Charlottesville Breaking News

Road kill: VDOT spraying ignites controversy

The controversy over the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to spray herbicide on Albemarle County roadsides continues to churn as the spraying dates— August 26 and 27— loom closer. Leading the fight against the chemical herbicides is Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Ann Mallek, who is pushing county residents to opt out, citing a lack of research into the chemicals used and their possible adverse effects on human health and the environment.

“The chemical, Krenite S, is designed for remote places and industrial roadways and timber properties where they want to kill any competing brush,” says Mallek. “[VDOT] is unwilling to mow the branches on the side of the road anymore because it costs too much and decided to spray poison all over the place instead.”

Mallek was alerted to the use of roadside herbicide spraying last summer when a constituent called her, concerned that a VDOT truck was spraying something on Sugar Hollow Road, where he owned land, and also near the Moormans River. The driver of the truck allegedly told the landowner that he was spraying Roundup to kill mosquitoes.

“That was a big red flag to me," says Mallek. "I don’t know why the driver said that, but it was concerning because Roundup is for plants, not mosquitoes. And it was right by the river."

Mallek tried to get answers about the incident from VDOT, which, she says, ignored her for six weeks until the contract was complete, then re...

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New winery springs forth

Less than a year old, Meriwether Springs Vineyard may be Charlottesville’s newest winery, but so far, it is shaping up to be one of the most promising.

Resting on 40 beautiful acres, the property boasts a vineyard, tasting room, event center for weddings and corporate retreats and hiking trails. It also has a special historical significance as part of explorer Meriwether Lewis’ original estate. But if the property itself is unique, the family behind it is even more singular.

Patriarch Ed Pierce along with his wife, three children and his parents are all involved in the decisions and operations of the property.

“Sometimes we argue about things,” Pierce chuckles. “But everybody has something that they bring to it. Really we’re together so much that we just talk through issues and find solutions together. And that seems to be working.”

Located close to their home, Pierce and his family decided to buy the property because they were concerned about development and wanted to preserve the land’s natural beauty. The family tried to figure out a model that would allow them to preserve the land and settled on a vineyard, which they installed soon after buying the land. Though they have yet to reap their first harvest, the family has been keeping busy.

“We should have our own label by winter. Chardonnay first and then a couple of reds about a year after that,” Pierce says. “In the meantime we a...

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New life: Carmike Cinema finds market niche

Sometimes the Hook blows it, and when that happens, we try to do everything we can to correct that mistake. So, after accidentally publishing an outdated review of the Carmike theater in our Annual Manual, we decided to check it out for ourselves. We were impressed.

The bright marquee lights on the front of the Carmike Cinemas behind Albemarle Square are enticing, but it’s the sign below the lights that has been steadily drawing moviegoers since last November.

“All seats, all shows $1.50.”

When Raymond Kilburn took over as manager in the fall of 2012, the theater switched from first-run, full-price movies to second-run, discount films, which have already been shown in traditional big box theaters. The movies usually make it to Carmike about four to eight weeks after their premiere. Kilburn, who is also an artist, wanted to spread the word about the discount theater after making the switch.

“We’ve had great responses from people,” Kilburn says. “They want us to stay around as long as possible.”

With low ticket prices and affordable concessions, the theater provides customers an alternative to the pricey, albeit brand new stadium-seated Regal 14 at the Stonefield shopping center.

“Regal is top dog in the movie theater world,” Kilburn says. “It’s just a lovely theater. But here you can but a movie ticket, popcorn and a drink for the cost of just a ticket over there.”

Ticket prices haven’t be...

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The week in review

Worst spate of muggings: A 51-year-old man is beaten and suffers a broken arm and black eye in an attempted robbery around 5:30am August 10 on East Market near Lee Park, NBC29 reports. The suspects are described as two black males in their 20s. That night, a 21-year-old man is robbed in the 100-block of West Jefferson by a single thief, and a couple of hours later, according to WINA, a man and woman are held up on 2nd Street NE.

21-year-old man was robbed of his cash at around 10:40 p.m. Saturday in the 100 block of West Jefferson Street. - See more at:
21-year-old man was robbed of his cash at around 10:40 p.m. Saturday in the 100 block of West Jefferson Street. - See more at:

Worst assemblage of armed robbers: Three men wearing ski masks hit the BP station on Fontaine Avenue around 5am August 9. And early August 11, three men rob a cab driver at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Villas of...

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On set at Stonefield: They built it, but will people come?

Around noon on a recent Thursday there wasn't a soul walking the pedestrian-friendly sidewalks at The Shops at Stonefield on Route 29, the major county development that opened for business last year. Indeed, a Hook reporter was the only person walking the sidewalks. Nearby, the parking lot for Trader Joe's and Pier 1 Imports was only a quarter full.

Elsewhere in town at the same time, like on the Downtown Mall and the Barracks Road Shopping Center, things are bustling, outdoor restaurant spaces are full, and people are wandering in and out of shops. Over at Stonefield, however, the outdoor areas of restaurants, such as Burton's Grill, Travinia Italian Kitchen, and Noodles & Company, are empty. A few construction workers stepped outside to take a break from building the interiors of the shops and restaurants scheduled to open later this summer and fall – 15 in all, selling everything from jewelry, sporting goods, home and garden products, housewares, clothing, and furniture. Perhaps the streets will be bustling this fall. 

We know the Regal Stadium 14 Theater sees crowds in the evening, and during our visit that's where most people were. But the barren sidewalks, clearly designed for pedestrian strollers, prompt the question: will this place really be successful?

Messages left with Stonefield's public relations department yielded no response, but Albemarle County Board of Supervisors member Dennis Rooker, w...

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Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse