Construction criticism


Dear Ace: If there are any more construction projects along Water Street that gobble up the street behind fences for their own use, we won’t be able to drive on it anymore. How do those private operations get to claim public roadways for their own use? Do they pay anything to the city for inconveniencing drivers?—Jane Honda

Jane: Ace shares your pain. Few things are more frustrating to Ace on his daily investigations than being stopped short by construction when he’s cruising Downtown in the Acemobile with his special lady friend of the moment. One minute Ace is blasting tunes and checking out the strutting sidewalk scenery, and the next minute he’s stalled out waiting for a burly man in a neon jacket to wave him across an intersection. Then when Ace finally does get through the zone that’s been harshing his buzz, he has to wonder if a convertible is the best choice of car for driving under moving cranes. All doubt is erased when his endangered sweetie pie nestles in his protective, cologne-scented armpit.

So what gives these private construction projects the right to spill into public spaces? According to an official in Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Development Services, these incursions require permits to the tune of $50 per day for temporary street closures and $20 a day for each commandeered parking spot. Permits are even required for taking up sidewalk real estate. Although this money is small change to someone with Ace’s salary, you can imagine how the bills add up on major projects like those currently on Water Street. Developers end up paying dearly for the privilege of fencing themselves in (all in the name of public safety, of course).

Yes, the rerouting of vehicular and pedestrian traffic is a pain, but the same Charlottesville official stresses the give and take involved: The public suffers a short-term inconvenience for a long-term improvement to the Downtown area. And Ace would much rather be redirected around an open manhole than into it. Plus, he knows that one day soon he will be sitting at the Landmark Hotel’s rooftop patio bar or catching a show at the renovated Jefferson Theater with a date who enjoys the finer things in life. The cement trucks, the industrial fencing, and even the manholes of Water Street will be a distant memory.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to