Wendell Woods’ 15k Ft. Mansion on Carter’s Mountain

Because not enough people are wishing ill upon him, developer Wendell Wood has clear cut a big chunk of Carter’s Mountain, where he’s building a 15,554 square foot mansion, Dave McNair writes for The Hook. Including unfinished space and outdoor living space, the whole thing comes to 30,000 feet—and the huge swath of trees that he’s taken out for 360° views means that the enormous structure is visible from all around. You can’t miss it while driving down 29 South, where it sits atop the mountain, interrupting the ridge line. (See The Hook’s photos.) Despite repeated efforts to get the Board of Supervisors to prohibit mountaintop construction—largely at the behest of wealthy local conservative Fred Scott (as in Stadium)—the ordinance has never passed, so such construction is entirely legal, if reprehensible.

I am halfway through the process of building my own house perched on a mountain—although it’s less than 5% of the size of Woods, and kept off of the main ridge—and I’ve become very familiar with the steps that are necessary to keep a mountainside house from becoming an eyesore. Woods isn’t just not taking those steps, but he appears to be actively doing anything that he can to make his site visible far and wide. If that’s the case, all he’s got to do is paint it a garish color, which no doubt is forthcoming. Building a house in this manner is a bit like renting a billboard to suggest to children that they try heroin—while perfectly legal, anybody who would do such a thing is a jackass.

67 Responses to “Wendell Woods’ 15k Ft. Mansion on Carter’s Mountain”


  • Why isn’t anyone in the County making a bigger deal of this? It’s a ridiculous site and an obvious abuse of influence. For us in Mill Creek, having to look at this everyday from now on is as bad as downtown having to deal with Gabe Silverman’s pothole shrine to the developers “I don’t need to care about others” list and makes the addition of biscuit run obsolete. Perhaps his house can be the ranger house for the new park because it has the best view around.

  • I noticed that clearcutting awhile back and wondered what was up.

  • Hmm … makes me wonder if the open space preservation tax break Wendell earned by clear cutting is worth more than the timberland preservation tax break he already had.

  • Here’s where I feel the county failed in a massive way.

    Let’s look at the stats:

    Parcel ID: 09100-00-00-019A1
    Property Value: $365,400
    Improvements: $540,000
    Total Value: $905,400
    Property discount under Land use: -359,500
    Value under land use:$545,900

    That’s right,thanks to the miracle of land use taxation (that benefits poor farmers like Wendell Wood) you too could disrupt the viewshed of our counties biggest tourist attraction and get a rather massive tax break while doing so. Just think. Prior to the “improvements” he was only paying taxes on $5,900.

    Ironic indeed how whenever the mountain top protection ordinance was propsed that people would bring up the argument that “Thomas Jefferson did it”. Who knew that really this was a very specific argument, coming from one specific developer, who actually intended just that very thing but on a scale far more massive than Jefferson would have ever imagined.

  • Maybe in 200 years, Wood’s monstrosity will be a major tourist attraction!

    Clearly, developers in Albemarle are far too restricted in what they can do; it’s a good thing they now have Republican majority of supervisors to rectify this problem.

  • DW, please please please run for the BOS and get some other smart people to join you ! The county has suffered from a failure of consistent vision on what’s best for both the economy and environment, and someone who can articulate that clearly and simply to the public. Economic value and environmental value go hand in hand for the vast majority, just not for the greedy few.

  • Waldo, tell us how you really feel ;-)

    Ok, I hate mountain clearing as well. This includes Wintergreene and a host of homes that you can see from anywhere in western greene county.

    Though if we put a mountain viewshed protection proposal in, we should have it work both ways so that people down below the mountains don’t ruin the view from the mountains.

    Hike the Shenandoah NP sometime and see how ugly Ruckersville is from there. Its not just ugly when passing thru on Rt 29, but ugly from everywhere.

  • Urban ecologist can you explain how economic value and environmental value go hand in hand?
    The one house that really went over the top on mountain clearing and building was the house off rt 20 north (just down from ashcroft, which is just off 250/pantops east) anyway I think everyone has seen this house from afar.

  • What’s so shocking? Rich folk do what they want.

  • I don’t get it. Castles are built all over hills and mountain tops in Europe and it’s fantastic! Is the problem you’re jealous or is it that American Nouveaux Riches build disneyworld facade-style mansions?

  • If it were a prettier castle, we might complain less. I don’t know, having that lookout tower right next door is pretty darn awesome. Think he climbs up there and chucks down water balloons?

  • I love the fact that he left the fire tower. Community service at its best!

  • At first I was on board with you. But really…so what? It’s tacky and egregious but this is the US where so much is both of these. Wendell wisely chose a father who could leave a lot of land to him, and unlike his brother LF, decided that he needed to go from comfortable to stinkin’ a-hole rich. Let him enjoy his Citizen Kane Xanadu enclave; it’s beyond egg-throwing distance and maybe he needs that.

  • Wood can do what he likes, but should he do it at taxpayer expense?

    By all means,if he wants a megamansion on a mountain then there is no ordinance to stop him; however, Wood shouldn’t continue to get a tax break from the public when he’s shown such blatant disregard for the public interest and the environment. Besides, isn’t there a 6 million dollar revenue shortfall in the county? I bet the tax discount off of Woods various properties alone amount to that much (and probably a heck of alot more.)

  • Has anyone from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (or those folks who run Monticello- if I got it wrong) come out and stated that Wendell Wood’s mansion has corrupted the Monticello Viewshed?

    Additionally- while it’s a visual blight. It’s no different than the new Martha Jefferson Hospital being built on Pantops.

    From I-64 heading East, just before the Scottsville/PVCC exit you can clearly see both from a distance.

    Cville is starting to look a lot like Los Angeles in the 1940′s and/or 50′s.

  • taxation and representation

    Dirt Worshipper, If Wood started development on a parcel that was under land use taxation, the parcel has been taken out of land use taxation and assessed at the market rate. Also, he has to pay the back taxes on the parcel for 5 or 10 tax years (I forget which). He would stop receiving the tax break more or less the day he applied for the building permit.

    I would surmise that it is primarily envy behind the kvetching. I have never once looked at Carter Mountain and NOT seen man made structures.

  • The tax break results from the timber cutting, presumably. The property is therefore generating much more revenue in the local economy then its taking out in services. Its not about how “rich” or “poor” the landowner is. Its about revenue resulting from use of the land, as opposed to the land being a neutral or negative resource. In 50-100 years, that timber will have regrown. Of course, most of us will not be around to see that, but then it would be rather selfish of us to complain about it just because it offends our view-shed sensibilities in the present day, eh?

  • Why in the world would I be envious? I, too, am building a beautiful, brand-new house with a gorgeous view on top of a mountain. I’m just not so self-important that I think that people in the five counties visible from my house want to see it.

    It’s like that pro-heroin billboard I posited. If people were angry about that, would they be jealous that they didn’t have the idea of advertise heroin first? Would they think that kids are so dumb that they’d try heroin because a billboard said to (and that they’d be able to get access to the stuff)? Or would they just think that it’s generally a reprehensible thing to do?

  • Viewshed…new word for me. I like it.

  • taxation and representation

    I never said people would be envious of the fictitious, ridiculous billboard! Come on, now. You can’t apply my statement to your hypothetical. And you can’t say that building a house is like pushing heroin, unless there aren’t any valid arguments to make against the house.

    You aren’t the only one kvetching. Perhaps envy isn’t primarily YOUR motivation, but you make it sound like you’re doing the same thing Mr. Wood is doing, with the caveat that there is some imaginary line that you haven’t crossed that he has.

    If I were to posit my own hypothetical, I would point out that many people drive down the road thinking that anyone driving faster than them is crazy and anyone driving slower is an idiot. You seem to be doing something similar, patting yourself on the back for not creating an “eyesore” and tut-tutting Mr. Wood for acting reprehensibly and being a jackass. All he’s doing is building a house, however visible it may be.

  • Tax and Rep,
    On the issue of land use taxation there needs to be a correction. Mr. Wood will indeed have to pay the full tax rate on the house he is building, but depending on the size of his property can continue to receive a significant tax break on the remainder of the land not developed.
    Of course this begs the question can the county in its current financial situation continue to subsidize wealthy land owners like Mr. Wood to the tune of 19 million dollars in tax breaks and at the same time cut the school budget, reduce police and fire services and close the libraries in Crozet and Scottsville?

  • It’s terrible that the pristine Carter’s Mtn view is getting this. Oh, and the half dozen radio towers that provide services we all want.

    At least he’s not building it somewhere that actually is pristine.

    I wish he would use evergreen trees to cover it and reduce its visibility. However, quite a few of the comments here seem to be based on envy towards his wealth.

  • I certainly don’t envy him. It’s hard enough cleaning and maintaining a small house.

    Do I blame him for taking a massive taxbreak? I bet all of use would gladly take that kind of discount on our taxes if we could. Really I blame local and state officials for allowing a program meant for farming and conservation to become a subsidy for rich developers.

    Besides Wood is immune to public ridicule anyway. I actually think he pretty much feeds on it. For that, I pity him.

  • I never said people would be envious of the fictitious, ridiculous billboard! Come on, now.

    Lucky for you I didn’t say that you did.

    If I were to posit my own hypothetical, I would point out that many people drive down the road thinking that anyone driving faster than them is crazy and anyone driving slower is an idiot. You seem to be doing something similar, patting yourself on the back for not creating an “eyesore” and tut-tutting Mr. Wood for acting reprehensibly and being a jackass. All he’s doing is building a house, however visible it may be.

    There are certain societal norms. One of those is that people who go far, far out of their way to call attention to themselves have something wrong with them. You might include on this list people who wear outlandish costumes in public on days that are not Halloween and people who festoon their cars with hundreds of stickers, signs, and sculptures. I’d add to that list people who spend a small fortune building an enormous house and make sure that as many people see it as possible by putting it in a place where houses do not normally go, and chopping down as many trees as possible to make it perfectly clear how important that they are. (That includes whoever built the aforementioned monstrosity on Rocky Hollow Road, off 20N, that’s visible from basically anywhere on 29N, the lone house blotting an otherwise lovely view of the mountains.)

    Then there are people who dress like normal human beings, drive reasonable, non-distracting vehicles, and build normal human being houses that don’t serve as a huge “fuck you” to their neighbors and, indeed, anybody in a twenty-mile radius. If you can’t perceive “some imaginary line” that separates my regular house in the woods from this jackass’s monument to his own self-importance, then I really can’t help you.

    Now we all get to wait for the inevitable further news to come out about all of the tax loopholes that he’s exploited to build this beast. How much higher are my property taxes to finance this guy’s lavish lifestyle? I feel like a dope for going to years of trouble (and expense!) to make our house and our driveway as unobtrusive as possible. Apparently we’ve got a new social norm, and that includes not giving a damn about your neighbors. Noted.

  • build it and they will whine

    Wendell Wood’s self worth seems to come from the level of derision he receives from those he feels are inferior/envious of him (which looks to be just about everyone). He is in a very small club of area business man who have made their fortunes right here in the area and might be lauded for it in other areas. He also is combative, holds a grudge, and is probably rich because he does seem to have something to prove. All that said, I don’t hate this as much as others here.

    It is because of the context and site that was chosen. This was not a pristine mountain top that was heretofore untouched by man and his technology. Wood’s house is not as tall as the fire structure that already occupied and cluttered the visual landscape of that very ridge. The rest of the mountain was long ago sacrificed to line of sight deliver of TV, radio, and cellular communication signals to the people of this area. There is no way to avoid the fact that a least one mountain in this area had to suffer this fate as our techno-beacon peak. I’m glad that this monstrosity of a house was not built on a pristine peak, which it very well could have been. Wood needs to get some small credit for site selection.

    I will wait to see the final plantings and landscaping that will be done before completely bemoaning the appearance of this unnecessary and totally legal dwelling is completed. Perhaps materials and final colors will make the house blend more into it’s surroundings. There is no question that I value and applaud the care and effort Waldo has done to minimize the effect his house has on it’s environment. I think the white homes that are built above rt. 20 and visible from 29 are much worse than Wood’s house because of their jarring visual change to what was once pristine mountain view.

    If this was not the house of a man that is so universally disliked (mostly from his own doing) I don’t believe the reaction would have been as bad for everyone. I also think people are talking past what land use has really used for. Wood will pay 100% of the real estate for his castle and 2 acres around it. This will be on a value of millions of dollars. I wonder if this tax he will pay will be considered as we struggle to make up the hole in the budget that was caused by Biscuit Run coming off the tax rolls.

    I wish it hadn’t been built but considering it’s not yet finished, where it was built, and how much tax revenue it will generate forever- I think many here have over reached in their condemnation of it.

  • Really, is that what he’ll be taxed in February? I suppose we can test that in a few days.

    That’s odd, the last assessment which was for “Improvements under Const.” only listed his improvements as $540,000. Maybe that’s because construction isn’t finished yet and the assessment will go up to “millions of dollars” this year?

    Even if it does,it doesn’t change the fact that he was only paying taxes on $5,900 for the whole property for years when clearly he wasn’t farming or conserving anything, nor is there any sign yet that it will drop out of land use despite being cleared and a huge mansion dropped on it.

    After all, please tell me one 29 acre property you can buy in Albemarle for $5900.

  • There is no question that I value and applaud the care and effort Waldo has done to minimize the effect his house has on it’s environment.

    Please don’t. My point is that what I’m doing is totally normal, and just what reasonable people do. :)

    BTW, your screen name is suddenly extremely applicable here. ;)

  • taxation and representation

    re:”then I really can’t help you.”

    I don’t share your point of view or opinion, so I need “help”? Really?

    This seems to be an arrogant point of view. Is it possible that reasonable people can disagree on this issue honestly without one side needing to be assisted to see the other’s side? Of course it is. :)

    The fact is that I DO see your point of view and have read your opinions and I get completely what you’re saying. But I don’t SHARE your point of view and I come to a different conclusion. I’m going to assume that deep down you’re actually OK with that. :)

    One of your paragraphs reads as an ode to conformity. What reward do we receive for all dressing alike, driving similar cars and building similar houses (I’d love to be able to afford to build my own house, by the way)? Apparently the reward is to not get flamed on this blog.

    So he builds his house and he gets flamed. Noted.

    I think that you are ascribing a value to conformity that is only in your mind and not subjective reality. The line IS imaginary. It’s not real. Just because many people live their lives and construct their reality as if the line WAS real does not make it so. And just because he’s not conforming to YOUR standard, doesn’t mean he’s not conforming to some other (admittedly imaginary) standard. Yes, maybe his standard is the “reprehensible jackass” standard, but I think you see my point.

    The truth is that my opinion is purely academic. I’m only reacting to what I’ve read and the photos I’ve seen. I’ve not had occasion to actually lay eyes on the house yet. Once I do, it may well be that I will think, “what kind of reprehensible jackass would build such a monstrosity??!?”

    And If I ever have occasion to see your house, Waldo, the thought could cross my mind: “What a normal home. Obviously planned and built by a quite reasonable person! Kudos.”

  • I think you need to read about spite houses. They’re perfectly legal. In the broadest of terms, all one can say about them is that they fail to conform to the norm of housing. And yet intelligent people can agree that the people who build them are jackasses. They’re called “spite houses” for a reason. Seems to me that Wendell Wood is building himself a spite house, on some level.

  • Jeez Waldo seems to me you’re in the process of building a Spite Newsblog. You’re out of line here, and you really should just say “Well he just pisses me off”. And leave it at that rather than resorting to casuistry in rebutting those who say let him have his nouveau palace.

  • “Moses,” this isn’t some story that I ginned up. The Hook reported it first, and you can see in the opening of the story that Woods himself recognizes that people were going to be really unhappy about this:

    “Why would you want to write about some house I’m building?” That was developer Wendell Wood in a Hook cover story last February, when asked about the mansion he was building. [...] Indeed, Wood’s developments along Route 29 over the last 30 years have been an ongoing story that earned him plenty of economic kudos and conservation-minded critics, but as the size of his new house becomes apparent (even from miles away), one may recall his reluctance to talk about it.

    “It’s just,” he said with a smile, “that people hate me enough as it is.”

    Really, my position here isn’t particularly interesting or unusual. As I said right up front, what he’s doing here is perfectly legal, but it reveals him to be a jackass. And isn’t that precisely what you’re asking that I do?

  • Not really [What I'm asking you to do]. The distinction between showing the facts & letting the poor taste speak for itself and literally calling someone a jackass in print is important. Once you start a personal vendetta you’ve ceased to be a reliable news source. A smirk is a lot better trope than outright vitriol (and using ‘jackass’ is the latter).

    Also the issue of the house itself should be presented, if it needs to be addressed at all, apart from the background of the person.

  • How is calling someone a jackass a full-on vendetta? I call lots of people jackass all the time (mostly the drivers who think speeding behind me will make me speed too, and the drivers can’t seem to keep their car on their side of the yellow line). I wouldn’t say I have vendettas against them. Moses, do you have a vendetta going with everyone you’ve ever called a jackass?

    And I’m not sure that Waldo claims to be a “news source.” I’ve always understood this site to be a place for commentary on the news. If you use this site as your source for local news, maybe that’s the problem.

  • Quite frankly, I find nothing undesirable about Wood’s building that mansion on the top of that mountain. It’s not like others haven’t done so. Central VA is known for its stately mansion and I’m glad to see another one. He certainly has no interest in building something that isn’t considered beautiful. At least he isn’t digging for coal. I hope one day I’ll get a chance to tour it before he moves his personal items in.

  • A “full-on vendetta” would require more than one negative, personal attack. But it’s an ad hominem and daggonit it’s tacky and unbecoming. Better to put the facts out and let the commentary by others add the color.

    There’s a big difference between this usage here, by someone who is trying to build & maintain an ethos, and the off-handed epithet you and I shout out at those who don’t drive like we do. You do see this don’t you Cecil?

    From the masthead: “cvillenews.com News and meta-news about Charlottesville, VA.”

  • A “full-on vendetta” would require more than one negative, personal attack. But it’s an ad hominem and daggonit it’s tacky and unbecoming. Better to put the facts out and let the commentary by others add the color.

    You must be new here. :) I don’t run cvillenews.com to be a neutral arbiter of information. It’s a blog, not a balanced media outlet. I run cvillenews.com because I enjoy participating in this community, and I’m as willing and able to participate in the give-and-take here as anybody else.

    Here’s the thing: Some people are just assholes, and they should be called out on it. Collectively, in this country, we have a media that’s too concerned about balance to say what needs to be said. For instance, we have the entirety of science that agrees that evolution exists, but media coverage says “hey, maybe it’s real, maybe it’s not—nobody knows!” Bullshit. The proper thing to say is that there’s no question that evolution exists and that natural selection is almost certainly the primary mechanism driving it in recent (planetarily speaking) history. And when somebody stands up on some small prominence and says something like “evolution is wrong and we must not teach it to kids!” or “vaccines will give your kid autism!” or “global temperatures aren’t going up!”, rather than pointing out that these people are at best dangerously uninformed or at worst horrible human beings, the habit of media is to “balance” their coverage with this some say / others say approach. I have no interest in replicating that model here.

    I don’t know Wendell Wood. I’ve never met him. I don’t know much about him, at least any more than what I’ve read in the paper over the years. But based on his actions, I think he’s a jackass. Is that rude of me to say? Probably. But sometimes there are more important things than being dainty (like keeping Jim Camblos from being reelected).

    What you think rises to that level of importance and what I think rises to that level of importance are clearly different things, and that’s fine, because it’s my website and it’s America and we get to have those differences. If that offends you, you should stop reading cvillenews.com, because you’re not going to like it. Heck, you can even start your own site, and I’ll promote it for you on Charlottesville Blogs—an instant readership of thousands. Everybody wins.

  • Yep I’m new, so I guess the “News and meta-news” misled literal me. How about “Opinions about the news: mine and yours”? But really you’re missing the point here. And that point is not contingent upon (a) whether WW is or isn’t a jackass or (b) “It’s my blog party and I’ll cry if I want to”.

    The point(s) is that besides being in poor taste, I think your attack is (a) less effective for being against the person rather than making a more emphatic case against the practice, and (b) insolent and churlish with the result of compromising your ethos. And if you’re concerned about championing causes then don’t knock the pins out from under your own platform.

    Honestly it doesn’t offend me all that much, nor does the box on the hill. I like to play Devil’s advocate for the sheer fun of arguing the case. And I want YOUR blog to be an effective voice that counters the horse’s ass contingent that’s rampant in local affairs.

  • yeah, I’m just not convinced that Waldo is relying on this site to “build and maintain an ethos,” because I think anyone’s who’s paying attention locally has a wide range of data points regarding Waldo from which to assess his ethos. in other words, this is one data point. there are many, many others. one data point does not an ethos make.

    moreover, i’m in favor of more calling out of jackasses. you find it ineffective, perhaps, but that’s you. there are others who find it refreshing when people don’t play the polite-neutrality game. my favorite political persons are the ones who will simply say “that is stupid and you’re just wrong.”

    you wrote, “I like to play Devil’s advocate for the sheer fun of arguing the case.” honestly, that weakens your ethos, just for me personally, because you make it sound like you don’t have actual commitments from which you argue — that it’s about the fun, rather than position itself.

    it’s good that you backed off the term “vendetta” since it was inaccurate — now, how about ad hominem? an insult is not in and of itself ad hominem. it’s only ad hominem if the insult or personal attack is used in place of an argument. That’s not the case here; the insult is an aside.

  • Wow Cecil are you a strategist for the Tea Party? You certainly are on the same rhetorical wavelength.

    But you’re just a jackass anyway. Wow you’re right that felt good, I just don’t have any real evidence to back that up.

    I stick by ad hominem. There’s an imputation of motive that can’t be substantiated and an admission that what’s been done is in compliance with the law. And nothing else to substantiate anti-social intent or effect. So it boils down to “I don’t like it and he’s a jackass for that reason”:

    >>Woods isn’t just not taking those steps, but he appears to be actively doing anything that he can to make his site visible far and wide. If that’s the case, all he’s got to do is paint it a garish color, which no doubt is forthcoming. Building a house in this manner is a bit like renting a billboard to suggest to children that they try heroin—while perfectly legal, anybody who would do such a thing is a jackass.

  • okey dokely, Moses.

  • Cicil, Moses, thanks for the chuckle before I go out to shovel snow and have a heart attack.

  • but it’s a light, fluffy snow, cville! just use the shovel to shove it down the driveway.

  • There’s an imputation of motive that can’t be substantiated and an admission that what’s been done is in compliance with the law. And nothing else to substantiate anti-social intent or effect. So it boils down to “I don’t like it and he’s a jackass for that reason”:

    That’s absolutely true…provided that you ignore my repeated writings about anti-social intent and effect here.

  • Can’t just take a proper spanking can you? Gotta get a last word in. What a punk.

    *I don’t mean this remark. But I think you end up looking like a punk in the minds of others when you go around calling people jackass. But clearly you don’t want to hear this.

    But do point me to the writings where you make a clear case for this particular residence being a particularly anti-social product that warrants calling its owner a jackass, apart from an characteristics that attach to the owner himself.

    If you’ve really made a case I’ll acknowledge it gladly. I’m on the same side you are but don’t want shoddy representation.

  • But do point me to the writings where you make a clear case for this particular residence being a particularly anti-social product that warrants calling its owner a jackass, apart from an characteristics that attach to the owner himself.

    Ici et ici.

    Can’t just take a proper spanking can you? Gotta get a last word in. What a punk.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  • “Pot. Kettle. Black.”

    Wow you don’t miss an (obvious) thing do you? Jesus, man that was the point. Hence the immediate neutralizing.

    Waiting on the pointers to substantial argument so I can believe in WW’s true jackassdom. Otherwise hush.

  • Moses seems to feel that Waldo has not pointed to “substantial argument[s],” but that’s mere assertion on Moses’ part; he hasn’t produced an argument (substantial or not) of his own as to why the text Waldo pointed to does not constitute substantial argument. Should Moses not have to adhere to the argumentative standards he criticizes others for failing to achieve?

  • Just to follow up on a comment above:

    Wood will pay 100% of the real estate for his castle and 2 acres around it. This will be on a value of millions of dollars.

    Okay, drumroll please…

    2010 Total Assessment: $545,900

    Total Property Taxes: $4050.58

    Uh, so no, not really.

  • It’s nice that the rest of his acreage is pretty much untouched and is providing habitat for many life forms. Otherwise a case can be made that the rest would have to become income producing in order to pay the taxes on it.

  • Oh Cecil I thought we already established that you were a Tea Party jackass. Seriously though, your jackassdom depends upon whether you’re “CEE sil” or “SEH sil”, since it’s OK to arbitrarily award the jackass title based upon personal, arbitrary criteria, no? (Please hear the chuckle intended.)

    Fair enough:

    First off, let’s be clear: I think it’s bad form anytime a human being feels that they need more than a couple thousand square feet under roof for their personal benefit (and that’s maybe too much already). Also it’s bad form when a person builds a home in a remote location when they don’t actually live off the land, so when does a pile of sand become a heap? Waldo’s Walden may alsobe unconscionable to those committed to living as environmentally ethically as possible. Somewhere an urban bike rider is muttering “jackass” under his breath after reading about Waldo’s tidy, self-indulgent mountain enclave. (Please hear the chuckle intended.)

    But my beef is with hauling off and calling someone a jackass in a public forum so off-handedly. It’s insolent and uncalled for. In this case you’ve picked someone who’s used to slings and arrows but that doesn’t reduce the foul.

    Even allowing this as acceptable forensic speech, I don’t see compelling arguments in the original article above that warrant calling WW a jackass. And no one has yet provided them since. The man says he wants a big house and a view; welcome to Albemarle County.

    In the original piece:

    “He appears to be actively doing anything that he can to make his site visible far and wide”.

    This is surmise of intent. It doesn’t hold water as an argument.

    What WW does say is “I’m not trying to impress anyone. I love that land, and it’s been a childhood dream to build a house there,” Wood continues. “Freedom is important to me. If you want to do something in life, and you work hard and follow the rules, you have a right to do it.” (from : http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2010/01/25/breaking-ground-wood-builds-mammoth-cabin-on-the-hill/)

    “Building a house in this manner is a bit like renting a billboard to suggest to children that they try heroin—while perfectly legal, anybody who would do such a thing is a jackass.”

    This is like one of those risible bad examples provided in Rhetoric 101 courses. Weak analogy and begging the question all in one.

    In follow–up Waldo says:

    1. “I’m just not so self-important that I think that people in the five counties visible from my house want to see it.”

    2. “…people who spend a small fortune building an enormous house and make sure that as many people see it as possible by putting it in a place where houses do not normally go, and chopping down as many trees as possible to make it perfectly clear how important that they are….houses that don’t serve as a huge ‘fuck you’ to their neighbors and, indeed, anybody in a twenty-mile radius. If you can’t perceive ‘some imaginary line’ that separates my regular house in the woods from this jackass’s monument to his own self-importance, then I really can’t help you.”

    3. “My point is that what I’m doing is totally normal, and just what reasonable people do.”

    4. “Some people are just assholes, and they should be called out on it.”

    5. “I don’t know Wendell Wood. I’ve never met him. I don’t know much about him, at least any more than what I’ve read in the paper over the years. But based on his actions, I think he’s a jackass. Is that rude of me to say?”

    1. Waldo is able to able to perceive WW’s inner motivations? Not sound argument.

    2. WW is saying “fuck you” to neighbors because he wants a large house with a view. Again, where’s the insight into his motivations? Others made apt comparison to Monticello and the Martha Jefferson. Call it horizon blight but it’s out there already, and doesn’t constitute a ” huge ‘fuck you’ to their neighbors”.

    3. Waldo is able to define what’s reasonable and use himself as the definition in one stroke. Again, risible is the most succinct word.

    4. Really? If we had Stazi you could denounce them too. Or in a rougher time/place you might have the object of your ridicule return the physical analogue to your verbal attack. Dental insurance all paid up?

    5. Yep, it’s damned rude. And Waldo ought to retract it and observe a higher standard of discourse….and keep fighting the good fight. Q.E.D

  • “*I don’t mean this remark.”
    Moses, say what you mean, and mean what you say.

    “I like to play Devil’s advocate for the sheer fun of arguing the case.”
    Please, don’t bother. There’s no need.

  • If Waldo thinks somebody is a jackass for building a 15k s.f. house, that’s his opinion. If I think somebody’s a fool for building a house less than 1k s.f., I can say so. If Cecil thinks somebody is an idiot for building an Olympic-sized pool, tennis courts and stables with a house of 1500 s.f. He can also say it. They are clearly opinions and not grounds for legal actions. It is common usage and I really don’t understand why Moses is having a baby (oops) over it.

  • “I like to play Devil’s advocate for the sheer fun of arguing the case.”

    It’s kind of unfortunate for Moses that he threw that out there so early in his tenure, because it kind of puts everything he says now in this light of “I’ve got no real commitment here, I’m just in it for the adrenaline.” One of the things I like about this site is that most of the regulars here, including the ones I disagree with most, seem believably rooted in a set of commitments. You don’t see people switching it up constantly, contradicting themselves, being perverse for the fun of it.

    And yes, only an idiot would add a pool, tennis courts, and stables to a 1500 sq. ft. property!

  • Ha! You know I meant a property with a 1500 s.f. house on it. It must be the snow, which was so much easier to clean this time around, Cecil.

  • “It’s kind of unfortunate for Moses that he threw that out there so early in his tenure…”

    Really? How’s that? What’s with this perpetual popularity contest schtick that’s so important to you?

  • For the record, i think it’s actually quite valuable sometimes to be able to play devil’s advocate. It allows you to “try on” opinions and honestly see things from someone else’s viewpoint. When used that way, I think it can add a lot to discussions.

    For myself, getting to the truth of the matter in a discussion is far more important than my own personal opinion. I also don’t want someone to accept something that I say as “true” merely because I said it (or visa versa).

    I also think that’s very different from being insincere, flaming people, or just trying to argue. I’m also not defending Moses here, and do think Waldo has the right to call whomever he wants a “jackass”, but really I’ve less interest in the “what” than I do in the “why” of it, which I think was summed up by this:

    In the meantime, Wood appears to be having some fun with the public reaction. One of the workers recently told Wood that some hikers had asked what was being built on the mountain, and asked Wood what they should say to the curious.

    Tell them I’m building a Wal-Mart up there,” said Wood.

    As if that needs any explaination, Wood has shown time and time again that the concept of “common good” is entirely alien to him (or perhaps hostile to it). There’s a huge difference between what one can do legally and what one should do.

  • I so want to leave this alone but I ain’t until the job’s done.

    Cecil says:
    “ ‘I like to play Devil’s advocate for the sheer fun of arguing the case.’

    It’s kind of unfortunate for Moses that he threw that out there so early in his tenure, because it kind of puts everything he says now in this light of ‘I’ve got no real commitment here, I’m just in it for the adrenaline. ‘ ”

    No it doesn’t, and don’t pull a “Waldo” and impute motives that you aren’t privy to. Cecil if you read with a bit of acuity you’ll see that playing the other side isn’t the sole reason for belaboring this point, which is, to repeat: I think that calling people jackasses is below the level of dignity that constructive discussion of disagreements requires. Is he free to do it? Yep. Just like WW’s home-building…so…I don’t know Waldo. I’ve never met him. I don’t know much about him, at least any more than what I’ve read in the paper over the years. But based on his actions, I think he’s a jackass.

    Just my opinion Cville, don’t have a shit-fit about it.

  • Moses retorts, “No it doesn’t.”

    Wow. Do you want me to say “yes it does!” and we can go back and forth?

    You started this conversation all concerned about ethos, namely, Waldo’s. You’re asserting that his use of the insult “jackass” undermines his ethos. But you disallow that your statement that you “like to play Devil’s advocate for the sheer fun of arguing the case” could reflect on your ethos in a negative manner. You suggest that if I had any acuity I’d see that you have profound and unwavering ethical commitments for belaboring this point, but Moses, we don’t have much to go on from you. This is your first appearance on the site, as far as I can tell. Naturally, we’re going to take everything you say into account when we assess your credibility. So I wouldn’t say I’m imputing a motive so much as questioning a motive — do you understand the difference?

    And if we’re describing online shit-fittery, I usually point to the

  • …point to the 750 word post (single post, not the totality of someone’s contribution to a thread) complete with numbered rebuttal points, rather than to something relatively mild like Cville Eye’s post. Numbered rebuttal points are, for me, the online equivalent of spittle forming in the corners of one’s mouth.

  • Cecil here’s another little rhetoric lesson for you (yeah it sounds pompous, sorry, but it appears needed):

    The genetic fallacy is when you claim that an argument is false based upon the motivation or other element of its genesis that doesn’t bear upon its validity. To save space read further here:

    http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/genetic/

    I’m not maintaining a blog and trying to have a regular presence/influence in the local scene (yeah this particular issue has resulted in much more presence than I anticpated, but you won’t hear so much from me once this one is put to rest). So my ethos isn’t important. Validity or lack thereof of the arguments are fair game though; take your best shot, but so far you don’t sound like the next Bill Buckley.

    In Waldo’s case I think he’s coming from the right place, and we probably line right up on most questions of land use, development, health care, etc. Certainly I agree with: house is too big, ostentatious, and blights the landscape.(If you missed the ironized nature of “Waldo is a jackass” above let me know, and I’ll remember to put in captions for the heuristically challenged.)

    But I don’t think calling people jackasses is how positive discourse is done. And I feel strongly about this, but, again, my feelings are not the test of the arguments made.

    Obviously I disagree with you and several others about whether name-calling is the way to go about political blogging. I think we have to leave it at that.

  • “But I don’t think calling people jackasses is how positive discourse is done.” What in the heck is a “positive discourse?”

  • Dear Lord, this is a complete waste of time. Unless the man sprouts donkey ears and starts braying, he will never ever literally be a jackass. So I get to have my opinion, you get to have your opinion, blah blah blah nobody cares. If you think I’m a jackass, then you should stop trying to talk to me.

    Isn’t there a McDonald’s menu somewhere that needs copyediting?

  • Waldo, are you trying to kill me?
    @Dirt Worshipper, “As if that needs any explaination, Wood has shown time and time again that the concept of “common good” is entirely alien to him (or perhaps hostile to it). ”
    How is this project interfering with the “common good?” It isn’t interfering with mine. I’m just as good today as I was yesterday and, whether is builds it or not, I’ll be just as good tomorrow. And, if I’m not, his house won’t have anything to do with it.

  • Enough of this bickering already. Just because Waldo and Wendell Wood can afford mcmansions high up on the mountain top, looking down on all the miserable little peasants living in their 3/4 bedroom prisons, is not enough reason for the extreme jealousy exhibited here on this thread.
    Congratulations Waldo and Wendell. Be sure and leave a light on at night so we don’t loose sight of you.

  • Ha! No McMansion for me. At 1,300 square feet, it’s not a McAnything. :) I wrote a blog entry a couple of weeks ago about the process of siting our house, explaining the two-year-long process of selecting a building site and designing a (tiny) house for that very spot: just three bedrooms big enough for a bed and a dresser apiece, a living room, a galley kitchen, and a bathroom and a half. Although, much like Wendell Wood, I only have this land because of family—my wife’s folks, who gave us the land shortly after we got married. Otherwise we’d have to live a county or two away, I expect.

  • I suppose WW is building his house inline withthe topography of his land, too. Multi-million dollar houses are not being built helter-skelter these days. You might want to locate your garden in the lower flood plain. Such areas tend to hold more moisture during dry spells.
    I loved your mother’s comment about your house. I really had to go back and take a closer look.
    You do know that your assessment will go up appreciably after it’s finished. Adding a greenhouse and other outbuildings will spur that move also.
    After your bout with illness, are you back 100%?

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