Charlottesville Breaking News

Incremental: Waterhouse rises, raises County ire

Crews erected a construction crane over Water Street on Thursday, January 20, a powerful visual symbol of the long-awaited (and scaled down) Waterhouse project, a now six-story, $20 million mixed-use complex of offices, retail space, and apartments atop a parking garage that will span the gap between West Water and South Streets.

Two weeks later, a retaining wall has been poured, and steel girders have gone up over and around the former Downtown Tire building, which will be incorporated into the design. Originally, there were plans for a kind of pedestrian village with 57 planned residential units, but the bad economy turned that idea on its head. Now, Waterhouse will become more of a business park, with only nine residential units, and nearly 50,000 square feet of retail and office space, a huge chunk of which WorldStrides and its 200-plus employees are planning to occupy.

Oh, and one more thing. You, dear city tax payer, are going to help pay for the private development.

Back in August, Charlottesville City Council approved something called tax increment financing (TIF) for the Waterhouse project, a method for local governments to fund re-development and “community improvement projects” that has been around for decades. Basically, a percentage of future real estate tax revenue in the area around Waterhouse, revenue wh...

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Gas tax: It will stop regulations and wars

A week after reports that SUV – but not small car– sales had rebounded came the word that GM and Chrysler are utilizing tax dollars to fight the latest efforts to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

Claiming that a vehicle could cost $6,435 more if new proposals are enacted, automakers worry about losing the single area where American manufacturers dominate: car bodies on truck chassis. Environmental groups, of course, are attacking automakers for the millions spent lobbying against higher fuel efficiency, leaving lawmakers again caught between allegedly creating American jobs and long-term environmental and societal good.

Yet our history is clear: CAFÉ standards have been a dismal failure.

Not only do Americans drive more once we purchase higher mileage cars, governmental requirements for more efficiency continually squeeze American automakers and push sales to foreign car makers who primarily compete in markets where high gasoline taxes produce overall consumer demand for efficiency.

It’s time the U.S. considers the economic “first best” solution and actually levy reasonable gasoline and diesel “user fees” on consumers. Italy, after all, with the highest gasoline taxes in the world– and no CAFÉ standards– has the highest-mileage vehicle fleet, as well as much more reasonable mass transit. Japan’s 123-million “tes...

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'He's still here.' And other revelations in the Harrington case

It was a Saturday night in October 2009. The air outside was chilly, and a light rain was falling as the visiting father finished dinner with his daughter at a Charlottesville restaurant and the two returned to his car. As the father drove his daughter back to her dormitory around 9:20pm, their path took them past John Paul Jones Arena, where a major event was underway.

Heavy metal group Metallica had taken the stage only minutes before, and fans who'd flocked from all over the East Coast had gathered inside. As the main event roared inside the Arena, the parking lots outside were full and lights were blazing, but Copeley Road was nearly devoid of pedestrians.

As the father and daughter traveled toward Ivy Road and over the railroad bridge, the ordinary ride suddenly took them past an unusual sight. A young woman, dressed all in black with long blond hair, was standing on the bridge with her thumb extended in the classic hitchhiking gesture.

The pair would soon learn that they were among the last to see Morgan Dana Harrington alive.
*****
It's been more than a year since the body of the 20-year-old Virginia Tech education student was discovered. With no suspects named, police have been reaching out to the public in hopes that someone will be able to help take the investigation a step further. How did Morgan's body end up in a cow pasture 10 miles away? Is a killer still stalking the streets of Charlottesville and Albemarle County?

...

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Cheap(er) drugs: County offers discount Rx card

Who doesn't love a bargain, and how often do you get one from local government–- on your Viagra?

Albemarle County is offering a prescription discount card that can cut the cost of drugs on average of 22 percent.

And it has nothing to do with national health care reform.

The discount card is courtesy of NACo–- the National Association of Counties–- an organization that represents more than 3,000 counties, among them, Albemarle.

But why discount drugs from an organization whose main job is lobbying Congress?

"The history of the program goes back to 2000 when we surveyed members and they asked if we could do anything about the cost of presciptions," says Andrew Goldschmidt, NACo director of membership marketing.

With 1,400 counties joining in, NACo was able to negotiate pricing with manufacturers on drugs, says Goldschmidt. The result: 29 million prescriptions have been filled at a savings of $340 million.

"It's not just for the un-insured," says Goldschmidt. "It's for the under-insured as well."

For example, a lot of insurance plans exclude "lifestyle" drugs, such as birth control or the ones that help stave off baldness or erectile dysfunction, and those get discounts with the card, he says.

About 70 percent of pet medications...

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Groupenomics: Getting schooled on the daily deal craze

Are you ready for the social buying craze?

They've got an offer you can't refuse.

Yes, the so-called 'group buying' or 'social buying' craze spearheaded by websites like Groupon and LivingSocial has made its way to Charlottesville. While local consumers might have reason to rejoice about saving 50 to 90 percent on local purchases, and while some local businesses are embracing the concept, others are bracing themselves for a daily deal invasion.

In case you haven't heard, Chicago-based Groupon and Washington, D.C.-based LivingSocial have been busy taking over the world lately. Last month, Groupon, which claims to have 50 million subscribers and yearly revenue around $500 million, walked away from a rumored $5 to $6 billion takeover bid from Google. And Amazon.com recently invested $175 million in LivingSocial, which claims it hauls in an average of $1 million a day. Even though we're in the midst of a recession, or supposedly recovering from one, Forbes has called Groupon the "faste...

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