Charlottesville Breaking News

Extreme makeover: rich edition-- State program benefits those who need it least

Ask most preservationists what they think of Virginia's Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, and you'll hear them proudly say it's one of the most generous, if not the most generous, programs in the country, leading to the rehabilitation of thousands of historic properties. Indeed, since the program's inception in 1997, the state has awarded nearly $700 million in tax credits to homeowners and developers.

"This is free money," writes Charlottesville architect Brian Broadus, who has specialized in historic building projects for over 20 years. "Why don’t more homeowners come and grab it?"

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'Insufficient evidence': State mum as Biscuit Run appraisers go unpunished

Four months after leaked documents showed that a Charlottesville-based group of investors convinced top-level Virginia officials to bail out their flopped housing development with millions in state money, anger still runs high. The government, however, has done nothing to punish the potential wrongdoing that led to what may eventually become Biscuit Run State Park.

"Biscuit Run is an absolute abomination and fraud," says outraged Albemarle taxpayer Clara Belle Wheeler.

While some politicians have expressed similar outrage, the drive to punish the players or reform the system appears to have dissipated, often in a bipartisan spirit.

For instance, the conservation tax credit law that enabled most of the Biscuit Run bailout went virtually unchanged this year in the General Assembly– even though the creator of the program, Democratic State Senator Creigh Deeds had vowed to make changes.

His supposed reform bill, SB 1232, merely codifies a right the state already seemed to possess: to review potentially inflated property assessments.

"It's not as far-reaching as what a lot of people would have liked," concedes Deeds, "but it's what we could get done."

On the other side of the aisle, Republican Governor Bob McDonnel...

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Country money: Profitable Arena to host free music series

When the venue formerly known as the Charlottesville Ice Park got a new owner last summer, he promised that melting the ice each summer for other activities would help the perennially money-losing facility turn a profit. True to his word, he says the renamed Main Street Arena has already begun operating profitably thanks to a variety of non-ice events including an antique show, roller derbies, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights.

Now, Fridays downtown are about to get a little bit country as the Arena is partnering with Coors Brewing Company to present Finally Fridays, a new country music concert series that's free.

With its shows running from 5-9pm and its golden refreshments flowing, the series is set to compete with Charlottesville mainstay Fridays After Five, although Arena owner Mark Brown says he hopes the Finally Fridays' indoor venue (including air conditioning!) and country-only line-up– including Sweetwater on July 1 and Iron Horse on July 8– will bring in new foot traffic, particularly those whose boots are made for walking.

Finally Fridays willl run through August 26, but it kicks off June 24 with Sunny Sweeney, a rising star who's already garnered national acclaim. Her hit “From a Table Away” rose to the Top Ten of Billboard’s “Hot Country” chart, and the artist herself...

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Hometown favorites: This Parachute floats upward

Arguably the most successful ensemble to break out of Charlottesville since Dave Matthews Band, Parachute– aka the group formerly known as Sparky's Flaw– returns home with friends in high places, international tours under their belt, and a sophomore album released with enough buzz and fanfare to hint at a future as mainstream pop stars.

Their transformation from high school kids making music in the basement to the love-song crooning stars they are today– starring in Nivea commercials, touring in Europe with Kelly Clarkson– wasn't an easy road, but it was one they took to like pros, according to lead singer Will Anderson. Long gone are the days where the guys flew to L.A. to record their debut album, rushing back on Monday morning for classes at UVA, but the link to Charlottesville– and to each other– remains strong.

"We're just the same guys, with the same friendship," Anderson says. "Not much has changed since we were in high school in terms of our relationship with each other. It keeps you grounded, it keeps you accountable."

The work the five C'ville boys have poured into their music hasn't been easy, and while Anderson understands the opportunity that comes from befriending...

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What are you going to do this summer?

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