Charlottesville Breaking News

'One man's greed' VA court decision blocks YMCA construction

On August 2, Piedmont YMCA CEO Denny Blank says, he was in a meeting with the contractor who was going to build the new $15 million, 72,000-square-foot YMCA facility in McIntire Park when he got the news.

"We were very, very close," says Blank. "Their bid came in at $180 a square foot, a great price, and we were ready to get rolling."

That's when Blank got word that the Virginia Supreme Court had agreed to hear the so-called Charlottesville Area Fitness Club Operators Association's appeal of dismissal of their lawsuit against the County, which claims they were illegally locked out of the bidding process for construction of a public fitness facility. That lawsuit, and another against the City, were both dismissed in local courts.

"We were stunned by this," says Blank. "It's all because of one man's personal greed, one man trying to block this project because he's afraid of losing his monopoly."

Blank says that ACAC owner Phil Wendel told a YMCA representative [correction: in a previous version of this story it said that Wendel told Blank this directly, but that was misreported] that he would accept the local court's decision and that he "just wanted his day in court."

"But he didn't like the outcome," says Blank. "The sad part is that the community is the real loser here."


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Tremor rocks Cville!

1:52pm: Whoa! We just had a long tremor/earthquake? here on the Downtown Mall just seconds ago! Stay tuned for more.

2:10pm: According to the latest information, the epicenter was between Charlottesville and Richmond, but a lot more powerful than the the one we felt in 2003 that measured 4.5. Reports are coming in that it was felt in Virginia Beach, Washington D.C., North Carolina, New York, and as far north as Canada. The quake seems to have disrupted cell phone communications as well. State Captial and General Assembly buildings were evacuated.

"I thought the Pavilion where I live was going to collapse," reports UVA professor Larry Sabato, "seriously."

2:31pm update: The USGS measures it at 5.9 on the Richter Scale and puts the epicenter about 0.1 miles underground and about four miles southwest of the town of Mineral. Hook map.

2:59pm update: The nukes at North Anna have reportedly been shut down as a safety precaution. According to Virginia Tech, this quake slightly surpasses the 5.8 intensity of the previous modern-day record-holder in Virginia: a last-day-of-May ...

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Mixed message: Why Huja, Galvin, Smith won Dem primary

The nomination of Democratic candidates Satyendra Huja, Kathy Galvin, and Dede Smith in a bitterly divided City Council primary offered a couple of firsts: no African-American earned a Democratic nomination for the first time in 30 years, sitting councilors made endorsements, and mass mailings funded by environmental groups and a business PAC urged voters to go with candidates who support the new-dam/pipeline water plan.

The Democratic party chose its candidates for City Council in the daylong firehouse primary August 20, followed by a grueling, six-hour count in the instant run-off process in which voters ranked the candidates. It was a victory for those supporting the Meadowcreek Parkway, dam/pipeline water plan, and what some call the old guard of the Democratic machine. But not totally.

Because along with incumbent Huja and Galvin on the side that wants to move forward with the hot-button projects previously approved by Council, anti-dam, anti-Parkway candidate Dede Smith joins them, squeaking onto the November ballot with 31 votes more than Paul Beyer in the field of seven, a tally verified by an August 22 recount of a final fifth round.

Even the usually staid clerk of court race brought a stunning upset, with challenger Llezelle Dugger garnering more than twice as many votes as three-term incumbent Paul Garrett.

The predominant issue was which side of t...

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Corridor cleaning: Strings attached to 29 Bypass money

When Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton told the Metropolitan Planning Organization July 27 which Charlottesville and Albemarle projects he'd recommend funding in addition to the Western U.S. 29 bypass, many may have overlooked his letter's last two paragraphs, in which he laid out what Albemarle is expected to do in return: come up with a plan to limit access on the rest of U.S. 29.

What that means exactly is less certain, but it could include measures that some bypass supporters objected to when bottleneck-avoiding solutions like the grade-separated interchanges were proposed during the so-called "Places 29" planning process.

Both Chamber of Commerce president Tim Hulbert and MPO director Steve Williams see no quid pro quo in Connaughton's letter and say that "access management," as it's called in transportation circles, is neither surprising nor unreasonable.

But Connaughton himself utters the "q" words and says that Albemarle will be a "test bed" for access management as a Corridor of Statewide Significance (of which U.S. 29 is one of 11 VDOT has identified).

"This is all new," Connaughton says in a phone interview. "We've never done this before. How do we put teeth into the designation?"

He lists some ways: limiting curb cuts and traffic lights, better light synchroniza...

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Un-super size me: Can city schools stem the obesity epidemic?

If Ivana Kadija ever hears Tony the Tiger telling kids his Frosted Flakes are "Grrrrreat!" she'll probably tell him to shut his furry trap. It's high-sugar food like that, says Kadija, chair of Charlottesville's School Health Advisory Board and a recently announced School Board Candidate, that's leading more local youths down the wide path to obesity and diabetes. Citing statistics that show a full one-third of city students are overweight by fourth grade, she wants the school system to make some not-so-sweet changes.

"We're in an obesity epidemic," says Kadija, a nutrition coach and mother of two elementary school aged daughters attending city schools, who unhappily recalls her first impression of the cafeterias.

"I noticed the free breakfast given out was some cereal or some sugary yogurt, animal crackers, and juice. I remember thinking, 'No, I think she'll eat breakfast at home.'"

Is sugar really Public Enemy #1 when it comes to healthy eating? That depends on whom you ask.

"Balance, variety and moderation with eating and physical activity are the keys to a healthy life," says Sandra Vazquez, head of the City School's nutrition program. "Sugar is not the bullet in the obesity problem, nor is removing it entirely the single solution."

So how much sugar is too much?

This year, City schools allow 30 percent of calories to come from sugar. That's less than the weight permitted by federal standard...

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