Charlottesville Breaking News

Topped off: Convenience store owner is Fuel's high bidder

After a spirited bidding war that included half-million-dollar-plus bids from one of Charlottesville's best-known developers and from the company that may have created the concept of the upscale filling station, a heretofore low-profile business owner made the winning bid for the long-closed Fuel Co. station in a July 14 foreclosure auction.

Located on Market Street at the northern terminus of the Belmont Bridge, the .31-acre site was once heralded as the vanguard in a new wave of upscale gas stations. But after the Thursday morning auction, it appears on its way to trade hands for about half its assessed value.

With a winning bid of $580,000, Subhash "Sam" Desai outbid developer Keith Woodard and David Sutton, leader of Tiger Fuel, the petroleum company that, with its Bellair Market, appears to have pioneered the notion of selling fancy foods at gas stations.

"There are a lot of problems with the property," said Sutton, explaining why he halted his bids at $575,000. "This has been a gas station for 30 or 40 years, so there's no telling what's in the ground."

A state Department of Environmental Quality employee attended the auction, and auction leader Nancy Schlichting took the unusual step of giving the winning bidder a chance for a study period, which will allow him to back out if environmental problems are found. Schlichting is allowing...

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'One Time'... Tales from the front line

It's easy to say you know how the Green movement works– you've read the blogs, follow the Twitter updates, and talk with your well-to-do friends about the latest trend in Green living regularly. But living an eco-conscious lifestyle isn't exclusively for the well-off. Indeed, often the most environmentally savvy and economically practical among us are the everyday blue-collar workers– those who protect our green spaces and practice smart living without making a big fuss or, often, without realizing it at all. The Hook goes under the Green movement radar and talks with those locals who can really say they live an environmentally friendly life– and they remind us of the little things we can be do to stay on the eco-conscious front line.


Darrell Camper Darrell Camper– Landscape Supply, Inc.

    One time, it was fall and everybody was cleaning up leaves. One of our few responsibilities on the golf course that I worked at was to pick up the neighborhood leaves. We collected dumptruck after dumptruck of them in tremendous piles. We had a dump site on the property where we would collect topsoil, and there were holes dug for it. Occasionally, they got a little deep. That was where we...

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Shenandoah secrets: Pork, propaganda, and the creation of a COOL national park

A lot can change in three quarters of a century. Walk along the Hughes River in Madison County in a place called Nicholson Hollow, and there's little trace that this was once a thriving village.

Now heavily wooded, the hollow was a lot more open then because trees had been cut since the late 1700s to build houses, barns, and fences, and the land left open for gardens, orchards, and pastures for cattle and horses. Seventy-five years ago, the hollow became part of the East Coast's first national park when it opened after heaps of controversy.

Jim Lillard's grandfather, W.A. Woodward, owned a 154-acre farm in Nicholson Hollow. Lillard pulls out a plat that shows not only the location of the frame farmhouse but also identifies the owners of neighboring farms, as well as the sites of the school, church, mill, and road.

"If you look at that, you could see a community thrived," says Lillard. "It really was a civilization, not a bunch of hillbillies."

But 75 years ago, the residents of Nicholson Hollow were indeed portrayed as hillbillies, even successful, educated farmers like Woodward. Photo captions in the Library of Congress mention a man with a "rude sled" and describe one child as a "half wit."

In the winter, stone chimneys and foundations can be spotted here, but in late June, unless you're sharp-eyed, there's no evidence that people lived here for generations. And that's what the creators of the Shenandoah National Park intended.


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Batesville Store to re-open?

Two weeks ago, a story in the Crozet Gazette enthusiastically suggested that the Batesville Store, a popular music venue and country store that was forced to close when the Health Department cited the owners for more or less running a restaurant without a permit, might re-open. However, when we spoke to store owner Cid Scallet on July 13, he was cautious about such pronouncements.

"Apparently there's a rumor floating around that has taken on a life of its own," he says. "Yes, there's a possibility we might re-open, but the key word is 'maybe.'"

Since 2007, Scallet and his wife had been running the store under guidelines from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Safety [VDACS], which monitors all grocery and convenience stores. But according to local health department officials, when a case of foodborne illness was reported, agents investigated and discovered that the store was operating as a restaurant with as many as 40 seats, something Scallet does not refute. On June 10, health department agents ordered them to stop their restaurant operation. By June 12, t...

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Controversy veers: Belmont Bridge fence could pose bike hazard

Controversy has erupted again on the Belmont Bridge, and this time it's bicyclists who might be getting the short end of the sidewalk, as a new fence– designed as a safety boon– could be creating a safety hazard.

"That pushes the bicyclists further out out into the traffic," says safety expert Dean Sicking. "That would be a concern for me."

Sicking explains how the fence, erected in late May to keep pedestrians from walking over the Bridge's crumbling eastern sidewalk, has been located so close to the vehicular lanes that the natural tendency of a passing bicyclist is to steer away from such an obstacle– and out into motorized traffic.

Belmont Bridge has two vehicular lanes on its eastern side but no lanes dedicated exclusively to bicycles. And that's why Sicking, who directs the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska, isn't sure the fence was a good idea.

"The concern I would have," says Sicking, "is that it might make a biker shy away from the fence and be more likely to be hit by a car."

Researcher Sicking provided safety tips in the wake of a group of fences built inside tunnels in Boston's "Big Dig." There, the fences were blamed for deaths and grisly, dismembering injuries that might not have happened with horizontally-oriented bars.

He says the Belmont Bridge fence might...

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