A few years ago, Molly Conger was just your average Charlottesville resident who, to be honest, didn’t pay much attention to politics. Now she’s got more than 20,000 Twitter followers hanging on her moment-by-moment reports on local government meetings, which she’s been live-tweeting since December 2017. In this issue, Conger, in the first of what will be a bi-monthly column on city politics for C–VILLE, explains how she accidentally discovered an unmet need—for a spirited, opinionated, and very real voice explaining local government.
Conger realized that forces shaping our city manifest in decisions made at sparsely attended meetings and work sessions. The bureaucracy of these meetings isn’t designed to engage the public, but what happens there affects us all.
This week’s cover story examines how we ended up with a large, under-utilized, city-owned parking lot in what is nearly the geographic center of the city, even as planners struggle to find land for affordable housing. It’s not a simple story, and it didn’t come from one big decision, but a series of smaller ones. In the end, Westhaven and the 10th and Page neighborhood were isolated from downtown, Vinegar Hill became home to parking lots and fast food chains, and potentially valuable real estate was preserved for storing dump trucks.
It’s not clear if that land, the City Yard, will prove inhabitable (City Council has proposed funds to get the site tested), but the New Hill Development Corporation is already looking at how to redevelop the entire area. They’ve promised to work closely with residents, though reactions so far have been mixed. As with the new land use map, the city has an opportunity to correct its past mistakes, and make the right decisions this time around. We’d better be paying attention.