Charlottesville Breaking News

For $7.5 million: Defaulting Bundoran claimed on courthouse steps

Bundoran, a defaulted open-space-oriented development in southern Albemarle, was taken away from its developer June 29 on the courthouse steps when the lender, Wells Fargo, valued it at $7.5 million. There were no other bids at the Wednesday afternoon auction. Subsequent to the foreclosure, the developer announced that it would continue developing– just with Wells Fargo as the owner.

"We know they'll be good stewards," said Charles Adams of Celebration Associates, a firm which had been a 50/50 owner of this so-called "preservation development" near the village of North Garden. The other owner was Qroe Preservation, a New England-based concern that began developing the farm as Edge Valley Preservation LLC. Adams said he did not know the amount of the debt but conceded that the property had been in default for "over a year."

The foreclosure is just the latest in a trio of setbacks that began with tragedy on a rainy day in 2006, when a small private airplane carrying Qroe founder Robert H. Baldwin and piloted by Qroe associate David Brown crashed in fog, unable to find the grass landing strip on the property. Both men died.

After that, the real estate market deflated, causing the place to go an entire year without a single sale, according to a candid inter...

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Goodbye, old manse: BOS dooms 140-year-old church building

On April 20, the County Board of Supervisors approved the demolition of a 140-year-old church building in Keswick, a decision that would appear to run contrary to one of the goals of the County's Comprehensive Plan, which is to protect historic resources in the rural areas. Indeed, according to County planning staff, the planned demolition was one of the "unfavorable factors" of a plan to build a new facility on the site of historic South Plains Presbyterian Church site, a new structure approved in 2009 and dedicated in June.

What's more, it appears the fate of the doomed building, a circa 1870 "manse," or home for the pastor, was sealed two years ago when the Supervisors approved a plan to build the new church facility in front of it, despite a compromise crafted to retain the original building.

Founded in 1819, South Plains is one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in the County and the "mother" church of Charlottesville's First Presbyterian. Originally a simple, one-room, bathroom-less brick structure, it was later altered to incorporate Gothic Revival features and a vestibule. Along with the adjacent manse, the property has offered a familiar postcard-like scene at the intersection of Louisa and Black Cat Roads.

The new facility was finally dedicated in June, allowing the congregation, which has been worshiping at the old church continuously for nearly 200 years, to realize a dream they've had for over a decade, and for which they raise...

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Protester removal: Boar's Head denies ordering trespassing arrest

Protesters along the street in Charlottesville are not an unusual sight. Out on U.S. 250 west in front of the entrance of the upscale Boar's Head Inn, demonstrators are more unusual– and so was the response when Dominion Virginia Power held its shareholders meeting there May 12.

Chris Walters, 57, a carpenter and environmentalist, had gotten an email about the People’s Alliance for Clean Energy rally on the morning of Dominion's meeting, and he decided to demonstrate his disdain for mountaintop removal, a type of strip mining that some consider an environmental nightmare because of the damage it does. The protesters hoped to sway shareholders going into the meeting to consider other types of renewable energy and to nix more nuclear power plants.

Instead, someone called the cops and insisted that the demonstrators were on private land and had to leave, according to Walters.

"When the police started asking people to move to the other side of the road," says Walters, "I started walking away."

He headed west and says he was standing between the white stripe of the road and a guardrail when an Albemarle police officer allegedly said, "You have to leave; it's private property," says Walters. "I said, no it isn't. He said yes it is." And when Walters refused to leave the side of the road, he was arrested for trespassing.

Rutherford Institute founder John Whitehead is i...

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'Ballparking' RWSA: Record low water use and record high RFP?

In the long-running tragi-comedy over the local waterworks' desire to avoid dredging its main reservoir and instead build a sparkly new reservoir, two factoids emerge from the pages of the upcoming board meeting packet:

- 2011 water use is on track to match a record low

- getting a proposal to dredge the reservoir could cost over $220,000

Avid readers may recall that the Hook once covered the monthly calisthenics of this dredge-averse body, but after its board decided to ignore its own figures of plummeting water use and inflated dredging estimates– remember the Panama Canal pricing?– we moved on to other topics.

Nearly two years ago, the RWSA board hired Schnabel Engineering to design a new dam to focus all water storage efforts in one place, and after a 3-2 turnabout by City Council (the only government crying foul on that plan), all the stars seem to be lining up to begin dam construction this fall.

Even if it's not needed.

New data show that the community is using one fifth less water than a decade ago. The latest figures show use of just 8.72 million gallons a day during first five months of 2011. That's 20 percent less than the 10.91 million gallons a day drawn during the first five months of 2001 and just 0.02 mil...

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Beggars' ban-writ: Is panhandling law unconstitutional?

Is Charlottesville's ordinance banning panhandling near the Downtown Mall crossings and from patrons at cafés unconstitutional? That's what the attorney behind a lawsuit filed last Thursday morning in federal court alleges.

"You cannot set up the Downtown Mall as Disneyland and keep all the realities of America away from public discourse," says the attorney, Jeffrey Fogel, who worked in conjunction with the Virginia ACLU to help several frequent downtown beggars launch a legal battle over Constitutional rights.

"Anyone who walks on the Downtown Mall has seen someone seated with his back up against the wall, simply holding up a sign saying, 'I'm poor, homeless, and need help.' How is that harming anyone?" asks Fogel. "The answer is: it isn't, and it's protected by the U.S. Constitution."

The June 23 lawsuit asserting that the City's ordinance violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments doesn't come out of left field. In fact, Fogel suggested he was considering a lawsuit late last fall when City Council revised its ordinance to ban solicitation of any kind within 50 feet of the Downtown Mall crossings. The new ordinance also prohibits soliciting "from or to" anyone sitting in a café or exchanging money with one of the numerous downtown vendors. That language, the suit alleges, is too vague, making it a violation of the Due Process C...

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