Author Archive for CItizen McCord

City Paid Cell Phone Bill for Former Member of Electoral Board

Charlottesville city police are investigating a report of city funds being used to pay for a cell phone used by former Electoral Board member Stephanie Commander more than three years after she left office, K. Burnell Evans reports in The Daily Progress.

The Electoral Board is a three member board that is charged with conducting elections in Charlottesville and certifying the results. Members are appointed by Charlottesville Circuit Court Judges based on nominations from the two political parties that received the most votes in the most recent gubernatorial election. The current Governor’s party has two representatives on the Board and the party receiving the next highest number of votes has one representative. Current members are Chairwoman Joan Schatzman and Vice Chair James Nix, both representing the Democratic Party, and Republican Rick Sincere.

Members are optionally given city-issued cell phones, and three years after she left the Board, Democrat Stephanie Commander was still using hers at a cost to the city of over $2500 since leaving office.

City Registrar staff brought this issue to the attention of City Manager Maurice Jones last March. On Friday, Board Chairwoman Joan Schatzman turned phone records over to city prosecutors. In addition to Ms. Commander, for the past five years the city has also paid for a cell phone for Pat Owen, the husband of City Registrar Sherri Iachetta. Ms. Iachetta reports that she has reimbursed the city for her husband’s phone every month since it was first issued to him.

Board members Nix and Sincere do not have city-issued phones.

Current Landmark Hotel Owner has a History of Unfinished Projects

John Dewberry, the developer who bought the half-finished Landmark Hotel in 2012, has a history of not completing projects in other towns, NBC-29 reports. Hotel Dewberry in Charleston, SC, was supposed to open in 2013 but remains unfinished. Similarly, Dewberry-owned projects in Atlanta and Richmond have not come to fruition.

The Landmark Hotel was originally projected to be a $30M, nine-story luxury hotel on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. At the 2008 groundbreaking, the boutique location was scheduled to be open in the summer of 2009. However, local developer Halsey Minor ran into a series of financial and legal troubles, and the eyesore of a building has remaining unfinished since January of 2009.  The building changed hands several times, but construction never resumed. In early 2014, the City Council deferred a vote to declare the site blighted and forced Dewberry to secure the building with higher fences and to perform a structural analysis of the skeletal structure.

Stabbing on University corner, suspect held

It was a busy day on the UVA Corner yesterday. Even as police were investigating a stabbing, yet another truck ran into the 14th St. bridge and tied up traffic.

Robert Sherwood Shrieves is in custody while his still-unnamed victim remains in the UVA Hospital.

Claire Ogilvie indicted for attacking Del. Toscano’s wife

Claire Ogilvie, who last February attacked Nancy Tramontin in her home, has been indicted by a grand jury on felony charges of breaking and entering while armed, abduction, and malicious wounding.

Ms. Tramontin and her husband, House Minority Leader David Toscano, befriended the defendant in 2010 when they all participated in the UVA Semester at Sea program and Ms. Ogilvie tutored their son. The friendship continued when Ms. Ogilvie later moved to Charlottesville. But by 2012, according to Ms. Tramontin, Ms. Ogilvie had developed an “unsettling” interest in the family and so they ended their friendship.

In February of 2014, Ms. Ogilvie entered the Toscano home and Ms. Tramontin “was struck by her female assailant in the head several times but never lost consciousness,” according to contemporary reports.

Ms. Ogilvie has remained in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail without bond since her arrest hours after the attack. Her next court date is set for September 17 in Charlottesville Circuit Court.

Planning Commission Votes Against Rezoning Fry’s Spring

By a vote of 3-1 on Tuesday, the Charlottesville Planning Commission recommended not downzoning portions of Fry’s Spring and adjoining neighborhoods from R-2 to R-1, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. A change in zoning would mean that no new duplexes or attached homes could be built in the affected areas.

The Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association brought the request to the Commission and representatives spoke forcefully about not wanting their neighborhood to become high-density, citing comparisons to all the new multi-story housing on JPA. However, opponents appeared to outnumber proponents (full disclosure: I own property in the zone that could still be impacted) and many people spoke of the need to expand affordable housing, or related personal stories of being able to afford their homes only because they also had rental space on the property. As the meeting went on, there were also intimations of racism, gentrification, anti-capitalism, and, being Charlottesville, calls to the spirit of Thomas Jefferson.

Good GoPro alternative, check this camera.

In the end, Commission Chairman Dan Rosensweig said that he could not find justification in the City Comprehensive Plan for this sort of change and a majority recommended to City Council that they not implement the change. City Council is expected to take up the question in September.

Sideblog