Ivy's black residents: Faulconer is merely the latest assault

On the eve of a key decision on a construction company's effort to locate itself near a bucolic village, questions– including allegations of racial bias– have arisen over official decisions made 30 years ago. Why did Albemarle County allow industrial zoning in the midst of a historic black community?

"Nobody cared what happened to this community when it was a black community," says Bessie Jackson, an African American who grew up in the Morgantown Road neighborhood.

While today it's considered a privileged and mostly white suburb, historic Ivy was a rural African-American enclave. Some of those original residents say their rights were trampled in the late '60s and early '70s.

"Nobody was in our corner when Dettor [Edwards and Morris] moved in here, or when they put in the Ivy landfill," says Jackson.

Tom Hutchinson, president of the Ivy Community Association and also a Morgantown Road resident, says the neighborhood was promised a fishing lake if they supported the rezoning. The rezoning happened. The lake did not.

"They promised a bill of goods" for neighborhood support, says Jackson. "There was opposition, but they had a petition to get people to go along by promising a rec center."

A sketch of the lake is still on file at the county, according to planner Yadira Amarante, but she says there's no evidence of a promised recreation center in return for neighborhood support. And two long-time residents of the neighborhood– Oneida Smith and Henry Ivory– recall petitions both for and against locating Dettor Edwards and Morris there, but don't recall promises of a fishing lake.

According to county records, William Dettor obtained a business zoning designation in 1970 for his wholesale food distribution warehouse, which went out of business in the mid-'90s. The Hook was unable to reach Dettor.

That land is now the Ivy Industrial Park, zoned for light industrial use. That's where Faulconer Construction has purchased 27 acres for $335,000, according to Hutchinson.

Down the road from the Faulconer property is Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. "If this was a predominantly white neighborhood with a 130-plus-years-old church," says Jackson, "there's no way this would be happening."

Jackson's father picked up a dynamite cap when he was six years old and lost his thumb and two fingers. With Faulconer's explosives moving into the area, she fears such an accident could happen to some other unsuspecting child.

Oneida Smith, 83, a retired schoolteacher, has lived in Ivy all her life and on Morgantown Road since 1946. She worries about the traffic rumbling up narrow Morgantown Road if Faulconer moves in– just as it did when Dettor Edwards played host to 18-wheelers from all over the country. "I was concerned about the children on the road waiting for the bus," she recalls.

Henry Ivory, Jackson's uncle, was born on Turner Mountain, back in what he calls "the horse and buggy days." Now 87, he lives within sight of the Faulconer property, and he's concerned about the traffic, too. "I don't think anyone here wants it, especially with Murray [Elementary School] and the nursery school [Millstone Preschool] here," he says.

For Jackson, Faulconer's move into the neighborhood would further erode a black community already faced with "being a minority in our own neighborhood." And she thinks the county needs to be held accountable for its zoning decisions.

However, the decision to zone the property for business in 1970 made sense at the time, says county planner Amarante. "That property was already slated for industrial use, and it had a railroad siding," she says.

Last week, The Hook reported on a civics class for elementary children that is using the Faulconer situation as a opportunity for real-life learning. Ivy Community Association treasurer Carrie Colson points out the Association itself is not a sponsor, although Association members are involved with the class.

Nor is the Ivy Community Association responsible for flyers, described by one West Leigh recipient as "scare-mongering," that are being delivered door-to-door with a North Carolina newspaper clipping headlined, "3 students die in bus wreck."

A presage of what would happen after Faulconer moves in? Maybe not– the story's fine print indicates that the bus probably ran a stop sign into the path of a dump truck.

The Ivy Community Association is preparing a "peaceful demonstration" at the County Office Building February 4 an hour before the Planning Commission meeting to consider Faulconer's site plan. "There's going to be a huge turnout," predicts Hutchinson.

The site plan already has the county planning staff's blessing– which is not what the ICA expected. "I'm shocked they'd be so unprofessional," blasts Hutchinson.

Because the meeting occurs after deadline, the result will be posted at www.readthehook.com under "web bonus."

 

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