Charlottesville Breaking News

Summer thunderstorm wreaks havoc

A severe thunderstorm struck the Charlottesville area Sunday night, downing trees and putting thousands in the dark. Among the casualties in the August 14 event was the Goco gas station on Cherry Avenue which lost its canopy, according to City Fire Chief Charles Werner.

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First view: Designers reveal look for Trader Joe's, Stonefield

Trader Joe's, the specialty grocery chain that has caused ripples of enthusiasm over its impending arrival in Charlottesville, will present a mostly windowless expanse of stone and masonry to the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road, according to architectural renderings released in advance of a meeting of Albemarle County's Architectural Review Board.

Replacing the now-shuttered 7-Eleven store at that high-profile location, the Trader Joe's would serve as one of the anchors of the Stonefield development, a massive shopping center whose planned 14-screen Regal Cinema received criticism– before its eventual approval by the ARB last month– for presenting its own 320 feet of grey stucco further west along Hydraulic.

Originally pitched as a mixed-use community that would have put as much space under roof as two Downtown Malls into its "town center," Stonefield has reportedly won the option to delete its planned housing component.

Most recently, a member of the ARB reviled the overall site plan as "anti-urban" and criticized the design for orienting the Regal cinema's better features toward its parking lots and for attempting, with synthetic stucco and metal panels, merely to "dress up its backside."

The comments, ...

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The bully pulpit: Documentary explores VQR tragedy

Last summer, the tragic suicide of Virginia Quarterly Review managing editor Kevin Morrissey, who made a 911 call reporting his own shooting down by the Coal Tower on former UVA president John Casteen's last official day in office, made national headlines, including a segment on the Today show, which revealed a troubled office environment at the award-winning magazine and launched a discussion of so-called "workplace bullying."

That caught the attention of New York City-based documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson, a former bullying victim herself, who has devoted herself to telling these kinds of stories. Almost as soon as the VQR story broke, she called the VQR offices.

"Our arrival was delayed a few weeks when the Today show segment came out and no one wanted to talk on camera anymore," says Peterson. "I was pretty surprised at the way the story was framed in that segment, so of course it only intrigued me more as events continued to unfold in both the press and the comment boards."

Eventually, Peterson managed to get just about everyone connected with the story on camera, including VQR editor Ted Genoways, whom former VQR employee Waldo Jaquith had accused on the Today segment of treating Morrissey "egreg...

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Anti-Mormon? Sherlock Holmes yanked from reading list

After a parent complained that it gave a negative portrayal of her Mormon religion, the Albemarle County School Board voted unanimously in agreement with a committee's recommendation to remove A Study in Scarlet, the first of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, from acceptable texts for teaching language arts to 6th grade readers.

With a 200-signature petition, over a dozen former Henley Middle School students appeared before the Board at its August 11 meeting to urge retention of the controversial story set in 19th century Utah.

The effort failed, as the committee agreed with complaining parent Brette Stephenson that the story contained "religious bias." Board member Diantha McKeel noted that since the school system seeks "age-appropriate" works of literature, the novel can still be taught at the 10th grade level.

Another speaker told the board that a child was recently asked on a school bus if the child had multiple moms, an apparent reference to the now officially banned Mormon practice of polygamy. The committee lamented the fact that some Mormon characters in the novel practice kidnapping, murder, and stalking.

"It could put a group of our students," said board member Eric Strucko, "in an unfair situation."

Later in the meeting, the Board voted to defer action on a plan to erect...

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Lawnmower men: Meriweather mows irreverent ground

You've tossed dull corporate newsletters straight in the trash, so why read the one from the yard maintenance company? How about dramatic candor of "The Ooops Issue"?

"In May of '96, if you were driving down 250 in the vicinity of McIntire Park and saw a truck pulling a trailer that was ON FIRE, chances are good that was us."

Then there's the customer appreciation issue with photos of Meriweather Mowing Service owners Rod Ballard and Dave Norford kowtowing– literally– to one 20-year customer, yet also calling out by name a deadbeat client who ordered a lot of work right before filing for bankruptcy. "Not cool, Richard. Totally. Not. Cool," admonishes writer/editor Ballard, whom Norford calls "the volcano of creativity that keeps bubbling out."

The newsletter started out as "strictly advertising," says Ballard. "And lawnmowing is kind of boring. You can only say 'let us lime and fertilize' so many times."

The two men had a long history of deadpan before starting Meriweather in 1990, says Ballard. They both attended Albemarle High and became friends at PVCC. Both worked at the original Piedmont Airlines. They used to broadcast Madison High football games.

And they were both playing on the same softball team in 1989 when Norford helped Ballard mow his lawn. "We knocked it out," says Ballard, "and said, we ought to start a lawn service."

The next summer, they had 30 customers.

Given the frequency of the...

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