Charlottesville Breaking News

Morning napalm: The other side of the wine industry

By Robert Butler

You've probably heard that iconic cinematic moment in Apocalypse Now from Robert Duvall's character, Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning," he says. "It smells like... victory.”

I am reminded of those lines during grape-growing season on my early-morning walks. You see, I live down the road from a vineyard, and from the very early spring through to the very late fall, an invisible barrier– the smell of pesticides– drifts across the roadway.

Needless to say, upon reaching the vineyard I do an about-face.

I’m always hoping I can continue in that direction since it is picturesque and adds variety to exercise, but it is only during the winter months that I may proceed and fill my lungs with healthful air.

That pesticide smell doesn’t make me think of victory. It makes me think instead of a needless assault upon the environment.

This conflict between the vintner and the natural world is expanding in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As more wineries open their doors and more vines are planted, more acres of soil become a repository for the abundance of chemicals necessary to achieve s...

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Survival story: How they defeated a rabid bear

Running into a rabid bear can pretty much ruin your morning, according to two men who survived to tell the tale of Virginia's first-ever reported rabid bear, an encounter that occurred in the neighborhood of the hiker-heavy Appalachian Trail and the family-friendly Skyline Drive.

It started out a pretty typical day for Bobby Bryant, the farm manager at Royal Orchard, the 2,800-acre estate on Afton Mountain that used to provide Albemarle Pippins to Queen Victoria and is owned by the Scott family of Scott Stadium and Scott & Stringfellow brokerage-firm fame.

Bryant, a 56-year-old Afton native who's worked on the estate since 1985, and 22-year-old co-worker Patrick Thompson headed out shortly after 7am on Tuesday, April 17 in a Gator, a popular utility vehicle from John Deere. They drove to the trout pond near Interstate 64– about two-and-a-half miles from the Scott Castle– to dump some rock on the dam.

They were heading back when there was movement up ahead to the right, and the younger man suddenly said, "Look at that bear."

Seeing bears at Royal Orchard is not unusual, accord...

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Wasted gateway: How the City (mis)treats the Belmont Bridge

The bridge serves as Downtown's main southern gateway. Few of today's college students were alive in 1986. That was the year the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and Ronald Reagan was president. That was also the last time the Belmont Bridge was painted.

Such a 26-year omission bolsters the view that Charlottesville has neglected...

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Land banking: It's always a buyer's market for UVA

Having trouble getting what you want for that home or apartment building you're trying to sell? Your best bet these days is to hope that UVA wants it.

Ahead of the South Lawn project, several property owners were the beneficiaries of University largesse, including the owner of a 1,813 square-foot house at 434 Brandon Avenue which the University purchased for $1 million, a plain two-story structure that had cost the previous owner just $140,000. Other South Lawn-era purchases by the UVA Foundation, the real estate arm of the University, included the Lexington Apartments for $700,000, which is now a parking lot– as well as 408 Valley Road and 501 Brandon Avenue, a pair of 2,000 square-foot houses for which the Foundation paid $1.5 million.

Now they're at it again.

Recent real estate transaction records show that on March 14 the UVA Foundation paid Wade Apartments LLC nearly $7.5 million for the properties and buildings at 504, 512, and 516-518 Brandon Avenue.

That's far more than the combined city-assessed value of $3.9 million for the 1.674-acre assemblage. So what is UVA planning to build now?

According to UVA Foundation CEO Tim Rose, nothing.

"We'll continue to operate the units for housing until that point in the future when there may be another use for the property by the University," Rose says in an...

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Election fraud? Former candidate Feda Morton arrested

Feda Kidd Morton, who ran two years ago for the Republican nomination for the 5th District Congressional seat that was ultimately won by Robert Hurt, has been arrested, accused of election fraud. Morton, a former chair of the Republican party in Fluvanna County, is charged with the felony of falsely certifying a petition in a 2011 race.

These aren't Morton's first election-era problems. Running as a family-values candidate in 2010, Morton had to deal with the fact that, as the Hook reported, she had earlier lost custody of her children during a bitter divorce because, according to court transcripts, the judge feared her anger issues were harmful to the children. During that same race, the Daily Progress reported allegations that Morton had committed plagiarism in an editorial she submitted to a newspaper called the Rural Virginian. Morton downplayed the custody loss and denied the plagiarism allegation.

Morton's March 22 arrest, first reported by the Fluvanna Review, came at the request of a special prosecutor, Greene Commonwealth's Attorney Ron Morris, who declined to comment on the case other than saying, "An officer investigated...

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