Charlottesville Breaking News

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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Love triangle? Murder-for-hire certified to grand jury

The woman accused of seeking a hitman to kill her late husband's girlfriend has waived her preliminary hearing, so her solicitation-to-commit murder charge goes to the grand jury. Linda Faye Currier McDaniel, 62, had also been charged with solicitation to commit arson, but that charge was dropped during the June 23 hearing in Albemarle General District Court.

McDaniel was arrested April 17 in the alleged murder-for-hire plot and was later released on bail.

The plot came to light when a man acquainted with both the alleged intended killer and her alleged intended victim notified the latter that he been approached to make the hit.

The arrest came just about a week after the April 11 death of Jessie Edward McDaniel, 62, to whom Mrs. McDaniel wrote that she was married for 32 years in the guest book of Mr. McDaniel's obituary. The obituary itself, however, omits any mention of Mrs. McDaniel and instead describes as "the love of his life" Joyce Broderick, the alleged intended victim.

The man who may serve as state's key witness is William "Billy" Marshall, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon Zug. Marshall was approached by Mrs. McDaniel with an offer to kill Broderick and burn down her mobile home on McCauley Court. No fire...

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Left is right: Zion Crossroads to get innovative interchange

The ever-increasing traffic at Zion Crossroads, where U.S. 15 and Interstate 64 meet, means that it's time for a new interchange, and what the Virginia Department of Transportation has planned is a French import, a novel traffic configuration called the "diverging diamond."

Two selling points are that it can handle more traffic than a traditional diamond, and it eats less land than a cloverleaf. The odd part is that it makes vehicles momentarily drive on the left side of a divided highway. While that's not something to which Americans are accustomed, a VDOT video seems to make it look smooth, as there are no left turns across traffic.

America got its first diverging diamond in 2009 in Missouri, now home to three of them, while Utah and Tennessee each have one. A public hearing on the design for the one planned for Zion Crossroads was held June 22, with the $7.95 million, federally funded project slated to get under way next year.

In the world of unconventional traffic devices, Charlottesville's Meadowcreek Parkway was once considered for a roundabout-centric interchange after then County Supervisor Forrest Marshall delivered a $27 million earmark from Washington in 2005. But in 2008, concerns over cost, land,...

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