Charlottesville Breaking News

Crunching numbers: City omits short sales, foreclosures in averages

In a recent press release, the City of Charlottesville reported that 2012 assessments are down 1.22 percent overall, with existing residential properties declining an average of 3.08 percent. So how do we square this the city data to the Nest Realty 4th Quarter Market Report for 2011, which shows the average list price of a single-family home in the Charlottesville area decreasing 32.1 percent year-over-year?

Assessments, which are used by local governmentsto establish tax value, provide snapshots of property values as of January 1st. And tax value, a fixed figure unaffected by changes in interest rates or inventory, is determined in part by examining sales that have occurred within the market area.

A reporter decided to make a random sampling of 20 sales taken from the multiple listing system (MLS) for the period of May-October 2011, and the result reveals some intriguing information.

Seven of the MLS transactions reflect sales prices in excess of the current assessments, while the remaining 13 transactions show sales that occurred below the assessed values, all of them larger than the 3.08 percent government-noted residential decline. 

A closer look at...

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Tritium leak: Post-quake radiation plume stokes concern

When the 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck Louisa County last August, with its epicenter just 11 miles from the North Anna nuclear generating plant, environmental groups warned that radioactive leaks were likely. It turns out that they were right.

Dominion Virginia Power has revealed that an elevated level of a radioactive substance called tritium has been found in groundwater near the plant, and the discovery has nuclear watchdogs scoffing at the company's efforts to downplay potential danger to the public.

"Tritium is highly mobile," says Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear, a Maryland-based nonprofit which has long expressed concern about the integrity of miles of underground pipes carrying radioactive water at North Anna.

"I don't think that 100 aftershocks have helped the integrity of all this buried pipe," says Gunter. "It only increases our concern since very likely there will continue to be aftershocks and perhaps more big ones."

The impending one-year anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami which resulted in catastrophic radiation release from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has raised concerns that U.S. plants could be similarly vulnerable, and Gunter asserts that nuclear energy companies and government agencies haven't made necessary changes in the wake of that March 11, 2010 international...

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No Bull: Secrets of the veggie burger sisterhood

"We've been eating these our wholes lives," says Elizabeth Raymond, talking about her mother's veggie burgers in the small commercial kitchen on East Market Street. "And we've talked about doing this for a long time."

Last year, Raymond's mother, Crissanne, a local caterer for many years, recruited Elizabeth and her sister Heather to launch No Bull Burger. Using a recipe inspired by the memory of her own mother's lentil soup to make the patties, Raymond and her girls began shopping the veggie burgers around to local restaurants and chefs they knew. The idea of a full-time family business, however, took some time to take root as both daughters had already embarked on their own careers– Heather has a thriving massage therapy practice, and Elizabeth had just completed her master's in education and planned on being a teacher.

But the family legend of those veggie burgers that they'd loved since childhood, and hearing praise from friends and relatives, made them question those career plans.

"I kept thinking,'what if we didn't do this?" says Elizabeth. "We might miss out on a big adventure." She flashes a big smile. "So far, so good."

"The Farmer's Market got us started," says Heather. "We started selling them there and people went crazy."

Word spread fast.

In addition to being available in many local restaurant...

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Video: Brookville's Harrison Keevil: 'We have no boundaries'

Since chef/owner Harrison Keevil opened Brookville Restaurant on the Downtown Mall, his personal, experimental "We-have-no-boundaries" style of cooking may not have pleased everyone who has sat down there. But that's okay. And actually, Keevil is okay with that. Paying $22 for a hamburger requires a certain suspension of disbelief, not to mention the commitment, but you can be sure that Keevil, like any true artist, has put his heart and soul in it. In this profile shot by videographer Anwar Allen, you'll get a glimpse of what makes Keevil and Brookville click. Enjoy!

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Pigged out: How Paulie started small... and smoky

There's a new barbecue place on the way to Wintergreen– new, that is, compared to the one that's been pleasing palates for over 20 years. The venerable one, of course, is the Blue Ridge Pig, and the newbie is Paulie's Pig-Out, located on Route 151 across from the new elementary school. Truth be told, the Pig-Out opened two and a half years ago, August of 2009 to be more precise.

"I couldn't find a job," says self-effacing owner Paul Matheny, "so I opened this little place."

Little indeed, as this take-out-only restaurant is, as Matheny puts it, a "hole in the wall." But like the original McDonald's in Southern California, it offers a menu elegant in its simplicity: ribs, chicken, pork barbecue, and catfish.

And like that original McDonald's, it's fast. An unannounced reporter's visit required no more than two minutes for two barbecue sandwiches.

It turns out that Matheny used to work with the dean of Charlottesville barbecue scene, Jinx Kern, when the two were making upscale food at the Gaslight Restaurant in the 1980s. Jinx concedes that he hasn't yet sampled Paulie's fare, but he holds warm memories.

"He's a good kid, and he made me laugh," remembers Kern, owner of Jinx's Pits-Top near downtown.

Matheny, who turns 49 soon, says he learned how to cook comfort food from his grandmother. His father constructed his steel smoker, and one day whe...

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