition to initiate the action directly. While citizens can speak before the Council and PC for indirect amendment, much to my surprise, the consideration periods make it impossible to add or delete a property from the IPP list rapidly. The JSF folks never had anything to fear from the City Council. They'd be breaking ground by the time the Council could designate.

The criteria for evaluation by the BAR and planning commssion is a one-paragraph summary of Chapters Four through Eight of the NPS National Register Bulletin, "How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation." They don't have to "satisfy" any of those criteria, only be measured against them. It's not a checklist. The charge is to evaluate according to that criteria, and "age" is one criterion. No age is strictly spelled out, true, but we assume that older is more persuasive and always was.

As I mention above, a change in political will to designate over owner objection and a new formal policy to fund a re-inventory of all City properties using up-to-date methods and standards is required. It would probably do well to commission a re-evaluation of some of the older Register districts, too, with an eye to adding contributing properties as noted above, as part of that work. If you want to make a difference, lobby for comprehensive action. Don't dash around looking for orphaned properties that the Council and BAR will have to consider piecemeal, because they won't.

I'm not sure it is clear in this conversation that being listed on the loacl designation does not require prior listing on the State or National. Separate processes as well as separate but similar criteria. Professionals may be needed to secure non-local designation, but it has not been necessary for local designation. If professionals have been used locally, their contributions have been minimal. Those houses listed individually were added long before 2003 and not all of them are on the National or State.
Because of the difference in criteria, I guess it is important to distinguish which type of recognition is being discussed. In matters of demolition, it is the local ordinance that comes into play. Thus all of my comments have dealt with the criteria and process to have a property designated locally. It would be a big mistake to assume that receiving local designation is a complex and as detailed as the others. I have not noticed the Planning Commission spending a great deal of time "studying" the designation of the Venable neighborhood nor Fifeville. The study comes to them in the forma of a report, detailing the structure, its builder, its first owner, its architectural style, landscape peculiarities, whether it's contributing or non-contributing, etc. which has sufficed for BAR and PC approval. I had several interesting conversations with Eldon Wood about his work on a committee compiling a lot of the materials submitted by UVA urban planning students over a period of several semesters. I can't imagine he would attribute that much work to students if it was actually done by professionals. I have heard that a small consulting firm was hired for the Ridge district but used City interns to do a lot of the leg work around 1996, but I really didn't pay much attention to that process.
The original work on Fifeville was done for local designation; the professional work must have been done for the current non-local designation.

It's rather incredible that the Jefferson Scholars Foundation didn't allow more of the building's reusable materials to be salvaged before they destroyed it.

Maybe they're not as scholarly as they would have one believe. If that structure was so historic why wasn't it on the City's protected list? What else out there is not on the list? How much are the City's tax payers paying to manage this $18M bond? Maybe there should be some more people hired to check into this. Was this lot big enough for the City's new gift to UVA of a fire station equiped with 3 fire engines and two ambulances? Are we going to have a design contest for this new structure? Maybe we can get VDOT to conduct a traffic study if we agree to pay for it.

This is, in my opinion, as severe a deliberate loss of cultural property as the City of Charlottesville has suffered since an arsonist burned down the tabernacle-style First Baptist Church (where Queen Charlotte Square is today) in the early 1970s. Given the City Council's clear objection to using publicly-subsidized loans for demolishing the house, without justifying the demolition before Council first, as voiced by the Mayor when the Scholars tried for a second round of loans, why should Charlottesville and its citizens not regard this act as a gesture of rank contempt from the JSF? Is the new building scheduled to be begin construction soon? If not, why the hurry to take down the house? What does doing so suggest about the validity of the JSF's contentions that the house wasn't suitable for renovation? One could infer that the building's existence and potential availability for examination might undercut them.

Cville Eye, once IPP designation is formally placed upon a property/parcel, it's there until it's formally removed. Period. Whether it's a house, a garden, a pasture, whatever. A *conscious* decision was made to protect the property, and that's why it's designated in the first place. No measure of subsequent subdividing, owner or developer tampering, or bureaucratic bungling can alter that fact. At least that's the way it's SUPPOSED to work.

The city has stated no position that the designation was removed because some of the land in question was not developed. The city's position has been this: We didn't list the correct parcel numbers for that particular IPP on the roster that appeared in the 2003 zoning ordinance. We didn't catch the mistake, and nobody else caught the mistake at that time. Therefore, we have now magically rezoned that parcel, despite the fact that there was no due process given, and we didn't follow our own strongly worded guidelines on how, and under what circumstances, a parcel may be de-listed.

Let me give you a what-if scenario that might be helpful. The guy next to you owns a historic house on a large city lot. The entire thing was made an IPP back in, say, 1988. It held the designated status when he bought it. But in 2000, he decides to subdivide the back half of his large backyard because he plans on building a small cottage back there for his elderly father at some point in the future. As you know, under our zoning laws, he could almost certainly do so-- the project would just have to undergo CPC and BAR review.

Cut to 2003. The list for the IPPs in Charlottesville is being updated by NDS for inclusion in the brand spankin' new zoning ordinance, but an error is made. Instead of noting both the parcel numbers, they list the back portion of his parcel, but not the portion containing the house. Or they transpose some numbers (perhaps a B looks like an H?) and lo and behold the entire parcel is no longer listed as an IPP... your house and yard next door are! Neither you or your neighbor have any idea this has happened until a few years later.

Perhaps your neighbor is actually pretty excited about this turn of events. Yeah, he'd bought a historic house, but after a few years he'd grown tired of the maintenance and having to deal with the BAR. Heck, this windfall would mean that he could even potentially tear the house down and build something new and more to his liking.

What do you, Cville Eye, think is the appropriate response from the city when this happens? Do you think that they should tell you that the responsibility rested upon your shoulders back in 2003 to go through the entire zoning ordinance with a fine-toothed comb prior to its being enacted by council, on the off-chance that buried in that mass of letters and numbers there might be one tiny error that impacts your life or the lives of others? Or that de-lists a historic property in Charlottesville?

What if they admitted to you that they'd made a mistake, that it may in fact might have happened with other historic properties, but then they told you that YOU had to suck it up?

The word typo denotes a typographical error. The zoning ordinance was "typed" therefore a mis-typing could be called a typo. Whether you prefer to call it a typo, or simply an error, we don't zone using that method. And de-listing (or listing) historic properties in this manner makes a mockery of the city's preservation process.

Courts do not deal with conjecture. If there was a typo then you must show what was actually typed and what should have been typed, such as #18 should have been typed and #19 was actually typed. If it was an omission then you must show what was omitted. If it was a de-listing then you only need to show which step of the procedure for de-listing . Just because some low-level City employee told somebody that it was a typo in his opinion has no legally implications whatsoever. The judege in this matter will not be influenced by a court of public opinion but by his interpretation of the City code governing this matter which may be very unclear.
I'm still not sure what the City's participation in the court action is.

So now you're quibbling like an armchair attorney as to what you feel protected property is or isn't? Have you even ever read the documentation that accompanies an IPP nomination? Any architectural historian will tell you that the setting informs the whole. But perhaps you'd prefer Monticello if it didn't have all that annoying protected land around it. You should tell them to take it out of protective easement-- I'm sure they'd be glad to do it based on your recommendation. What do those stupid historians know anyway?

The parcel numbers are key because that's what the IPP hangs on and how it's denoted. The land/parcel is protected as a minor design control district, regardless of whether you like it or not. And this particular parcel even has a second layer of protection in the form of a special use permit. If you don't like it, then you should definitely try and change the preservation laws in Charlottesville so that they provide less protection.

"Low level City employee" stated it was a mistake??? Not even close. One wonders where you're getting your info. From the top o' the heap, all the way down to the bottom, the consensus was that the entire parcel was protected. We were told that in person, in no uncertain terms. No surprise then that the FOIAed documents, emails, etc backed it up. There's no conjecture going on.

Is this something that should be decided in a court? That's for the judge to decide. I can sure as hell tell you though that we have no wish to be in this position. As I mentioned before, we would have been quite happy to have Council look into this, as well as the other IPPs.

"Each parcel containing a protected property is hereby designated a minor design control district." After re-reading the City's code to see if the LAND is also "protected," I came upon the above statement in 34-273. However, "protected property" is somewhat limited by paragraph (b): "Following is a list of landmarks, buildings and structures outside the city's major design control districts, which are deemed by city council to be of special historic, cultural, or architectural value (each, individually, a "Protected Property")." "Each" grammatically refers to "landmarks, buildings, and structures." Nowhere does the ordinance address the underlying land except when discussing landscaping and environments, which is a stretch.

The City's code has absolutely nothing to do with Monticello. Are there any other vacant tracts listed as minor districts?

This article supports a lot of what I said.!news

The house still exists.

Matter is not created or destroyed.

The house has been relocated to a landfill where it is no longer taking up space on Maury Ave.

All houses will be long gone by the year 17007, (15,000 years from now), well into the next ice age.

So everyone quit being so short sighted. 15,000 years goes faster than you think.

Aaron, Cville Eye,

To get the facts straight here...I was told by city and county offcials that while the county was technically issuing the bonds through its Industrial Development authority, because the property was in the city, both the county AND the city had to approve the bond issue.
City Council approved the $18 million in June....but defered the approval of the additional $3 million later because they had concerns about the JSF's efforts to consider preserving the building. Why did city council approve the $18 million in June? Did they not realize it was historically significant then? Did the JSF not tell them about their plans to demolish the building? Now, those are good questions.....


"But the National Register application and technical review standards are de facto measures by which any application that will YANK some sticks from that bundle of property rights will be measured."

And, yes, designating over the objection of local owners would mean that the City would maintain longer IPP list than NR\VLR list. Fine. But that only means that the local designation have to be prepared just as thoroughly if their going to pass political and, probably, judicial muster.


Thanks for the clarification. The questions you raise are the right ones.

Here's what I know. When the JSF asked the City for $3M, several Councilors expressed surprise that demolition was even on the table. One said (paraphrase): "I'd always assumed that the JSF was planning to preserve the building." This comment is on video and in the minutes. Perhaps it was disingenuous, but that interpretation strikes me as paranoid.

One obvious lesson here is that, when it comes to doling out money, the City needs to ask the hard questions sooner. Equally crucial is the point Brian Broadus has already made: the City's landmarking process has been stymied by shortfalls in staffing and funding. The argument that goes: "If this building was so important, the city should have landmarked it" ignores (or denies) the conditions under which landmarking occurs. If our city wants an updated survey, it needs to pay for it.

Finally, I'd encourage all participants in this discussion to attach their names to their postings. Anonymity and candor don't strike me as totally compatible.

Knowing that the shortsighted leaders of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation are somewhere close by, well I somehow feel less enlightened and more burdened than I would otherwise.

I wasn't in love with the building that they so unceremoniously destroyed but certainly there are some folks out there who could have used some of those old timbers and other salvageable materials that they are now carting off to a landfill.

This reminds me of the tactic utilized by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture when they rushed to chop down that old historic tree at their University Circle building site. What kind of culture are they studying over there at that Institute? Well, at least they paid a fine for their "research" but they also demonstrated their adherence to a kind of destructive cultural practice that follows the advice immoral lawyers will give to, "render the preservation objections moot, hurry and destroy it, the risk is that you'll get a small fine but your critics will go away after they realize there is no longer any point to continuing opposition."

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation can now join the ranks of those other thugs who bull there way around the town since they too have demonstrated that they are ruthless, wasteful, irreverent, shrewd, and destructive fellows who are "not in the business of historic preservation." This is ironic since they also capitalize upon the historic preservation mentality that so garishly upholds the name of Jefferson.