Deal's off: Razor wire charges still stand

In the case of the Charlottesville vs. the concertina-stringing homeowner, signs were pointing toward a settlement when Shirley Presley appeared in court August 31. Both her lawyer and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ron Huber assured the judge that a deal was in the works to settle the stand-off over her allegedly illegal use of razor wire across a portion of the Rivanna Trail.

The two sides asked for a continuance until September 30, but the date passed– with no settlement.

City building code official Jerry Tomlin, who first filed the warrant against Presley, says the wire is still up, and on October 1 he asked that the case– a misdemeanor– move forward.

"We reached a settlement, and the city repudiated it," says Payne. "It's obviously political."

"I wasn't satisfied," says Tomlin. "They play games. I'm not giving up until the razor wire is down."

In the plan negotiated between Payne and Huber, the City would build a fence at each end of the detours established by the Rivanna Trail Foundation, one of which is on city property. "Neither of these fences is on Mrs. Presley's property," says Payne.

According to Tomlin, at least one dog and one person have been injured by the ground-level razor wire.

And he believes that if Presley thinks the City Code prohibiting razor wire is unconstitutional, she should take her complaint to a higher court, and not try it in General District Court, where her attorney has subpoenaed 13 people– including Vice Mayor Kevin Lynch, City Manager Gary O'Connell, Deputy City Attorney Lisa Kelley, and a Hook reporter.

Payne would not comment on whether Presley is preparing to file suit, but asked if he believes her Constitutional rights have been violated, he replies, "Beyond any doubt, repeatedly."

Tomlin seems resigned to the possibility that the City will get sued.

"We probably will be," he says. "I don't really care about threats. It's a matter of public safety."

Huber did not return the Hook's phone calls.

Presley supporters argue that she has the right to protect her property from hikers on the Rivanna Trail, which was built without her permission across a corner of her lot. A detour sign now directs walkers away from Presley's land and onto the asphalt of nearby roads, including Locust Avenue.

"To what extent can a person protect her home?" scoffs Tomlin. "[The razor wire] is 700 to 800 feet from her house."

Presley's property defense began in the summer of 2002. After brush piles failed to stop hikers, the concertina wire appeared in 2003, and for over a year, Tomlin has been trying to get it removed. The new court date is October 29.

"I want to stand fast until the razor wire is removed," he declares.

Shirley Presley is still using razor wire to protect her Bland Circle property from dangerous hikers on the Rivanna Trail.


While the court battle continues, the razor wire remains.