32 thoughts on “Danielson Sues Rolph Over Icepark”

  1. By JAKE MOONEY

    Daily Progress staff writer

    In the latest round of a battle that could affect the future face of Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, Developer Lee Danielson has demanded $4.6 million from former business partner Colin Rolph in a lawsuit charging that Rolph mismanaged their jointly owned Charlottesville Ice Park and their company, D&R Development.

    The suit, filed this week in Albemarle County Circuit Court, came on the heels of a development that could complicate Danielson’s bid to tear down four empty buildings on the mall: City Council permission to demolish the structures has expired, and anyone seeking to build there would have to start the approval process over from the beginning.

    The two developers split up their joint holdings last week. Danielson agreed after a private, court-supervised auction on April 9 to pay an undisclosed amount for the buildings at 101, 105, 107 and 111 E. Main St., and Rolph agreed in a separate deal before the auction to pay $3.1 million for the ice park, court records indicate.

    In his latest filing, technically known as a cross-bill, Danielson charges that Rolph wasted money, failed to take advantage of business opportunities and generally operated “in a manner inconsistent with accepted and reasonable business practices.”

    The two men’s feud over the financially troubled park’s future became public last August, when Danielson called it a money-loser and said it should be shut down.

    Rolph said the park was an asset to the community and vowed that it would remain open — a promise he renewed when he took sole ownership last week. He said Thursday that he had not seen Danielson’s filing, and declined to comment.

    Meanwhile, it was unclear whether Danielson and Rolph still planned to buy the buildings they bid on in last week’s auction. Under the rules of the auction, both men were required to place 5 percent deposits on each of their respective purchases by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

    Two days after the deadline, no one involved would say whether all the deposits had been paid.

    Gaylon Beights, the Albemarle developer appointed by a judge to supervise the sale, did not return calls and his spokeswoman said he would not discuss the matter. “I can only report that we will let the public know when the properties close,” the spokeswoman, Pam Fitzgerald, said. That, court records indicate, could happen within two months.

    Danielson and Rolph both declined to comment on the deposits, citing court orders. If either failed to pay a deposit on time, the auction rules stipulate, the other man would have the next chance at buying the property in question.

    In a statement released after he agreed to buy the four empty buildings, Danielson said he was confident city government would be “of great assistance” in his latest attempt to build a shopping, apartment and office complex in their place.

    City planning director Jim Tolbert said Thursday, though, that Danielson no longer has permission to knock down large parts of the buildings.

    The council voted in September 2000 to allow leveling of one of the buildings and parts of two others, but Tolbert said that then-partners Danielson and Rolph failed to apply for the proper demolition permits within the city’s prescribed one-year time limit.

    Though it was possible to get more time when the year expired, such an extension is not automatic, Tolbert said. “You can’t just walk in and say, ‘Gee, I haven’t gotten around to it,’” he said. “You have to show that there are some issues that caused you not to be able to do it.”

    Regardless, he said, neither man sought an extension.

    Without the City Council ruling, Danielson — or anyone else seeking to build on the site — would have to start over at the beginning of an arduous government approval process that took almost a year during Danielson’s and Rolph’s first attempt to have the buildings removed.

    After a series of rejections by the city’s Board of Architectural Review, which has design control over every part of the mall visible to the public, the developers appealed to the City Council. The appeal ended in the council’s now-moot vote for partial demolition — a decision that satisfied neither the developers nor preservationists, who say the boarded-up buildings are historic.

  2. Danielson sure is talented when it comes to getting people to hate him. It’s almost like he’s got some sort of a handbook on how to alienate entire communities over a ten-year period. Such skill!

  3. As denoted by the appearance of three messages despite the listing of five, cvillenews.com has taken to rating some messages as -1 so that they do not appear on the default setting. This contrasts starkly with the statement at the top of the messages: “The comments are owned by the poster. We aren’t responsible for their content.”

    It seems to this eager beaver that cvillenews may be in fact taking on responsibility for the content by evaluating and censoring the messages. For one take on this, Stratton Oakmont Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co., 23 Media L. Rep. (BNA) 1794 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., Nassau County, No. 31063/94, May 25, 1995), 1995 WL 323710. Understandably, this is a contested issue.

  4. I’m confused by your citing of Stratton v. Prodigy. From what I can tell, that case was about libel–Stratton Oakmonth sued prodigy over libelous statements posted on Prodigy’s “Money Talk” bulletin board. The court found that Prodigy could indeed be considered a publisher, not merely a distributor of content, and therefore could be held liable for the libel.

    The reason I’m confused is that, in a way, Stratton v. Prodigy would _support_ Waldo’s decision to rate some messages as -1 and so keep them from appearing on the board (if, indeed, that is Waldo is doing). The gist of the case seems to be that publishers (which cvillenews could be considered) can be held accountable for the content of the boards. In that case, the publisher would seem to have the right to withhold certain posts. I mean, the _New York Times_ is not obligated to print every letter to the editor sent to them, and they sure as hell don’t print the ones that are too stupid or foul-mouthed or inflammatory to be printed.

  5. The key is that the implied liability. The online provider of the forum is not automatically exposed to liability — that is presumably why Waldo has the message “The comments are owned by the poster. We aren’t responsible for their content.” posted at the top of the message boards. But, in Stratton, the court seems to be saying that where some editorial control is exercised, the forum provider will be seen as a speaker and potentially liable.

    That is, if Waldo does not take any steps to control the message board, it does not look like he can get into any trouble. But, if he does some cleaning (like the -1s), he can be possibly be responsible for what is left behind.

  6. Remembering how Charlottesville was prior to Danielson’s plan to revive it I am sure that every miserable day you spend on the mall you thank Danielson for all the misery he brought downtown. Perhaps one should look at results rather than throwing stones.

  7. I see–a board like this is not automatically considered a publisher until the board takes some action (withholding certain posts), then de facto they become a publisher and are open to liability. So even if they never wanted to be considered a publisher for legal purposes, they’ve gone and opened that door by flushing certain posts.

    But let’s say that this is the case–they’re flushing posts, and can now be considered liable for the content of the posts. You’re not suggesting that one can also now raise a censorship claim against them, are you? (Maybe you’re not at all–i saw the word “censor” in your original post, that’s why I’m wondering).

  8. Good point–people do love the mall. In fact for a lot of people, I imagine, the mall is the pride and joy of Charlottesville. Was the present mall possible without Danielson? (I don’t know the answer to that question–I’m relatively new here).

  9. Was the present mall possible without Danielson? (I don’t know the answer to that question–I’m relatively new here).

    The Mall was a great place before Danielson, too. I wouldn’t attribute its current success — however measured — to his recent involvement.

  10. OK, you wouln’t. But plenty of other people would, or would at least give him the credit he’s due.

    The bottom line is that, however nice it was, the mall was not economically successful until a few developers (e.g. Danielson, Rolph, Silverman and even Oliver Kuttner and Chuck Lewis and a few others) started sinking money in. Without these efforts and the subsequent 1990s mini-boom down there, Charlottesville’s mall could have ended up like a lot of the others that got built around the country in the 70s when it was trendy. That is, it could have ended up gone. Lots of other places found that their malls, as nice as they were, weren’t bringing in the dough. They got rid of them.

    You may not like Danielson, or even some of the buildings he’s put there (though it’s hard to argue against the movie theater), but you’ve got to give him credit for investing big money and sparking the recent economic good times in that area.

  11. I did use the word censor, but I didn’t mean to say anything about a censorship claim. In fact, I don’t know if such a claim exists — I doubt we have the right to post messages here. But, the act of censor, or editing if you like, is what I think in essence makes Waldo responsible for all of the content that remains after his sissors come through.

  12. Danielson, like other developers, invested in the Downtown Mall. But let’s not get carried away here! He’s one of several developers, and as is always the case his contributions haven’t been without pain.

    Many people seem to regret the 2nd Street mall crossing he begged, pleaded, and lobbied for, and though it does make it easy to provide valet parking for the Downtown Inn (which he is or at least was an investor it), it doesn’t seem to have provided any of the other benefits it was touted to create.

    So while it’s perfectly reasonable to credit him and his partners for their contributions, remember that they’re among several who also did and continue to do their part (though, at best, as slowly as humanly possible). But he didn’t create the Downtown Mall, and giving him credit for “reviving” it just doesn’t pass the giggle test.

  13. that sounds reasonable to me. thanks for starting an informative and interesting thread. I wonder what Waldo thinks?

  14. Look: The western end of the mall is crowded on most weekends and warm nights, is generally lively and has one of the few downtown attractions (the movie theater) that brings people from UVa and other parts of Central Virginia to the district.

    The eastern end is often deserted — so much so that the city is spending millions in federal and local money to bring it up to the level the other end has already reached.

    This is not a coincidence. Next time you’re at the movies or Christian’s or Bizou, imagine what that whole end would be like without the theater, the Ice Park and the Downtown Grille. Regardless of whether those places in particular are your cup of tea, it just seems hard to argue that they don’t contribute to a more active atmosphere.

    Then ask yourself: If those three places weren’t there, would the other high-profile, recently added spots nearby have followed? (The Mudhouse and Higher Grounds spring to mind, as well as the restaurants above that I mentioned.)

    PS — And as a somewhat recent transplant to town, I have to say I don’t see the big deal about the Second Street crossing, either way. It’s not exactly I-64 in terms of traffic, and it makes downtown in general much easier to navigate sometimes. That can’t be such a bad thing.

  15. I wonder what Waldo thinks?

    Though not a lawyer, I’ll advise Waldo (without his solicitation) NOT to respond to your query.

    What a shame it would be if Anonymous Cowards were to intimate legal challenges would be forthcoming if cvillenew.com’s default settings for AC’s kept them two mouse clicks away from reading their own trolling drivel.

  16. Tell you what, “Belle”: I’m going to repost this every time you get off on one of your little rants. You can put an end to it all by responding to my points in some substantive way. Or is that not your style?

    But my real question, which has remained unanswered over on that other thread, is this: How are you, “Belle” any less anonymous than me? You’re all about calling people cowards, but you’re posting under a pseudonym that can’t be traced to any real, identifiable person. If I register under the screen name “Anonymous,” does that make me less of a coward? I don’t think so, and I don’t think it makes you less of one that you’ve come up with a false identity to use in all your so very Ani DiFranco-style posts.

    Please, “Belle,” “BurntHombre” and all the rest of you: If you’re going to throw stones at people for posting anonymously, provide your real names, addresses and phone numbers as a resource. If you’re going to criticize people for being unaccountable, how ’bout some accountability from you?

    Or else shut up.

  17. Tell you what, “Belle”: I’m going to repost this every time you get off on one of your little rants.

    Well, welcome to your new part-time job. I hope you find it satisfying.

    I’m not sorry that I won’t often be able to see the fruits of your labor, because, for the most part, I keep my registered user’s threshold set to a higher value than your posts warrant.

    Before you devote too much time to you new, self-appointed avocation, I’ll suggest you do a quick Google search on “Anonymous Coward”. I think you’ll quickly realize that the term is of common usage in forums based in the “Slashdot” model — of which cvillenews.com is but one. Perhaps this revelation and a bit of quick, subsequent investigation will save you from further embarrassing yourself with rabid defenses of a term you so clearly currently misunderstand.

    Buh-Bye . . .

  18. “But my real question, which has remained unanswered over on that other thread, is this: How are you, “Belle” any less anonymous than me?”

    I _have_ responded to this question on other threads. There’s a continuum of user identity–on one end, there’s Waldo, Lloyd Snook, and Harry Landers, who post under their real, full names. On the opposite end, there are people who post anonymously. In the middle, there are Belle, BurntHombre, me, etc., who post under a screen name.

    To put it bluntly, I am less of a coward than most anonymous users because I am accountable for the totality of my posts. There’s an identifiable record of my positions on various issues; anyone who wants to can use my previous posts against me, to point out inconsistencies in my logic, dredge up past spelling errors, etc. If I slip up and call someone an idiot in one post, you can bet someone will bring that up and throw it inmy face if in a later post I criticize someone for ad hominen attack. I am brave enough to make myself vulnerable, to make myself accountable for my past statements.

    Someone who posts anonymously escapes such scrutiny–we have no idea who you are from post to post. We can’t have a conversation with you, because once you finish a particular post you are then, for all practical purposes, gone–if you come back and post some more, we don’t know if that’s “you” or some other anonymous. You can throw your stones (or make your arguments) under complete cover of darkness, whereas there is some light shining upon us.

    I am more of a coward than Waldo, Snook, and Landers, though, because I’m not going to give you my real name or address.

    In short–real names provide total accountability. Screen names provide some accountability. You’re providing none.

  19. God damn. You internet people are such dorks.

    It’s funny — *I* don’t feel embarassed at all.

    And you still haven’t addressed the issue. Sigh.

  20. Cecil, you seem like a nice person, and a smart one. Which, I’m sure you’ll notice, goes very much to the argument you’ve made about continuous identity. Thank you for being the one person to address what I thought [ahem] was a pretty good point.

    I think it is safe to say you will see a rise in username registration and usage in the next few days. Just a prediction …

  21. Before you go handing out awards for civic leadership to Lee Danielson, consider:

    1. The movie theater, Regal Cinema, has filed for protection under bankruptcy laws.

    2. Danielson says the Ice Park is a financial loser and should be shut down. He’s suing his former partner, Colin Rolph, who vows to keep the facility open because of its value as a community resource. The contractors who originally built it had to sue the developers to get paid for their work.

    3. The Downtown Grille was the focus of a squabble among investors in its first year of operations, that resulted in the name of the restaurant being changed.

    Sorry, but it looks to me like Mr. Danielson is a bully. If you’re going to point out the value of early investors in the west end of the mall, how about the City of Charlottesville, who put (I think, but am open to correction) $10,000,000 into the development of the Omni, the anchor for that end of the mall.

    And, yes, the City’s doing more for the east end, too. The Amphitheater’s a good draw. New retail spaces are being created next to the post office. The Discovery Museum is in space provided by the City. Plans are in the works for a transit center.

    There are plenty of developers, for-profit businesses and non-profit groups that have taken risks on the downtown mall area and have done so in a way that makes them welcome members of the community. Danielson has been like a bull in a china shop.

  22. Honestly, I don’t think having anonymous posters on this board is a big problem. Many of the anonymous posters make informative and substantial comments. A few of them make inflammatory, witless posts. Some of the named (usernamed?) posters do that too, but when we do it, it follows us around forever after. Posting under my username makes me think twice about what I say and how I say it–I’m often tempted to be much more inflammatory than I think I have been, but I usually resist because I know that I’ll damage “Cecil’s” credibility (such as it is).

    As I said, many anonymous posters are contributing something substantial to these threads. It’s just the few who don’t seem to want to discuss an issue–they’d rather challenge (or just flame) a personality. But that’s the price of having an open board, and I don’t want to see a username-only board.

    But I do believe there are different levels of accountability between posting anonymously and under a username. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in posting anonymously–just in posting stupid things anonymously OR under a name.

  23. You’re wrong — this is a well-established system that is legally quite safe. Your messages were not deleted, they were moderated down because they were offensive, inflammatory, and entirely-offtopic. (For the record, you wrote “I heard that Rolph financed that band Cumtowel.”)

    But that doesn’t mean that they’re invisible — anybody can change their settings to -1 and read them. Anybody with an account can set their threshold to -1 and view them by default, as a matter of fact. (Which is how I have my settings.) Nothing has been erased, and cvillenews.com retains common carrier status.

    You are, BTW, a huge pain in the ass, and I wish you’d either go away or start contributing something useful to the site. But that’s neither here nor there.

  24. I’m often tempted to be much more inflammatory than I think I have been, but I usually resist because I know that I’ll damage “Cecil’s” credibility (such as it is).

    I know what you mean, man. Like just today I was like, “Damn, I’ve got some important shit to say, but what will people think of ‘JizzMasterZero’ when it’s all over.”

    It’s hard being so accountable sometimes. At least I’m not an — as those “in the know” say — Anonymous Coward.

  25. You are, BTW, a huge pain in the ass, and I wish you’d either go away or start contributing something useful to the site. But that’s neither here nor there.

    Waldo,

    I, for one, thought the original, anonymous and cowardly poster (who wasn’t me) raised some interesting points in this particular thread. No offense, but I’ve seen a lot of libel take place on this site, from anonymous posters, named posters and you yourself.

    It is both here and there, then, whether you’ve given thought to the legal footing you’re on in operating the whole thing. It seems that you have, and that’s cool, but there’s no harm in debating the legal ramifications of the whole thing.

  26. I think people would say “wow–that was some important shit. No way could it have been jizzmasterzero, because he’s a complete idiot. Someone must have been logged in under his screen name.”

  27. It is both here and there, then, whether you’ve given thought to the legal footing you’re on in operating the whole thing. It seems that you have, and that’s cool, but there’s no harm in debating the legal ramifications of the whole thing.

    It’s not that to which I was referring — meta-discussion is A-OK by me. It’s postings like the ones that were moderated down to -1 that are a pain in the ass.

    Because I see the IP of everybody who posts to the site, I can tell most ACs apart, and get a feeling for who’s who. So all the anonymous folks might blend together for you, but to me they all have individual identities.

  28. Because I see the IP of everybody who posts to the site, I can tell most ACs apart, and get a feeling for who’s who. So all the anonymous folks might blend together for you, but to me they all have individual identities.

    I hope you haven’t discovered the secret identity of JizzMasterZero!

    PS — “anonymous folks”: is that some kind of Southern horse country version of hip internet jargon, or is it just plain English?

  29. “anonymous folks”: is that some kind of Southern horse country version of hip internet jargon, or is it just plain English?

    Neither; I’m just a dork. :)

  30. Sounds like a sour grapes person who hasn’t spent time discussing anything with Danielson. From what I can see Danielson isn’t blowing his own horn. Things are good downtown and they weren’t so good before he arrived

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