Charlottesville Breaking News

Jason's Deli: Unblanking a wall, chain readies for August opening

A representative for Jason's Deli stood before the County Architectural Review Board on Monday, May 7, hoping to hammer out details concerning the exterior renovation of the old 5,900-square-foot Raggazi's building in Shoppers World on 29 North.

Last October, Ragazzi's Italian Restaurant closed after over a decade of serving up the "taste of Italy... without the passport," as their slogan said, and there was speculation that a Jason's Deli, the Beaumont, Texas-based chain known for offering healthy food that's free of transfats, MSG, and high-fructose corn syrup, would move in. Then, in March, a Shoppers World tenant list (released when fashion retail chain Stein Mart and designer shoe warehouse store DSW went before this Board) confirmed that Jason's Deli was part of the new mix.

At issue at the ARB meeting: how to make the building less darkly cavernous as Raggazi's had been, and how to make a blank, north-facing wall less, well, blank. The regional manager for Jason's, Alex Williams, who admitted he was a novice at facing architectural boards, proposed putting large photos of food on the blank wall.

While ARB member Charles Lebo said he'd recently visited a Jason's Deli and ate...

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Land fill: City selling 3.5 acres on Elliott for $10

In a city where downtown land routinely sells for millions per acre, there's a near-downtown tract that's poised for sale for just $2.85 an acre. No, that's not a typo. But is it a giveaway? Depends on who you ask.

On Monday, May 7, Charlottesville City Council gave final approval for an ordinance allowing the sale of a piece of long-held City land to a team consisting of non-profit Habitat for Humanity and for-profit Southern Development. For a 3.5-acre tract lying just a half a mile south of the Downtown Mall, the buyers will pay $10.

"These are the sorts of games that go on in City Hall," says Rob Schilling, a radio talk show host. "The taxpayers are getting stiffed."

City Hall officials, however, characterize this as a quest to better the city and house the poor. They note that the land– just east of Ridge Street on Elliott Avenue– is currently empty and that the deal before City Council (which took its first vote April 16) came about only after an RFP.

Moreover, it turns out that there was actually a losing offer in this quest for the parcel and that when the proposals were opened in December the losing team offered to pay more but demanded the right to balance its payments by whatever it cost to clean up the property, which had been operated as some sort of landfill. In the event the clean-up cost more than half a million, the losing group– which included former mayor Blake Caravati and former City Council conten...

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Smoke signals: Council passes part of pot resolution

City Council passed a resolution to ask the General Assembly to revisit marijuana laws and give consideration to decriminalization in a 3-2 vote Monday night, but backed off the rest of a measure that would have made enforcement of pot possession a low priority for police.

In a packed Council chamber, judging from applause levels, it appeared supporters of the resolution were in the majority, but the first six citizens to speak about the issue opposed it. One cited an addiction to pot for 17 years. Former Jefferson Area Tea Party chair Carol Thorpe urged councilors to support police and leave enforcement to the professionals– rather than instructing police Chief Tim Longo to not enforce the law as they did with Occupy Charlottesville protesters in Lee Park.

And city resident Naomi Roberts declared, "Charlottesville will become the city of potheads and bring more drug lords."

Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Fogel called the war on drugs "a massive and colossal failure," and suggested an ordinance in which Council prohibited the use of pot– and made sure no one goes to jail if convicted.

City Manager Maurice Jones pointed out that of 5,040 arrests police made last year, 113 of them were for marijuana possession.

"We don't spend a lot of resources on enforcing possession laws," Police Chief Tim Longo told the councilors, but said that wasn't a conscious prioritization.

His concerns were as a parent, and he cited a recent...

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Saving Wintergreen: Ski resort wins 'favorable' ruling and 'transaction'

Wintergreen has won a "favorable" settlement on disputed state conservation tax credits but has still gone ahead with the humbling prospect of hiring a turnaround company to help escape a financial morass. The information comes in a new statement sent to key stakeholders at the struggling Nelson County resort.

The resort has been in serious financial straits since a December default on its Bank of America credit line, something originally reported by the Nelson County Times. The situation was "exacerbated by historically warm temperatures last winter," general manager Hank Thiess writes to members of Wintergreen Partners Inc., the many-membered corporation that owns the services and facilities at the resort.

In addition to bad weather, Wintergreen leaders were confronted with a potentially catastrophic financial hit this season after the state raised eyebrows over a deal that put the 1,422 acres called Crawford's Knob under conservation easement. In 2008 the resort submitted paperwork showing that an appraiser valued the land at $11.5 million– and then Wintergreen reaped $4.6 million in tax credits. Followin...

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Big gun: Love's legal choice suggests hard-fought suit

If Sharon Love's first lawsuit had people scratching their heads and wondering if it was more symbolism than an actual effort to collect millions of dollars from a young man who will likely spend the next two dozen years behind bars, her second $30 million lawsuit, this one against UVA coaches and the Commonwealth of Virginia, raises no such questions, as the suit's lead attorney is known for a take-no-prisoners approach and plenty of big verdicts.

That attorney, Irvin V. Cantor, is founding partner of the Richmond personal injury law firm Cantor Stoneburner Ford Grana Buckner, and according to his bio on the firm's website, he's successfully litigated or settled nearly 1,800 cases in his 33 years of law practice including a $6 million verdict for a former policeman who was improperly intubated following a jet-ski accident and suffered brain damage, and a $5 million verdict for the deaths of two workers killed in an industrial explosion.

"He can handle a big case," says Hook legal analyst David Heilberg, noting that Cantor formerly served as president of the Virginia Trial Lawyer's Association. "You don't get that position if you're not respected."

In fact, while the attorney of record in Sharon Love's ...

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