Charlottesville Breaking News

Absolute Kluge: Eyes on Trump as winery hits auction block

When the winery founded by Patricia Kluge was on the block in December, no one came close to the bank's $19-million minimum. But at the upcoming April 7 absolute auction, someone will go home with a winery– or part of one.

An absolute auction means the highest bidder gets the property, with no minimum, and the owner can't bid on it, explains Bill Shmidheiser, attorney for Farm Credit, which is trying to recoup its $35-million loan to Kluge.

"It assures buyers the property will be sold at the highest price," he says. "The public knows the owners are not testing the waters."

The 901-acre Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyards has been divvied up into six tracts.

"As a whole, it's a big bite," explains Shmidheiser.

But at least one high-profile potential buyer– The Donald– may think splitting the property is a mistake.

"We might be interested in buying the whole thing," says Jason Greenblatt, general counsel for Donald Trump's empire. "I think they're destroying it by splitting it. And I think they're harming the Virginia wine industry by doing so."

Trump emerged as a player in the liquidation of Kluge's ass...

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'Tragic accident:' UVA student dies in fall from roof

Thomas W. Gilliam IV's last day alive had been "magnificent," says his grandfather. The 19-year-old UVA student went to church with his grandparents and his father, who was in town for dental work from Ireland, where the family lived. They went out to lunch and then he worked on his resume with his dad. They went to a performance of Celtic Woman at John Paul Jones Arena Sunday night, March 27, and dropped Tom off at his dorm at 10pm.

"He said he had to finish a paper," says Tom Gilliam Jr., the young man's grandfather.

Two hours later, he was dead, the victim of what authorities believe was an accidental fall from the roof of the Physics Building.

"He slipped and fell," says his grandfather.

An emergency call came in at 11:15pm, Gilliam was taken from the McCormick Road building at 11:38pm, and he arrived at the UVA Medical Center at 11:43pm, where he died.

"At this time, we do not believe that either foul play or alcohol were involved," says UVA spokesperson Carol Wood in a release. "Nor do we believe that this was a suicide. Investigators believe it was a tragic accident." An autopsy is being performed.

UVA police are investigating the incident, and issued a statement Monday night that the east door of the Physics Building was compromised, and that Gilliam entered through that door and opened the main door to let in other students.

"Unfortunately, with the snow and rain on Saturday and Sunday, the roof of the Physics Build...

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Man allegedly shoots woman in neck

As snow was falling over the county early Sunday morning, gunfire rang out just off of Hydraulic Road, and a woman became the year's first victim of a shooting in Albemarle. Charged in the incident is John Wesley Morris, a 53-year-old Charlottesville resident, who reportedly fled the scene and was captured in his vehicle in the Free Union/Earlysville area less than two hours later.

The victim, an unnamed woman, received a gunshot wound to her neck, but her injuries were described by an Albemarle County Police Department release as "non life-threatening." The release indicates that the March 27 incident occurred around 1:40am in the 1800 block of Inglewood Drive with the arrest around 3:05am on Buck Mountain Ford Road.

Published reports suggest that Morris is no stranger to violence. In 1985 he was convicted of the double homicide of Ricky Clements and Monte Wanless at the Pantops-area Hardee's restaurant. He was sentenced to 46 years, and according to the Department of Corrections, released in January 2008.

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Trial continued: As Ragged fields erupt in green

The criminal trial has been pushed back, but the burned fields of Ragged Mountain Farm have recently emerged to look greener than the surrounding fields spared from flames during the recent 609-acre wildfire that began on a wind-whipped Saturday in February.

"That's not surprising," says Sam Lindblom, who burns fields across the Commonwealth as the land program manager for the Virginia Nature Conservancy. Lindblom says the combination of ample rainfall during the spring growing season, black ash to heat the land, and an explosion of nutrients unleashed by the recent flames created a "perfect combination" for rejuvenated fields.

"And whammo," says Lindblom, "that's why it's so green."

Meanwhile, accused fire-starter Alex Toomy has won a continuance on the two charges stemming the blaze. The hearing was to have occurred on Monday, March 28, but his lawyer, Michael Derdeyn, confirms that his client will instead appear for trial on May 31.

At issue is whether Toomy broke state fire law by conducting a brush fire before 4pm and whether his burning practices resulted in the blaze that began around 2pm on Fe...

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Upper Bundoran: Manor house under foreclosure

Another grand Albemarle house is headed toward the auction block. Upper Bundoran, the house built by the son of the man who built Scott Stadium, is under foreclosure and will be sold on the courthouse steps April 18.

The 6,500-square-foot Georgian manor on 55 acres is part of the Bundoran Farm "preservation development," but its developer insists the rest of project is not in trouble.

"That's completely separate financing and a separate lot," says Robert H. Baldwin Jr., general manager of Edge Valley Preservation LLC, the company developing Bundoran Farm. "Foreclosures are never good. We take them very seriously."

Royal Bank of Canada is calling its $3.1 million credit line on Upper Bundoran, which has been listed for sale for $2.6 million. "It's underwater," acknowledges Baldwin.

The plan for the 2,300-acre Bundoran Farm is to keep most of its acreage under conservation easement as pasture, forest, and orchards, and to plant 108 residential lots in the middle of that. "Tax credits are not part of our plan," say Baldwin of the popular land preservation perk used by some developers, such as Biscuit Run's, to mitigate investment losses.

Bundoran Farm sales have picked up, with 17 lots recently sold. "We suffered like everybody else," says Baldwin. "For a year and a half, we didn't make a single sale...

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