Charlottesville Breaking News

Happy campers: Commission smiles on pool-to-camp plan

Field Camp founder Todd Barnett is one step closer to buying the historic Blue Ridge Swim Club after the Albemarle County Planning Commission recommended approval of a special use permit February 22. While commissioners cited dozens of letters from Swim Club neighbors supportive of Barnett's plan, other neighbors say they're willing to fight to keep the camp out of the neighborhood.

"It is not an acceptable use of the property," says Frazier Bell, a 33-year neighbor to the Blue Ridge Swim Club– a 13-acre parcel featuring a unique, century old, hundred-yard-long spring-fed pool.

Bell says he objects to the potential noise and traffic he believes the Camp will bring and, in particular, by its founder's plan to construct a 2,000 square-foot outdoor pavilion.

"Twice as long as most houses," Bell says an email following the hearing. "And, it will mean clearing a large area for the structure and around it. They plan on campfires. No one addressed the possibility of fire safety."

Bell is not alone in opposition. At least five other Owensville Road-area residents, including Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins, expressed concerns at the recent hearing, most stressing the potential for increased traffic, trespassing, and noise from the estimated 60 campers who attend Field Camp at any one time during the summer months.

"Any ration...

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Mall econ: Is downtown café space handed out fairly?

With spring just around the corner, it's time again for an annual tradition on the Downtown Mall: arguing about outdoor café space. City planners have proposed a revised ordinance to settle the issue, but some say it gives a handful of restaurants a competitive advantage.

Back in the 1970s and '80s, when the City was begging folks to open restaurants on the Downtown Mall, there was less at stake. But now that 30 downtown eateries have outdoor patios, size matters.

During the $7.5 million re-bricking project in 2009, city planners came up with what they thought would be a simple plan: reducing all café spaces to 800 square feet, a limit that had already been in place for several years.

At the time, Miller's, Sal's, Rapture, Hamilton's, and The Blue Light Grill had been operating with more than 800 square feet. The owners of Zocalo, too, managed to secure more square footage directly from former City Manager Gary O'Connell, who stepped in after the owners complained about getting less space than Blue Light.

It was time, planners explained, to create a more level playing field.

The reaction was immediate. In the midst of a recession, and with the Mall under constructi...

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Mitchell's suit: City released as crosswalk trial advances

More than three years after disabled artist Gerry Mitchell was struck by an Albemarle County Police cruiser and then ticketed, his $850,000 lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville and two police officers has found a trial date– but the biggest of the three defendants is off the hook.

In a February 24 hearing in Charlottesville Circuit Court, attorney John Zunka, representing the City, argued that the municipality is protected from liability by the legal concept of sovereign immunity, which offers wide protection to government.

Judge Gaylord L. Finch (who is hearing the case after Judge Edward Hogshire recused himself and the first replacement fell ill) agreed with Zunka's reasoning and dismissed Mitchell's claims against the city. However, Finch allowed Mitchell's claims against the two officers– among them, negligence, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress– to go forward, setting a trial date of September 27-28.

"We're happy that a jury is going to get to hear this case and decide the issue," says Richard Armstrong, attorney for Mitchell.

As reported in 2007 Hook cover story, Mitchell was steering his motorized wheelchair in a W...

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Free and defiant: Vampire assailant released from prison

The man who donned a vampire mask one Halloween night and attacked his estranged wife as she slept has been set free after more than six years behind bars. In an exclusive interview with the Hook, Kurt Kroboth acknowledges "shameful and humiliating" behavior, but remains defiant about what he calls an "overreaching prosecution" that led to his 2006 conviction for attempted murder.

"It was criminal behavior," says Kroboth, reached in Green Valley, Arizona, where he relocated after his February 1 release.

However, the now-55-year-old former financier says the idea that he intended to kill his wife, Jane, is wrong.

"There was an assault," says Kroboth. "If you think about it, there was no weapon. I came upon a sleeping person. Had I intended to kill someone, it would have been easy to do."

Kroboth's release came as something of a surprise– as did the interview. The Hook's last story on Kroboth, in May 2006, reported he wouldn't be eligible for release until 2014. But according to prosecutor Jon Zug in the Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney's office, three weeks after that story ran, his sentence was amended when Albemarle County Circuit Court Judge William Shelton realized the sentence was longer than allowed by statute, which permits a maximum of 10 years. Judge Shelton issued a 10-year sentence and suspended t...

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Un-conventional: "Cedar Rapids" sinfully sweet

You are making the mistake of thinking of Cedar Rapids as a small town. In Cedar Rapids, a sweet comedy with a dirty mind, it is the metropolis, a sinkhole of sex, sin and high living at an annual insurance industry convention. Into this pit of depravity descends the innocent and naive Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), who never before in his life has left his hometown of Brown Valley, Wis.

Helms, from The Office, is assigned to take the big trip after his boss dies in embarrassing circumstances. His character is a bachelor who still lives in his childhood home, although excitement has recently entered his life with his first affair. Yes, he's sleeping with his grade school teacher, Miss Vanderhei, who is played by Sigourney Weaver as a woman who has seen it all–- if it's in Brown Valley, anyway.

Lippe's assignment: Attend the convention and come home with the coveted Two Diamonds Award. I immediately flashed on the older son in Gates of Heaven, sitting proudly behind and in front of plaques and statuettes and observing that he is displaying "the maximum trophies" to impress young recruits into–- yes, it was the insurance business there, too. Apparently, the folks in Brown Valley prefer to deal with Two Diamonds winners. READ FULL STORY

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