Charlottesville Breaking News

Tulip Man(ia): Pick-your-own fest blossoms

When Jeroen Koeman says he's the Tulip Man, the Madison County resident is just stating a fact. He comes from a line of tulip growers in Holland, where six of his father's eight brothers grow the alluring flowers that caused an economic collapse in the 17th century.

"I know everything about tulips," says Koeman. Not that he didn't try to escape his tulip destiny. "My brother said he was going to do tulips. I was going to do something else."

Yet he left Holland to take a job as head grower for a tulip farm in Washington state and later served as a grower in Waynesboro. And when, in Charlottesville, he met Keriann, who would become his wife, plans to return to the Netherlands were dropped. The couple started EcoTulips, which in 2009 began importing organic bulbs to sell as fundraisers for schools and other groups.

"I felt confident I could sell 200,000," says Koeman. "I didn't, and that's why I planted 40,000 bulbs."

The excess inventory became a pick-your-own organic tulip festival last spring, the only such event in the country, and part of a learning curve for the now 29-year-old Jeroen Koeman (pronounced yuh-roon koo-man).

Last fall, he planted another 60,000 organic bulbs and this year's festival visitors can, for $1-$2 a stem, pick Lalibelia, Rambo, and Silver Dollar–- mo...

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Elks launch farmer's market

While the Charlottesville City Market continues to search for new and better location, the folks at Elks Lodge 389, located off Stony Point Road near Darden Towe Park, may have beat them to it.

According to Lodge member Kathy Hicks, 11 vendors, many of whom also set up at the City Market, have already reserved spaces for a Tuesday (3-7pm) and Saturday (8am-1pm) Farmer's Market that will open in May, providing an alternative to the cramped locations on Water Street and Meade Avenue.

"The Meade Park location is just horrible," says Hicks. "Someone is going to get hurt down there."

As Hicks points out, there's plenty of parking for vendors and market-goers in the Lodge parking lot, and there's easy access to the large grassy area along Stony Point Road, which also provides great exposure. Hicks hopes to operate on roughly the same scale as the City Market.

Hicks says she has nine more spaces available. Payment follows an honor system, with vendors handing over 6 percent of their sales or $5, whichever is higher. For $25, vendors will also get a parking space. If you're interested in reserving a space, give Hicks a call at 434-974-1950

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JPA bridge: Closed until September... 2012

The nearly 80-year-old bridge carrying Jefferson Park Avenue over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks closed down Monday, April 4 for the first phase of the bridge's replacement. While walkers, who were out in force during the April 4 closure, can continue to use the Depression-era structure during the early phases of the project, vehicles have already been banned.

Ironically, the closest train tracks-crossing street has a mobility problem of its own. Shamrock Road, a Cherry Avenue feeder, is in the midst of a road-ripping utility project that has squeezed access to just one flagman-enabled lane, which could snarl traffic in the area even more than expected. Indeed, as a major entrance corridor to the University, particularly Scott Stadium, the loss of JPA Extended will be sorely felt, especially during football season.

"It was kind of unfortunate that they had to happen at the same time," says City spokesperson Ric Barrick, explaining that the one or two weeks of utility work would have created bottlenecks whenever it occurred along the course of the the year-and-half bridge replacement. "But we feel like we better rip the band-aid now."

The walkers are slated to get the benefit of a temporary bike-pedestrian bridge at the end of July, and then when the bridge is completed– by September 24, 2012– there will be dedi...

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Broken trust: Sex allegations against therapist prompt investigation

Patients came to him in their darkest hours, going through divorce, struggling with substance abuse, perhaps grieving over the loss of a loved one. But while some call Albemarle County social worker Howard Vidaver a therapist of rare talent and insight, court documents suggest he has been betraying one of the bedrock rules of his profession by engaging in sexual contact with patients. If true, the allegations suggest that he violated therapist/patient trust– and that it happened after he had already been disciplined by the state licensing board for similar behavior.

In a divorce complaint filed last November in Albemarle County Circuit Court, Vidaver's wife, Laurie Vidaver, alleges her husband "engaged in acts of adultery and sodomy" with multiple female patients at various locations, including in his Charlottesville office, for more than 15 years.

"It's devastating," says Laurie Vidaver, reached by phone. "Several families have been torn apart by this."

According to experts, it's a serious problem. A 1991 study of 958 patients who had been sexually involved with a therapist found that about 90 percent of those patients were harmed by the experience– with about 11 percent requiring hospitalization, 14 percent attempting suicide, and one percent committing suicide.

Of those harmed, only 17 percent fully recovered, according to the study by Kenneth Pope and Valerie Vetter.

Currently, 23 states make sexua...

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Front yard slaying: Two felons arrested in dog-shooting case

Two and a half months after a 10-month old Siberian Husky named Mattie was shot and killed in an Earlysville-area front yard, police have made two arrests.

Twenty-six-year-old Justin Tyler Riggs of Charlottesville was arrested Tuesday, March 29, and charged with possession of a firearm as a violent felon, cruelty to animals, and illegal hunting for his role in the January 15 shooting. Twenty-one-year-old Brian Charles Tichner of Dyke, arrested March 30, has been charged only with possession of a firearm as a violent felon, suggesting investigators believe Riggs pulled the trigger.

In the days after the incident, Mattie's owners, Yvonne and Ed Scarborough, put up a $10,000 reward and expressed their horror that someone would have killed the friendly pup, who was contained by an electric fence in their Fray's Grant subdivision yard.

"He probably called her," Yvonne Scarborough theorized of the shooter in a pre-arrest interview. "He shot her right in the chest. He just shot her in cold blood."

When the family beckoned their dogs in that night, only Max, Mattie's littermate, responded. The Scarboroughs' teenaged son went out looking for Mattie and discovered her in the yard, lying dead in a pool of blood.

"She probably thought he wanted to pet her," said Scarborough, breaking into tears.

The human members of the Scarborough family weren't the only...

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