Transportation secretary named, Landmark blighted, UVA prof indicted: News briefs

Landmark hotel. Staff photo. Landmark hotel. Staff photo.

Check daily and pick up a copy of the paper Wednesdays for the latest Charlottesville and Albemarle news briefs and stories. Here’s a quick look at some of what we’ve had an eye on for the past week.

McAuliffe names Republican Bypass supporter as transportation secretary

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe has announced his pick for Secretary of Transportation: Aubrey Layne, a Virginia Beach businessman who voted to fund the Western Bypass around Charlottesville during his time as the Hampton Roads representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Layne, a Republican who has a background in property management, heads up a partnership between businesses and Newport News public schools called Achievable Dream Academies. He has served on the CTB since 2009, when he was appointed by Tim Kaine. In 2011, he voted to steer nearly $200 million to Albemarle County’s controversial Bypass project.

“Aubrey’s experience in statewide transportation planning and in the private sector give him valuable perspective on the pivotal role that transportation planning, construction and maintenance play in creating an environment where businesses can locate and thrive,” McAuliffe said in a press release last week. “He will be a Secretary of Transportation for the entire Commonwealth, and together we will work to find bipartisan, statewide solutions to growing our economy, creating more jobs here, and improving the quality of life for all Virginians.”

New stations on the way for Charlottesville radio?

Charlottesville radio listeners may soon have more stations to choose from, according to records filed with the FCC, where at least five applications by local folks have been submitted for what’s known as “low power FM stations.”

The FCC opens up such filing windows periodically, according to former longtime WNRN station manager Mike Friend, and this time, the filing window was open from mid-October to November 15. Friend is an applicant for 101.3, one of the four available frequencies in our area. The other stations are 97.9, 94.7, 92.3.

Low power stations have shorter reach, Friend explained, and the FCC intends them to be nonprofit entities that serve the community. Friend declined to offer details on his plans for his frequency, citing the competing entry for the same frequency by UVA and the fact that the FCC hasn’t yet approved any applications. Other local applicants include Dave Mitchell, former owner of 107.5FM, and local probation officer Jeff Lenert, who’s partnering with local businessman Rod Howard and applying for 94.7FM under the name Promise Land Communications.

“We have short, medium and long term goals,” said Lenert. “Short is to get on the air; medium is to develop programming that is both needed and absent in the Charlottesville market.”

Stay tuned!

Blight hearing scheduled for Landmark property

The still-skeletal Landmark Hotel now bears a blight notice, courtesy of Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Services, and the city planning commission is preparing to address what to do with the property at its December 10 meeting.

Atlanta-based developer John Dewberry bought the stalled nine-story boutique hotel project of former billionaire Halsey Minor at auction last June, and said at the time he planned to start construction within a year. But there’s been no progress, and trespassers have apparently regularly accessed the Downtown Mall property to tag walls and ceilings with graffiti.

That led NDS director Jim Tolbert to preliminarily declare the Landmark blighted, a move that starts a process of public hearings that could ultimately allow the city to place liens on the property. Dewberry responded angrily in a letter to officials last month, saying he’d done his part by erecting a high plywood fence around the site.

The public hearing portion of the upcoming planning commission meeting begins at 6pm.

UVA prof indicted for child porn distribution

The UVA associate dean arrested on child pornography charges earlier this month has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Michael Morris, an information technology professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the University’s McIntire School of Commerce, was indicted on two felony counts of distributing or receiving child pornography and one count of possession. Court documents say Morris accessed a child porn site nearly 200 times from his Crozet home and at least once using his UVA email address.

The University has suspended Morris, but he is still listed on the McIntire School’s faculty page.

If convicted, Morris could face 40 years in prison. He’s currently being held without bond.

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