Charlottesville Breaking News

Fast track: Western Bypass shifts into overdrive

It had been a long, politically charged night in Lane Auditorium. Inside this main room of the Albemarle County Office Building, there were accusations of "socialism" vs. "flat earth" in a standing-room-only environmental debate. Those of us who departed after five hours of that acrimony, however, missed the biggest news of the evening. Maybe the biggest news of the year.

Twenty-one years after its route was plotted, the U.S. 29 Western Bypass roared back to life.

To listen to a recording of the Board of Supervisors meeting, one can tell that chair Ann Mallek thought the meeting had already ended.

"I think we have come to the end of our official agenda," says a cheerful Mallek, thanking the weary crowd as they file out just after 11:30pm. Mallek then asks whether any of her fellow members of the Board of Supervisors has any issue to raise. One of them does. And history was made just before midnight on Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

The forgotten road?
There are people now running for elective office who literally wore diapers when the basic route of the Western Bypass was approved. Certainly, today's college students were diapered then– if they were alive in 1990, the year that state officials selected the route for get...

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Socialite renovates Social Hall

Former U.S. Senator George Allen knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. The savvy former senator, who has begun campaigning for his old federal job, appears to have made a killing on "Social Hall" on 109 East Jefferson Street.

He bought the downtown building in 1978 for a mere $120,000 and sold it in 2006 for a cool $1.1 million. The buyer was Janice Aron, president of Kinloch Enterprises.

For much of its recent history, what began as a residence served as an office building and day-care center. Aron will make the Federal-style building a residence again.

Earlier this year, Aron began an extensive renovation by removing some later additions and breaking through a stone retaining wall to create a parking area. Other features include extensive landscaping, a lap pool, and a pool house.

The high-flying Aron, along with husband Robert Aron, once owned a six-bedroom house at Wellington's Palm Beach Polo and Country Club that they bought from BET network co-founder Sheila Johnson and reportedly leased to Madonna for a short time for $50,000 a month.

Locally, the Arons are known as Paramount Theater donors and as the former owners of Kinloch, a...

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Batesville Store: Another history chapter comes to a close

According to the current owners of the historic Batesville Store on Plank Road, state agents showed up unannounced on Friday, June 10 and gave them "no option except to close."

"Ironically, our success has proven to be our undoing," wrote co-owner Cid Scallet on the store's website. "They told us that it was decided that we do too much business to remain a country store."

The news spread fast across the web over the weekend, casting a heartless state bureaucracy as the villain who had killed a beloved store.

"There was absolutely no warning," says Scallet, who, with his wife Liza, has been operating the store since 2007 (the latest in a string of owners who have kept the store a going concern for more than 100 years). "And the timing was horrific. We suffered ten thousand to twelve thousand dollars in lost revenue. As a result, fifteen people have lost their jobs."

On Sunday, June 12, the Scallets quickly organized a 50 percent off sale on everything in the store (except alcohol) to recoup their losses, a sale they plan to continue throughout the week.

The store's Facebook fans were outraged, launched a ...

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Performance art? Amtrak stops for allegedly berzerk rider

The man whose alleged actions brought an Amtrak train to a halt in the Nelson County village of Shipman on the morning of June 9 will be spending nearly a week in jail.

Barrett Harrington Wolfe, a 22-year-old Atlanta photographer and self-described "propagandist," racked up five felony and three misdemeanor charges for allegedly assaulting a female passenger and conductor on the Crescent and then kicking two windows out of a county sheriff's department car and attempting a handcuffed escape.

Wolfe bit a deputy and scratched two more, according to Sheriff David Brooks.

"I don't know what his problem was," says Brooks. "He started to get agitated in Georgia. I don't know if it was drugs, but we got paraphernalia off him."

Nelson law enforcers say they had no idea what they were facing when the call came in about a problem on the New Orleans-to-New York passenger train, says Brooks.

"We thought it might be a medical," says Brooks.

It turns out that a female passenger reported getting shoved and knocked down, and the conductor suffered neck and back injuries that hospitalized him for several hours (and could raise the misdemeanor assault charge into a felony if the injuries prove severe), says Brooks.

"What you have is kind of like a hostage situation on the train," says the sheriff. "You can't get off."

Wolfe is a fine art/fantasy photographer. Although he once created a blog called ...

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Toasty: Grammy-winning Arcade Fire fires up hot Pavilion

Last year this time, you might have had a hard time finding anyone who'd heard of Arcade Fire. Their third album, The Suburbs, which was released last year, changed all that in February by winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. On Wednesday June 8, in spite of soaring heat and miserable humidity, a sold-out crowd packed the nTelos Wireless Pavilion to hear the band perform.

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Editor's Note