C-VILLE News Briefs

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City and county tax values decline
The real estate market in Charlottesville and Albemarle is still contracting. In the city, the total value of taxable property decreased by 1.22 percent, and existing residential property declined in value by 3.08 percent. Commercial property, however, increased by 0.84 percent. Albemarle County’s taxable values declined by 3 percent, with residential properties reporting a decline of 3.05 percent. Each of the county’s seven magisterial districts showed declines in the past year, from 0.98 percent in the Rivanna district to 3.68 percent in that Jack Jouett district. The biggest decline, 4.52 percent, was registered in the Town of Scottsville. Reassessment notices for county residents will be mailed this week.

Commonwealth is growing, growing, growing
Since 2010, the population of the Commonwealth has grown by 1.2 percent to 8 million residents, compared to a 1 percent growth rate nationally. Virginia reported the 13th-highest growth rate compared to other states, according to the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center. Although Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads saw the largest population growth within the state, the center reports that some of the fastest growing areas were independent cities like Fredericksburg, which grew at a 4.9 percent rate. However, 35 localities in the state, mostly Southwest and Southside Virginia, saw population loss.

Homeschoolers can play, for now
A House bill sponsored by Delegate Rob Bell that would allow homeschooled students to play sports at public schools has passed the House Education Committee and is headed to the full chamber for a vote. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that 22 states allow homeschoolers to play sports or attend classes in public schools, but opponents of the bill argue that public school children are on a set schedule that requires them to follow rules. The bill prohibits public schools from joining an organization “governing interscholastic programs” that does not allow homeschoolers who have shown progress, are under 19, plus other rules, to participate.

Human rights commission on the rocks
Members of the Dialogue on Race’s Policy Action Team have proposed a human rights commission with the ultimate goal to enforce non-discriminatory practices in housing and private businesses. The commission, designed with investigative and enforcing authority, calls for an initial investment of $300,000 and an annual budget of $200,000. City Manager Maurice Jones, after a few weeks of due diligence, is recommending that City Council study the commission for one year and establish a task force that will report back in February 2013 with its own set of recommendations.
“We have had several initiatives like the Dialogue on Race and it always ends with a call for more studies and we just feel that at this point, we’d like to break the cycle of the city creating an initiative and at the end calls for more study,” said Walter Heinecke, member of the Policy Action Team and vocal supporter of the commission.

Louisa still shakes
According to the U.S, Geological Society, Louisa County felt another significant aftershock on Monday, January 30 at around 6:39pm. This time, the shock measured 3.2 in magnitude and is the latest in approximately 60 aftershocks felt since the 5.8 earthquake that rattled the county in late August. The initial tremor was felt along the East Cost and FEMA has recently approved disaster relief assistance for Albemarle and King George counties. According to a news release from Governor Bob McDonnell’s office, “the federal Individual Assistance Program provides grants, disaster housing assistance and low-interest loans.” The deadline to register is March 5.  

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Parents of Morgan Harrington mark morbid anniversary
Since January 26, 2010, the Harrington family has kept a steady vigil on their blog and continued to make media appearances as part of their Help Save the Next Girl campaign and their effort to bring Morgan’s killer to justice. Last Thursday, they marked two years since the confirmation of their daughter’s death, during a stop at the Copeley Road Bridge where she was last seen alive. “Gil and I are held up daily by people who continue to help keep Morgan’s story alive,” said father Dan Harrington to media.

Gil and Dan Harrington at their daughter’s memorial.

UVA basketball standout rebounds from injury
Assane Sene, UVA basketball’s 7′-tall Senegalese center, is recovering from an injury to his right ankle, and hopes to be back on the court in March. After a January 19 win over Georgia Tech, UVA team doctor David Diduch told Cavalier Insider that fractures such as Sene’s typically heal within six weeks. The recovery timetable of six weeks would put Sene, ranked 10th all-time for UVA blocked shots, back on the court in time for the season’s final matchup with Maryland on March 4, and potentially ready for the ACC tournament, which starts on March 8.

Applications to UVA increase by 18 percent
UVA received 28,200 applications for undergraduate admission for the Fall 2012 semester. That’s a nearly 18 percent jump over last year’s total. According to a New York Times survey, UVA’s jump sticks out: At present, the school has the greatest percentage increase in admissions among those listed. (Save for Iowa’s Grinnell College—which, it should be noted, received fewer than 3,000 applications last year.)

Stonefield still slated for 137-room hotel
Last week, C-VILLE reported that a Staun-ton-based hotel developer had plans for a 137-room Homewood Suites at West Rio Road. One unanswered question we had concerned hotel plans for the Stonefield development on U.S. 29, once considered home for Homewood. With Homewood Suites bound for a different site, was Stonefield looking for another hotel developer? No, said Tom Gallagher, a principal with developer Edens & Avant, who spoke with C-VILLE. “We’re working with MacFarlane Partners, from Richmond,” said Gallagher. “The project is a Hyatt Place.” He estimated that the site would have 137 rooms.

Arrested occupiers found guilty
The 17 members of Occupy Charlottesville who were arrested in Lee Park in the wee hours of December 1 were found guilty of trespassing, according to a report from the Newsplex. On Friday morning, a judge denied a motion to dismiss the charges filed by their attorney Jeffrey Fogel, and the occupiers received $100 fines. Indecent exposure charges against one occupier, who stripped naked on Market Street in protest, were dropped.

Mr. Halfaday goes to court
Former Democratic City Council candidate James Halfaday waived his rights to a preliminary hearing on Thursday and will face a grand jury in late February. Halfaday is accused of election fraud for making false statements in his candidate documents, a Class 5 Felony that carries a hefty penalty.

 

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Casteen lights up list

Former UVA President John Casteen, who retired in August 2010 and previously bypassed a salary bump when in-state tuition costs rose, earned $251,823 as a board member for Altria, according to a study by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Altria is the parent company of cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA, and announced a net revenue of $24.3 billion in 2010, according to reports. That $251,823 represents roughly 36 percent of Casteen’s $700,000-plus salary as president of the University of Virginia.

Governor McDonnell applauds Silverchair

Silverchair Information Systems, a medical and scientific publishing company located on the Downtown Mall, has been awarded the Governor’s Award for Science Innovation. What started as a two-person venture, Silverchair, founded by Thane Kerner and Elizabeth Willingham, turned into a company with 100-plus employees, and was featured on Governor Bob McDonnell’s website as a “fast-growing job creator.”

Speaking of jobs…

Last week, the Naval and Marine Systems Division of Northrop Grumman announced that it would cut 50 positions from its Charlottesville division, according to NBC29. Defense contractor Niitek also announced plans to trim its workforce by 15 percent, with cuts coming to its facilities in Albemarle County and Dulles, Virginia. The Newsplex reported that the layoffs are the product of defense budget cuts. Finally, according to NBC29, 20 employees at local resort Keswick Hall were let go under the resort’s new ownership, reportedly helmed by Richmond’s William Goodwin, Jr. Goodwin also owns Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel.

Panhandling suit dismissed

A federal district court judge dismissed a First Amendment lawsuit filed by five homeless men against the City of Charlottesville. The suit contested a city ordinance that prohibited panhandling in select areas on the Downtown Mall. Attorney Jeffrey Fogel intends to appeal the decision, according to the Daily Progress.

Former mayor launches nonprofit with UVA

Dave Norris (Photo by Cramer Photo)

Dave Norris is a busy man. Less than a month after passing the “mayor” title to Satyendra Huja, the City Councilor has announced the creation of the Charlottesville Institute, a nonprofit geared towards “harnessing the tremendous intellectual resources of the University of Virginia for the betterment of the Charlottesville community.” For starters, Norris will co-teach a spring class called “Field Work in Social Enterprise—Reducing Poverty in the Community.”

Charlottesville court candidate dies suddenly

Pam Melampy, a longtime Charlottesville resident and recent candidate for Charlottesville Circuit Court clerk, died on January 16 following a brain aneurysm. She was 50. In a 2008 interview with C-VILLE, Melampy said the best part of her job was “the familiar faces I work with over the course of a lawsuit. You really develop a good working rapport and want resolution for all parties involved.” Mary Alice Trimble, Charlottesville General District Court clerk, wrote in Melampy’s memorial book to extend her sympathies: “Sudden deaths are hardest of all.”

Don’t let your Guard down

Three former members of a Charlottesville battalion for the Virginia Army National Guard face a February 8 trial date after the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged each with embezzlement. Those charges stem from an investigation into stolen Army equipment that was launched more than four years ago. One of the three, 30-year-old Staunton bouncer Michael Tutwiler, is accused of selling stolen weapons accessories to Staunton police officers and of a firearms-related charge for carrying a gun without a permit. According to the Staunton News Leader, “plea negotiations are currently taking place.”

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