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Charlottesville Breaking News


Extended stay: Hotel planned for Regal Seminole property

Tue, 08 Jan 2013 20:36:42 +0000

Although recent hostelries, such as the Marriott at West Main and Ridge or the Landmark on the Downtown Mall, have stalled, the odds for a Homewood Suites on the Regal Cinema property at Seminole Square seem much better.

For one, a hotel is already a by-right use for the 6.5-acre parcel. That means no rezoning or special use permits, which always slow development projects down.

And because it's located behind Kmart on India Road and not directly in an entrance corridor, new owners Heritage Hospitality Management of Staunton don't even need to go before the Board of Architectural Review, according to city planner Michael Smith.

The property has long been in the path of the Hillsdale Drive Connector, which was supposed to slice through the theaters of the previous occupant, Regal Seminole Square.

Regal shut its doors at that location late last year when the glitzy new Regal Stonefield 14 opened across U.S. 29.

Heritage Hospitality Management already has a foothold in Charlottesville with the Hilton Garden Inn on U.S. 250 east. Extended stay Homewood Suites is another Hilton brand.

Plans filed with the city show a four-story, 149-room hotel comprising 1.1 million feet. Heritage Hospitality paid $3.25 million for the property, which is assessed at $4 million.

It's across the street from the Hampton Inn.

"We don't have a comment until we have a comment," says Heritage partner Scott Goldenberg. The company and extended-stay Homewood Suites is another Hilton brand.


or even construction has begun (the Landmark)


Board dreams: Skatepark makes post-Parkway plans

Wed, 14 Dec 2011 20:33:37 +0000

The Rotunda, the Corner and the Lawn may conjure instant images of Jeffersonian architecture, but if a group of local skateboard enthusiasts have their way, those UVA classics will also provide inspiration for a new and expanded Charlottesville skatepark.


when the current location at the corner of Route 250 and McIntire Road is forced to relocate when construction of the city's portion of McIntire parkway begins, possibly as early as summer 2012.


Board dreams: Skatepark makes post-Parkway plans

Wed, 14 Dec 2011 20:33:46 +0000

The Rotunda, the Corner and the Lawn may conjure instant images of Jeffersonian architecture, but if a group of local skateboard enthusiasts have their way, those UVA classics will also provide inspiration for a new and expanded Charlottesville skatepark.


when the current location at the corner of Route 250 and McIntire Road is forced to relocate when construction of the city's portion of McIntire parkway begins, possibly as early as summer 2012.


Campus assault: When federal involvement spells trouble

Thu, 17 Nov 2011 16:38:25 +0000

By CATHY YOUNGNearly two years ago, in February 2010, University of North Dakota student Caleb Warner was thrown out of school with a three-year ban on reapplying after a campus disciplinary panel found he had violated criminal laws by sexually assaulting a fellow student. In fact, Warner was never actually charged with a crime in the justice system – but his accuser, Jessica Murray, was. In May of the same year, the Grand Forks, North Dakota police department formally charged her with filling a false report after concluding its investigation. (Murray now resides in California and has never appeared in court to answer the charge.) Yet Warner remained banned from campus until October, when he was finally reinstated after the indefatigable FIRE– the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education– interceded to publicize his plight.Now, some politicians are pushing for measures that would create more such travesties.Warner was found guilty under a "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof– the lowest standard, under which a defendant is guilty if the disciplinary panel believes it is even slightly more likely than not that he committed the offense. Traditionally, most colleges have adjudicated charges of misconduct against students under the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence"– less stringent than "beyond a reasonable doubt," but nonetheless requiring an extremely strong probability of guilt.Last April, however, the Office of the Civil Rights of the Department of Education undertook to change that, sending out a letter to colleges and universities on the proper handling of sexual assault and sexual harassment reports. One of the OCR's key recommendations was to adopt the "preponderance of the evidence" standard in judging such complaints.While these guidelines supposedly reflect federal standards for Title IX sex discrimination cases, former Education Department attorney Hans Bader has argued that they are actually based on a basic misunderstanding of federal law. In Title IX cases, the "preponderance of the evidence" rule applies to an institution accused of violating the plaintiff's rights – not to another individual accused of an offense.The OCR letter sparked widespread controversy, with FIRE and other critical voices warning that its proposals could undermine both due process for students and accuracy in campus sexual assault investigations in order to obtain more convictions. Yet a number of schools, including major universities such as Stanford and Yale, quickly amended their procedural rules in response. A comment from Stanford Dean of Student Life Christine Griffith strongly suggested that concerns about violations of students' rights were not misplaced. If some were worried that the changes in the burden of proof might be unfavorable to the accused, Griffith told The Stanford Daily, it was "an opportunity for people to be saying to themselves, 'I need to be really educated about these issues because I don't want to find myself in this circumstance.'" In other words, it's up to potential defendants to be extra careful to avoid any ambiguous situation that might lead to a rape charge.Now, a new effort is underway to strong-arm colleges and universities into compliance. The Senate draft bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Woman Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would require all schools that receive federal money to follow the OCR's guidance in disciplinary proceedings. What's more, this version of VAWA expands the OCR's recommendations so that the "preponderance of the evidence" standard must apply not only to complaints of sexual assault but also of domestic or dating violence and stalking. Non-compliant institutions stand to lose all federal funding, including their students' eligibility for tuition assistance.While these rules apply only to campus disciplinary proceedings, not in criminal court, they are still likely to have grave consequences. A student fo[...]

Going coastal: And like a bad neighbor...

Thu, 15 Nov 2012 19:45:57 +0000

By PATRICK CLARKIn 1938, when storm-watchers gave hurricanes names fit for railroad lines, the Great New England formed off Africa's western coast, hurtled across the Atlantic and turned north, making landfall in Central Long Island.Winds as fast as 130 miles per hour blew across the peninsula, sweeping a Westhampton movie theater out to sea, toppling the tallest building in Sag Harbor and turning Montauk into an island. In Manhattan, streets three blocks inland from the East River flooded, and the Empire State Building is said to have swayed. By the time the storm finished cutting through New England and into Canada, some 57,000 homes were destroyed, and as many as 800 lives lost.When present-day risk experts think about the worst-case scenario for the New York region, they base their assumptions on the Great New England.That wasn't even a direct hit. 'If you take that storm and put it on the Irene track, then you get multiples and multiples of the damages,' said Karen Clark, the chief executive officer of catastrophe risk firm Karen Clark & Co. and the mother of the catastrophe-modeling industry.The Great New England cost the insurance industry $35 billion in 2012 dollars, according to Ms. Clark's research. Move a hurricane of the same force through the center of today's Manhattan, and the results are terrifying: a storm surge to put Sandy to shame, flooding Manhattan, razing the boroughs, blowing water towers off the rooftops and crashing debris through the city's flashiest office buildings and luxury high-rises.Ms. Clark said her worst-case storm would cost insurance companies $100 billion, five to 10 times the damage inflicted by Sandy and double the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.'I shouldn't say 'if,' I should say 'when,'' Ms. Clark told us. 'This is going to happen.'***SO HOW DO COMPANIES insure against $100 billion in damage? Here's a scenario just as terrifying as another Great New England: they don't.That's what happened in Florida after 2005, when insurance companies tried to hike rates in the wake of a string of hurricanes starting with Hurricane Andrew (1992, insured costs of $21 billion) and continuing through that year's Katrina, Rita and Wilma.The state balked, capping premiums. The insurance industry took its ball and went home, to a large extent calling the Sunshine State closed for business. The state stepped in, funding an insurance program of its own and putting its already shaky finances to the wind: in 2011, the state's Citizens Property Insurance Corp. had a total exposure of $510 billion.Could that happen in other parts of the country? 'There's a very real question about the future of insurance affordability and availability,' said Cynthia McHale, director of the insurance program at Ceres, which advocates for investors on sustainability issues. 'Insurers always have the option of pulling out of a region. Or the rates become really, really high and unaffordable. This is a reasonable scenario going forward.'With two major hurricanes within 14 months, New York officials have jumped on the climate change issue in the weeks since the recent storm. Gov. Andrew Cuomo took Sandy as evidence that 'climate change is a reality' and gestured at European systems for protecting coastal communities, such as the $4 billion locks completed in 1997 to protect the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Mayor Michael Bloomberg invoked the storm to explain his endorsement of President Barack Obama, citing the president's record of facing up to global warming.While climate modelers can debate climate change, nobody can argue with the pace of development along the coasts. The more homes there are in a vulnerable area, the bigger the companies' tab when catastrophe strikes. 'The elephant in the room is not climate change,' Ms. Clark said. 'The real driver of increasing property losses from catastrophes is increasing concentration along the coasts,' she said.A[...]

Fit to be tried: Crossfit expands, boot camps

Mon, 05 Nov 2012 19:49:18 +0000

When Crossfit Charlottesville opened in the summer of 2009, some questioned whether the high intensity, short workouts focused on "functional fitness," where workouts have names like "Cindy" and "Fran," and adherents use words like "WOD" and "Rx"– was a passing trend. Three years later, the original Crossfit gym is thriving, says its founder, and on November 1, it got some competition with the opening of a new Crossfit location whose owners believe there's plenty of demand to support both businesses.

"We thought we could make a unique environment," says Michael Towne, a former U.S. Marine who opened Solidarity Crossfit in the former Stubblefield Photo space on Harris Avenue with his wife, Becky Tippett.

Unlike other businesses, Crossfit affiliates are under only the loose control by the California-based parent corporation. For a couple thousand dollars, a new gym can use the Crossfit name, and, unlike many other franchises, the parent company puts no restrictions on how many gyms– called "boxes" in Crossfit lingo– can open in a given area.

"You could open three Crossfit gyms next door to each other," notes Crossfit Charlottesville co-owner Kyle Redinger, who sees positive and negative in that policy. "It increases competition, which is good," he notes, "but it also means gym owners may be reticent to invest heavily in expanding, since they have no guarantee of the population size they alone are serving."

Nor do the corporate headquarters hold gyms to any strict standards. That lack of oversight allows gyms to be flexible and create unique atmospheres and training programs, but critics point out it can also result in trainers with insufficient experience to be leading intense exercise classes that often include sophisticated Olympic weightlifting moves like the snatch, a move in which a loaded barbell is swiftly lifted from the ground to overhead, and the deadlift, in which the a heavy barbell is lifted from the ground to a standing position. Performed incorrectly, such exercises can result in serious injury, but both Towne and Crossfit Charlottesville owner Kyle Redinger say they stress proper form and adjust workouts so that they're appropriate for any fitness level.












The concept has only gained, ahem, strength in the past few years, and now a second Crossfit gym has opened.




Fatal crash: Lewis pleads guilty in death of daughter, ex-husband

Wed, 29 Aug 2012 18:00:30 +0000

DEMEANOR HERE, Jessica X Lewis, the Crimora woman charged with manslaughter in the November 2011 deaths of her daughter and ex-husband, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in Albemarle Circuit Court.


As previously reported, a;ldsfja;lsdfjaldsfj.

What was she under the influence of?



Neighborly complaint: Fix those hooves!

Fri, 10 Aug 2012 20:12:51 +0000

Someone in Gordonsville has dropped the reins on taking care of at least one of the horses on an estate on Lovers Lane near Route 33, and a neighbor’s complaint is not gaining much traction with local officials or the owners, despite the owners’ seemingly ample resources and the pro-horse outlook of many in rural Albemarle county.

A neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous took a photo of the pony in question, which appears to be suffering from gross hoof neglect. Hoof neglect occurs when a horse’s hooves are not trimmed and the overgrown portions alter the orientation of the feet in relation to the ground, making it painful for the horse to walk and potentially causing tendon damage.

Horses are normally taken to farriers every couple of months for trimming and shoeing. These horse specialists practice a trade dating back to the Middle Ages that has roots in blacksmithing.

Though the issue was brought to the attention of Orange County Animal Control in April by the neighbor, the pony has been continually sighted with no noticeable changes to the hooves, even as recently as last week. In communications with the complainant, Orange animal control officials have repeatedly asserted that the pony is receiving rescue care, however they did not respond the neighbor’s request for proof of this.

“That length of hoof can only be caused by lack of hoof care,” said Maya Proulx of Hope’s Legacy Equine Rescue in Afton. “To grow feet that long might have taken a year to a year and a half.”

Ms. Proulx added that while severe overgrowth could not be fixed overnight, significant improvement should be visible if the issue was raised in April.

The vast estate where the pony grazes includes a mansion and two symmetrical ponds, as well as sprawling acreage containing numerous other horses that depict telltale signs of good maintenance—sleek, shiny coats and neatly groomed feet. So why has one pony fallen by the wayside?

Cindy Smith, an expert with Central Virginia Horse Rescue, thinks nutrition might be the culprit.

“Because they’re out on grass that’s too rich for them, a reaction in the hind gut can cause horses to run a fever in the feet,” said Smith. Laminitus can lead to swelling of hooves, potentially causing overgrowth, or foundering. “The pony has not had a fare for months. It is a very painful condition. It’s definitely a violation not to have proper care and it would be up to a judge as to whether the animal should remain on the farm.”


Classroom tech: Local high schools go online

Mon, 22 Jul 2013 20:50:42 +0000

Tomorrow’s kindergarten students may live through a transition that means many of their high school classes will not include a teacher in the classroom. The technology used by today’s high school students, whether it’s in a student’s pocket or on a screen in front of them, bears little resemblance to what was available when they started their formal educations.   Charlottesville and Albemarle public schools are both ramping up investments in online courses, partly in response to a new state mandate requiring at least one online course for graduation, but also in the belief it’s the best way to prepare students for upcoming challenges in work and college. It used to be called “distance learning,” and the distance it’s putting between schools of the last century and schools of the future appears to be a rapidly growing divide. “Complete virtual online learning is not right for every student for every subject,” Charlottesville High School teacher Meagan Maynard says, “but it does have its place in education.” “It’s clear that education is going in this direction, especially at the college level,” Albemarle spokesman Phil Giaramita says. “Even schools like the University of Virginia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are offering classes online, and that trend isn’t going to reverse.”   At Charlottesville High School last year, over 150 students enrolled in eight online courses, which ranged from Economics and Personal Finance to AP Government, Biology, and Creative Writing.   “We didn’t have many students who failed [last year], but we had some students who didn’t adapt well and went back to traditional classes,” Charlottesville Assistant Superintendent Gertrude Ivory says.   Some courses are a full school year in length, while others are a semester, quarter, or summer school class, and students, Maynard says, can complete work in the self-paced classes from school or home.   “Some students do an eighth period from home, but those are your more advanced students,” Maynard says. “We also have a flex lab in the building that is supervised. The students are assigned there for one period a day and are all working on different assignments.”   Critics of virtual learning highlight a lack of student interaction as a major concern, but Albemarle Assistant Superintendent Billy Haun says County staff wants to build that contact into their courses by blending two or three face-to-face meetings into the syllabi, as well as by designing assignments like discussion boards that force students to interact.   “The idea of the classroom is changing,” Haun says. “Your History of Virginia class might be at home, and then at Monticello.”   And some students who are enrolled in an online course but need more help, Maynard says, will attend the traditional class meetings and work independently, but will have teacher support when they need it. Other students are turned away from registering for online courses.   “The main thing is that the student is an independent, self-directed learner,” Maynard says, “and that’s a decision that has to be made by the guidance counselor, the parents, and the student before the course.”   Western Albemarle High School freshman Julian Waters draws a distinction between the two types of classes he takes.   “In the classroom, the teacher talks and you have the choice to listen or daydream, but online you’re forced to read and teach it to yourself,” Waters says.   But it’s also tempting to visit other websites, and the adjustment to a mostly-silent learning environment was difficult, Waters adds, noting that his current teacher built end-of-unit conferences into the course.   Despite the attempts at flexibility and engagement, not all parents are so[...]

The Hook in review: 12 years of covering Charlottesville

Thu, 19 Sep 2013 21:35:27 +0000

The first issue of the Hook hit the streets February 7, 2002, in an America still reeling in post-9/11 shock— not quite sure how our world would change, but with an uneasy feeling that it would not be for the better. In Charlottesville, the Downtown Mall had not yet had its Pavilion or Transit Center built on the east end. The Meadow Creek Parkway was still under debate, and the U.S. 29 Western Bypass was believed dead and buried. The old Woolen Mills dam still stood, the Jefferson Theater was a second-run movie house, and the Paramount Theater was in the throes of a lengthy restoration. And a handful of writers, graphic designers, ad reps, and photographers followed editor Hawes Spencer to start a new weekly in a small town that already had a weekly on what would become Mr. Hook's wild ride. 2002 Charlottesville's Democratic rule was rocked with the election of Rob Schilling, the first Republican city councilor in 16 years, and the words "single-shot" voting entered the local lexicon. Environmentally, the region was parched by a drought. By September, restaurants were serving on plastic, car washes were ordered to close and reservoirs were half full, with predictions they'd be empty by December. Fortunately it rained, but this stark, water-less reality had a lot to do with the subsequent water wars of the aughts and the construction of the Ragged Mountain reservoir mega-dam. First issue, February 7, 2002. Chris Conklin is the guy who created the Hook's distinctive red-"the" logo and its crisp, clean look, aided by photographer (and later his wife) Jen Fariello shooting many of the early covers. For the first Hook, Conklin used a double cover, wrapping the issue in a cover that shouted the new paper's arrival— an idea we've glommed for the paper's final issue. Susan Tyler Hitchcock wrote the first cover story about homegrown pot smuggler Allen Long, who claimed to have brought the first Columbian Gold to America. It was a promising start.           Trouble on Walton's Mountain: Jim Bob's thrown out, John Boy pulls out, June 27, 2002. Once upon a time, everyone knew the beloved television series of the late 1960s,  The Waltons, created by beloved Nelsonite writer Earl Hamner. When the real-life Walton's Museum in Schuyler decided to throw Hamner's brother Jim off the board and a scandal the likes of which was never seen on the TV show erupted, Hamner pulled the memorabilia he'd donated, and that in turn led to the creation of the current Nelson county rural history museum Oakland. This was also the famous "limn" issue, in which we dropped the pretentious word into every story.         Trail nix: Rivanna neighbor just says no to hikers, July 4, 2002. When the Rivanna Trails Foundation created paths along the river, there was one little oops: They didn't ask permission from property owner Shirley Presley, who barricaded the path to thwart trespassers and became known as "the razor-wire widow." The case pitted property rights against public access, and Presley sued both Charlottesville and the Rivanna Trails Foundation for $1.5 million, a case ultimately settled in 2008. But not before a hiker and his dog were slashed and became another Hook cover in 2004, and the city realized it had no way to prevent property owners from stringing up razor wire to protect their property. Also notable: This cover was drawn by longtime Hook cartoonist Don Berard, who illustrated lead news stories until around 2010.           Heritage or hate, October 10, 2002. For the owner of Quality Welding on Harris Street, the Southern battle flag represented his family's history. Across the street, his African-American neighbor saw a symbol of racism and slavery. This was one of the first stories the Hook did exploring slavery's p[...]