Ragged Mountain Dam cases consolidated, hearing scheduled for May

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“What is the money for?” Stanton Braverman demanded. “Payment for water? Payment for land? Was it a gift?”

Braverman, a retired Charlottesville attorney, pushed for answers at a hearing April 19 on the city’s deal with the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority to build a new 40-foot dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

According to Braverman, who filed suit against the city, the county, and the RWSA last month, the city sold its water facilities when it accepted $765,000 from the Albemarle County Service Authority last year, an early step in the dam deal. And that exchange is the crux of the issue, he said, because per state statute, it should have required a supermajority of four out of five council votes, or gone to referendum. City Council’s vote was three to do, and Braverman said the approval was unconstitutional.

“The whole thing was vague,” he said, arguing that the involved parties tried to get around constitutional provisions by convoluting the process. “They’re trying to do indirectly what they cannot do directly.”

Braverman, who is suing with the support of the dam-opposing Charlottesville Open Government Alliance, said he’s concerned property values will be affected if water prices go up because of the deal. He owns three properties in the Charlottesville area.

During the hearing when Braverman questioned the money transfer, which the RWSA has called a “use agreement,” attorney Robert Hodges objected, stating that the question of monetary intentions was irrelevant and “separate from what the court is determining today.”

When the RWSA caught wind of Braverman’s suit, it filed for an expedited hearing in order to still acquire bonds and move forward with the project. Hodges and witness Tom Frederick, executive director of the RWSA, presented a number of documents authorizing bonds and outlining the agreement between the three municipalities.

Braverman’s goal in the hearing was to consolidate the three cases into one, as the evidence and arguments for each were essentially identical.

“If we consolidate, we have the evidence we need to move forward,” he said.

After Braverman and Hodges presented their arguments, Judge Cheryl V. Higgins agreed to consolidate the three cases, and scheduled the next hearing for 9am Friday, May 18.

Braverman was pleased with the decision, and said he has “a lot of work to do” over the next few weeks.

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