Charlottesville Breaking News

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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Drowning in debt? Water litigator warns of future shocks

Citizens who have seen their water bills triple over the past decade are facing another wave of price hikes and a suddenly-doubled debt load that could cause financial trouble. And they have just lost one of their three reservoirs in the lead-up to what could become a dry summer. These are just a few of the "absurd" things that made lawyer Stanton Braverman mad enough to sue.

In a Monday morning press conference at his home office in the Belmont neighborhood, the 70-year-old Braverman– who goes by "Stan"– blames the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority for wasting a pile of public money and running the risk of losing a century's worth of water assets.

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Mud fun: 2,400 humans, one bull turn out for Mud Warrior

Participants came prepared to leap over flames, scale walls, and wade through mud, but several runners in the first-ever Mud Warrior mud race faced an unexpected obstacle: a charging bull.

"Those people got a great experience no other mud run will offer," laughs the event organizer, Joshua Bare, who notes that the bull– used in rodeos held at the Gordonsville farm that hosted the race– had been corraled far from the course before somehow slipping free on Saturday morning.

Fortunately, Bare says, runners-turned-unwitting-matadors were fleet of foot, and the bull was immediately rounded up by event volunteers and re-secured.

"They came across the finish line laughing so hard," he recalls of the runners. "They said, 'We're fine, but this is the greatest thing of our life.'"

As reported in the Hook's April 5 cover story, Bare had spent the past year– and $80,000– organizing the race when the owner of the site on which he'd planned to hold it backed out in late January. With only two months before the April 14 event, Bare says, Gordonsville-area farm owners David and Sally Lamb offered their 250-acre property, also home to miles of horseback riding trails once used by Christopher Reeve, saving Bare the nightmare of cancelling the race.

"I'd never have been able to pull it off without their help," says Bare, noting that othe...

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Gone global: Hunter and his World Peace game soar

If there were a competition for the most modest man in Charlottesville, teacher and World Peace Game creator John Hunter and local filmmaker Chris Farina would be neck-and-neck for the prize.

"I'm just along for the ride," says Farina, who produced and directed the 2010 film World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements, a documentary about the complex game Hunter developed over his three decades teaching and which has taken the two men on a wild ride around the globe where the film has screened for world leaders and thousands of educators.

"This is all about John," Farina insists. 

"This has nothing to do with me," insists Hunter, who believes the game he created, which puts children in positions of world leaders facing complex problems including famine and war, taps into a common desire most humans share: to find ways to get along even with those who are very different.

"It's something that's in all of us," he says.

Sorry, guys, but someone's going to have to take credit for what's happened over the past two years, since the film premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2010 after previewing the previous month in Charlottesville at the Paramount Theater.

In addition to traveling to a half dozen countries since those first screenings, the film– and Hunter as a speaker– have found audiences in some lofty places. H...

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