Council Asks UVa to Halt Garage Project

Charlottesville City Council has asked the University of Virginia to cease the development of the Ivy Road parking garage until a meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council on Thursday. The garage is slated for construction beginning in July, and the plans were just announced in March, leaving opponents scrambling to mount protests. Council’s demand puts both them and UVa in an awkward position: if UVa backs down, they look weak, but if they don’t, they disrespect the city. (For more details on that dynamic, see John Borgmeyer’s story from last week’s C-Ville.) Eric Swensen has the story about these latest developments in today’s Progress.

30 Responses to “Council Asks UVa to Halt Garage Project”


  • “…the plans were just announced in March”

    This seems to be a recurring assertion but it was noted in a prevous Progress article:

    “While accepting some blame for the communication breakdown, Sandridge said during the meeting and in his letter to Caravati that city officials had known about plans to put parking on the Ivy Road site since February 2001. He added that UVa had begun attempting to set up a meeting about the garage with the Lewis Mountain Neighborhood Association in October.”

    So maybe the precise plans were not out there but surely someone at the city knew this was coming for at least a year. Like them or not, UVa doesn’t hide their plans. Just take a look at the Office of the Architect’s Master Plan

  • Now that voters are upset the city council will only LOOK concerned. Nothing will happen to stop the building of this structure. There may be feel good meetings for the neighborhood but that will be it.

    UVA is not disrepecting the city any more than the city disrepects the county when the city won’t build the parkway. Agents of power do what is necessary. The University will build the structure, the city will act concerned and the citizens will take the shaft. And the future marches on.

  • I am surprised that the City Council is doing this. Based on previous rulings, events, etc., UVa has made it clear that they do what they want. Their best bet is to ask the General Assembly to require universities (and their tax-exempt foundations) to conform to localities and zoning laws. I happened to catch Maurice Cox’ phone call to Governor Warner on “With Good Reason” on Roanoke/NPR this week. I think that’s the next step. But, I would be shocked if UVa suddenly slapped their heads and said, “Forget about the money we’ve spent on this already and the plans to build it in time for the new arena. We can’t hurt our neighbors.” They don’t really care. (And again, I will reiterate: those UVa faculty who live in the Lewis Mountain area who are shocked, shocked! that UVa could unilaterally do stuff against zoning must be the biggest fools who ever worked at UVa. Ask any classified staff if UVa can do whatever it wants to do. They will tell you — hell, yes!)

  • I have to wonder what’s wrong with this city that any development, no matter what it is, is met with protests like someone’s trying to relocate the Yucca Mtn. nuclear waste facility here. Is there any conceivable building, road, or other development that the chattering classes won’t see as an environmental Armageddon?

    What really steams me here is that you have a bunch of people who knowingly moved into a neighborhood nestled in between the busiest road and the biggest school in the region and the Main Street and Barracks Road business districts, but they’re whining because someone wants to ruin their pristine neighborhood with a garage? If they don’t like it, they should move somewhere more than a block from the grounds. Where do they think people who work in the area but aren’t wealthy enough to live right next to the school are supposed to park? And how many Lewis Mountain residents would be willing to give up their private parking, garage their cars a few miles away, and depend solely on public transportation?

    It’s not just NIMBY, it’s “Not In My Back Yard *or* in the next lot over that I don’t even own, unless of course it’s for my own selfish benefit.” What a bunch of hypocrites.

    I say hooray for the garage, and anyone who doesn’t like it can move someplace less busy.

    – Bruce

  • Hey,

    Just so we all are on the same page. The current UVa master plan was posted in April of 2002, late April, like the 17th.

    If you want to see the old master plan you can download it at Stop TheGarage.com. – It is a 700 Kb pdf file.

  • Here’s what’s interesting to me: the Lewis Mountain People (hereafter LMP) do not seem to be doing a very good job–yet?–of selling this issue to the greater c’ville public as an issue that we all should care about. I’m not saying that we SHOULD all care about the issue (in fact, I’m just as happy to see the garage go up). But it seems to me that your basic strategy in these kinds of matters is to try to convince the greater public that we ALL have a stake in the issue–like with the snail darter or the spotted owl, the approach is to say that ultimately we will all suffer if we let these species become extinct.

    From what I’ve seen in the newspapers and on the signs in LM neighborhood yards, the LMP haven’t take that approach–it sounds much more self-centered, instead. “we don’t want more cars driving down our narrow streets to avoid traffic at University/Emmett.” so why should anyone BUT the LMP care?

    am I wrong about their approach? if not, are they just not struggle-savvy enough to manage their message a little more carefully?

  • The Lewis Mountain people don’t care about the others in the city. The article against the parking garage suggests that the University build it down in Fontaine Avenue area.

    Well, I live in the city myself and I already have to spend more time getting to U-Hall and waiting for the UTS bus to get me to the University to work. I don’t want to have to take another 15 minutes to get to the parking garage down Fontaine (like that won’t increase traffic!!) and get there earlier for the bus system to allegedly get me there.

    My favorite LIE in this article. “That means a growing number of students and employees will be driving into the heart of the university every day and parking their cars nearby for convenient mid-day trips, rather than parking in satellite locations and using the city and university buses to get to work and class.” Elizabeth Waters, Daily Progress, May 12, 2002.

    Ms. Waters, we’re already there. Part of the garage is going to be for those of us who already park at U-Hall. As for convenient day trips, this is spoken by someone who must have a very flexible schedule at UVa or doesn’t work there at all. For me to leave the University mid-day for these “mid-day trips”, I’d have to allocate more than my hour lunch break; I’d probably have to use at least an hour of annual leave. The “new” traffic they are referring to is already there. From what I’ve read, there are two stages for the garage. The first is to provide parking for students and employees who are at U-Hall. Those parking spaces will be gone when the construction begins.

    As for traffic coming at U-Hall, yes, it’s a pain in the butt at U-Hall from 5 until about 6 o’clock. (Unless it’s a game night.) But that’s it! (I’m talking about the immediate traffic that goes from U-Hall into Ivy Road, Alderman Road, etc. Certainly not Route 29…that’s another discussion but you will will have traffic there from people coming out Scott Stadium, etc.)

    There’s a movement to fill in density areas rather than develop more sprawling areas for traffic. I’m sure that the University probably could have communicated this better, the City could have picked up the ball, etc. but I really dislike the impression that I’m getting.

    The impression I’m getting is that these people on LW Road (some of whom work as higher ranking people at UVa) feel that they should be freed of the shackles of classified staff/students parking near them. Let the masses park in Fontaine or some other place and bus them in to do the necessary work at UVa. Very snobbish to say the least.

    Signed a person who lost a kidney riding the UTS bus with no shocks and part of her hearing due to bad music from the driver……

  • There’s a movement to fill in density areas rather than develop more sprawling areas for traffic. I’m sure that the University probably could have communicated this better, the City could have picked up the ball, etc. but I really dislike the impression that I’m getting.

    You make a good point there, one that hadn’t occurred to me as regards this particular case. Given the choice between building up vs. building out, I must admit that building up is my personal preference.

  • We’ve really got two separate issues here. The first issue is the question of how appropriate that this location is for the garage. I’m not even certain of where it is that this garage is going (I’ve heard the streets named, but I can’t picture what it backs up to), so I’m not really in a position to say much on that topic. The second issue is that of city/UVa relations, and that’s the real issue here. The Lewis Mountain Neighborhood Association would be wise to play up this side of things a little more strongly if they want to have any hope of ceasing construction of the garage.

    This debate is reminiscent of fights between couples over trivial issues (think of the WASPy couple in “Best in Show”), expressing their opinions by projecting on housepets and never actually discussing the real problem: how much they hate one another, their mothers, their lives, etc. Let’s hope that we can transcend that and start discussing the bigger problem: the three-party agreement and city/UVa/county relations.

  • The garage is going to be built in what is now a patch of trees between the Cavalier Inn and the strip of buildings where Cary’s Camera is located.

    The point that I’m afraid is being missed in the squabble over the garage is that, for the time being at least, this is not going to house new cars (not in terms of late-model cars, but in terms of new traffic, I just couldn’t think of a better word there). The garage is being built to handle the *displaced* cars that won’t have a home when they start to build the arena in the parking lot where all these cars get parked now.

  • You’re right, Waldo, that there are two issues here. I’m the one who wrote above (signed lost a kidney on the UTS bus system). I agree with the PROCESS of how this was decided and I think that Maurice Cox’s question to Governor Warner indicates that the city is going to try to ask for some guidelines/laws to make universities and their foundations comply with city and zoning ordinances. But that’s not going to affect this situation (and Mr. Cox seemed to indicate this as well as in his question; perhaps he didn’t mean to sound that negative).

    From the Inside UVa, here are the parameters of the new parking garage (which is scheduled to begin in June): The five-story garage, first introduced at the June 2001 BOV meeting, will be built along the CSX railroad tracks on a wooded site now used to store mulch. There will be entrances and exits on both Emmet Street and Ivy Road. At the recommendation of traffic consultants, new traffic lights at these two sites will be synchronized with the lights at the Emmet and Ivy intersection to help traffic flow.

    http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2002/10/parking_garage.html

    That said, what is wrong is building a garage near an existing parking area to replace the spaces lost to parking? It’s a matter of putting more spaces in a denser place rather than creating another big paved lot and tear down some more trees. It would divert traffic into someone’s else neighborhood and divert more buses along Jefferson Avenue (which is a dinky street for buses and side parking, frankly). You know, it might even look better than how many acres of paved asphalt.

    All of us who live in Charlottesville have a special traffic cross to bear, like it or not. There’s those who live on Park Street, Locust Avenue, those who live UVa, downtown, Ridge Street, etc. Every morning I have a bunch of yahoos speeding up my road on their short-cut way to Martha Jefferson Hospital or physician’s offices. There’s traffic on the East High Street till 6-6:30. I’ll be selfish and say that I don’t want to drive to Fontaine when I can go down Preston and get to U-Hall. I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

    LG

    PS I would be interested to see how traffic is on Lewis Mountain Road now that the students are gone. I can’t believe that all of the traffic is commuters. But I could be wrong.

  • Here’s a link to the March 12, 2002 Inside UVa which features a map of the parking garage. It is hard to read so I can’t make any comments about how it looks. It does seem to be similar to the garage behind the Nursing School and the one near Mem Gym.

    http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/03_12_2002/parking_facility.html

    LG

  • Thucidides wrote about the conquest of Sparta by Athens: “The strong do what they will, while the weak suffer what they must”.

    The strength of UVa with their $BN endowment and state immunity just trounces Charlottesville’s AAA Bond rating, and striving activist community.

    UVa is supposed to be a partner in the Development of this community, but they have not acted like a partner in this process. They “informed” Council of one plan (while ownership rested with UVa’s funding arm that required City/County cooperation), then they acted on another plan (once they’d shuffled the paperwork and gotten the project exempt from city approval).

    Let’s call a spade a spade and call UVa a Bully. If C’ville doesn’t want to be bulled, strength will have to be faced with strength. If the University will not be a partner, the courts may end up being our only recourse. Until then, the Strong will do as they will and the weak will suffer as they must.

  • “Signed a person who lost a kidney riding the UTS bus with no shocks and part of her hearing due to bad music from the driver……”

    Thanks for the mean-spirited, mostly irrelevant pot shot at those few civil servants that can still consider their occupation worthwhile and even noble.

    Sure, people have problems with University Transit. It’s not perfect, but considering rush-hour traffic and our extremely low operating budget (do you realize how cheap your rides are?), I’d say they do a pretty good job of getting you where you’re going in a safe, timely, and courteous manner.

    The vast majority of the drivers and employees are perfectly good-hearted folks who are just trying to work their way through school. (Did you have to do that? If so, I’m surprised that you’d so wantonly criticize those of us that have to.) It’s a stressful job, and I can only imagine that dealing with people like you must be quite demoralizing.

    I ride UTS to and from work every day and I’ve got no complaints. They have a lot to deal with and they do it well, and if you just smile and treat them like a human being rather than an inanimate object worthy of your contempt, they’re wonderful people, highly engaging, and endlessly accomodating.

    At least UTS is self-sufficient and not wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on ineffectual service like certain other local transit organizations. I’ll ride with them any day of the week.

    So give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back– you’ve just hurt the feelings of a hundred people that help you out every day.

  • Whether or not the City has any success depends upon the public response to UVA’s actions. To date, over 1000 residents of Charlottesville/Albemarle have signed a petition asking UVA’s Board of Visitors to take another look at their decision to build this garage, and to work with the entire community (not just the Lewis Mountain neighborhood) to make wise land use choices. Yes, those who question the garage have an uphill battle, but the outcome is not foretold.

  • Cox’s idea is a good one. UVA has made it clear that it will use its exemption from the zoning ordinance to promote what it perceives as its short term best interests. What UVA fails to grasp is that it is not subject to the zoning laws because it is part of the government, and as such is entrusted with the stewardship of the public interest.

  • Don’t fall for UVA’s well-oiled public relations machine: the garage was added to the master plan only last month. For years the master plan had a residential college slated for the garage site, and community residents were repeatedly told that the University was committed to creating a pedestrian-friendly Grounds, one where students would not drive everywhere. This garage was a shock, due to its massive size (at 1200 vehicles, it has thrice the capacity of the garage under the UVA bookstore) and nonsensical location– near one of the most congested intersections in C’ville. In several meetings with community members, UVA has been unable to articulate why it changed the master plan, and chose to devote prime real estate to parking, instead of student housing or academic buildings.

  • It’s hard to convey the size and likely visual impact of the proposed garage, but let me try. The garage will be three times the size of the garage next to Memorial Gym. It will be 600 feet long, the length of two football fields, and 120 feet wide. All five levels will be above ground– the ground at the site is very wet, so none of the garage will be underground. Plans call for the structure to be made of concrete, with a small amount of brick facing. The result: a huge, ugly, depressing building, two blocks from the Rotunda. Both UVA and the C’ville/Albemarle community deserve better. Although the University’s architect claimed in the Daily Progress that the garage would be hidden by trees, he ignored two facts: (1) the trees in question are deciduous, not evergreen and (2) many of the trees will be cut down during construction.

  • Yes, UVA bullies its neighbors because it can get away with it. But the sad fact is that the garage is probably going to bad for UVA as well as the community. By opting to use close-in land for a garage instead of dorms or classroom space, UVA misses a great chance to get their students out of their cars.

  • UVA is making contradictory claims. On the one hand, it claims the garage will house the cars “displaced” by the arena construction. But that’s not the story they’re telling state regulators whose approval they need. For purposes of the traffic study submitted to VDOT, UVA claims that 900 of the 1200 spaces will be used for student storage parking. But there is no way that 900 of the 1200 or so parking places that will be lost to arena construction are now used for student storage. The community should ask UVA tough questions, and not allow them to get away with saying whatever suits their purposes.

  • Are the bus drivers responsible for the shock absorbers? Isn’t that the University’s responsibilities? I don’t think the writer was blaming the drivers for the bad rides b/c of old buses (hell, I saw one today on the road today that was old back in 1976). Maybe he/she was wrong about the music but some of those buses have terrible shocks, brakes or something that causes herky-jerky movement. Again, that’s not the drivers’ fault but it is something the University could (but won’t) improve on.

    Just a thought.

  • Building up is a great idea, but why put a huge garage in the midst of a populated area? Why not have infill development that will reduce the need of students, faculty and staff to drive? The Lewis Mountain neighborhood has said again and again that the Ivy/Emmet parcel will and should be developed. The question is what sort of development would be best for the University and the community.

  • you’d be surprised about how much is student storage. now that hospital employees are for the most part parking at the stadium and facilities management folks are parking in west uhall, the vast majority of the big uhall lot is student storage. check out the difference between first and second semester– the lot’s a lot more full second semester, and it’s because of first-year students.

    uva shouldn’t make decrees about who can and can’t bring cars. they should just simply sell whatever student permits they have on a first come, first serve basis, and if you don’t get a permit, either you don’t bring your car or you find some other way to deal with it– make it the kids problem, not uva’s. (and no, they shouldn’t build the garage either.)

  • okay, maybe people think uva is being misleading. the way to confront this isn’t to misleading in the opposite direction. “two blocks from the rotunda” is in fact over half a mile away from the rotunda. the reason it’s 600 feet long is so it can be narrow and thereby relatively unobtrusive from emmet street, and it’s set quite significantly back from ivy.

    i’m with you, buddy, but fight the rational, not reactional, fight.

  • No question about it– the Lewis Mountain neighborhood is not (yet) “struggle savvy.” But we do believe that the garage issue is of interest to the whole community, not just us. First, anyone who drives on Routes 29 or 250 should object to more congestion at the intersection of Ivy and Emmet. Second, anyone who loves the University should question the decision to bring student cars closer to grounds, instead of attempting to encourage more pedestrian activity. Until last month, the University’s master plan called for the garage site to be a residential college, enabling students to live within easy walking distance of classes and shopping. With the monster garage, UVA will move away from Jefferson’s vision of an academical village, and toward looking like Northern Virginia.

  • 1. So I’m a bad person (an un-UVAer?) because I don’t want to have an additional 15-20 minutes added to my commute to get to work? Keep in mind that I live in town — I’m not part of any of the bedroom communities — and it takes me already a lot of time to get to U-Hall. Add the suggestion that I and the rest of the rabble go to Fontaine and park and my time is heightened. The suggestion that Ms. Waters makes that the classified staff should park in a new lot at Fontaine and take our nasty cars away from the big parking lot at U-Hall is a classic NIMBY reflex. I also love the classic response of anyone against something in this town, “It’s against everything that Mr. Jefferson stood for.” You can apply to that to about anything these days from parking garages, NCAA, plantar warts, indoor plumbing, God, and so forth.

    2. Why doesn’t anyone on the Lewis Mountain group ever admit that half of the cars are already there? I’d have more respect for the Lewis Mountain arguments that you make if you could inject that bit of honesty in the 1200 car figure. As I said above, half of us are already there, if not more.

    3. I have consistently said that UVa has acted like they own the place (the place being all of C’ville) but again, I’m a classified staff and NOT SURPRISED by it. I would be first in line to support any legislation to prevent universities in general from overstepping their “sovereignity” (as I believe they call this when avoiding lawsuits and zoning laws). But for now, there’s no legislation that would apply retroactively.

    4. UVa is already looking like Northern Virginia. Do you think the Chemistry Building looks like part of the Jefferson plan? Did Jefferson envision the University going up to Barracks Road? Or the medical center. Unless we can channel him about this and his vision, we can say all we want about Mr. Jefferson’s plan.

    Bottom line is that UVa is going to build it. You might get lucky and get them to downsize it. You’re even luckier than most who tangle with UVa because (and I’ll go ahead and say it) you’re not some poor section of town and people can avert their eyes from UVa and city squabbles. You guys have some money and names and connections with City Council that might count. You might actually get some concessions.

    I agree with you on more point — the University needs to show some guts and eliminate parking for students until 2nd year. Again, I agree with you on UVa heavyhandedness. OTOH, I’m already in your neighborhood parking and on a bad day, I’m in traffic for about 10 minutes and zip, I’m on the bypass.

    (I have to say, the person who COULD channel Mr. Jefferson’s spirit would make a mint in this town and it would be interesting and we could settle that Sally Hemmings debate for once, maybe.

  • Thanks for the support. According to aerial photos a neighbor of mine has looked at, the garage is less than half a mile from the Rotunda, and may lie within its viewshed during the winter, when the trees lose their leaves. (We are scrambling for accurate info.) As for being “narrow,” it is 120 feet wide, which is 80% as wide as a football field. Yes, it is “narrow” compared to its length, but it will not be “narrow” in the sense that one generally applies that adjective to buildings.

    We are trying hard to fight the “rational” fight, but it is hard to convey the mass of the proposed garage. Drawings released by the University lack cars and people, so the scale of the project is not evident.

  • Can you explain this word? By Rotunda, where do you mean? At the steps? In the Dome Room? Or at the street level? More details would be useful in assessing your comments.

    Thanks,

  • If you haven’t figured it out yet, UVA runs Charlottesville and to a certain extent, the state of Virginia. The fact of the matter is, Charlottesville would not be the wonderful town it is today without the presence of the university. The amount of money pumped into the Charlottesville’s economy on graduation weekend alone is ungodly. Do you think the level of wealth or amout of business opportunities would be even close to what they are without UVA? I feel no sorrow for the residents of Lewis Mountain, you purchased land in the middle of a rapidly expanding university and then you are outraged when plans like this are disclosed. Give me a break, you are much smarter people than this. UVA is a crown jewel of Virginia and if anyone thinks that the General Assembly would pass legislation that would condemn its actions, you are sorely mistaken. Yes UVA may do somethings that do not make us very happy and it is everyone’s right to express displeasure, but if you really think you are going to make a difference, you are just wasting your breath. Residents of Stadium Rd. expressed a lot of displeasure with the building of the football stadium and certain aspects of its design, did anything change? Exactly. If you live close to UVA you should only expect change and new construction, if you can’t live with this you should move. Nothing UVA builds will ever affect your property value, and in the end that is really the only thing you are worried about. Everyone should cherish UVA and what its presence attributes to our community. Charlottesville would be nothing without it. Just don’t be asinine.

  • If you haven’t figured it out yet, UVA runs Charlottesville and to a certain extent, the state of Virginia. The fact of the matter is, Charlottesville would not be the wonderful town it is today without the presence of the university. The amount of money pumped into the Charlottesville’s economy on graduation weekend alone is ungodly. Do you think the level of wealth or amout of business opportunities would be even close to what they are without UVA? I feel no sorrow for the residents of Lewis Mountain, you purchased land in the middle of a rapidly expanding university and then you are outraged when plans like this are disclosed. Give me a break, you are much smarter people than this. UVA is a crown jewel of Virginia and if anyone thinks that the General Assembly would pass legislation that would condemn its actions, you are sorely mistaken. Yes UVA may do somethings that do not make us very happy and it is everyone’s right to express displeasure, but if you really think you are going to make a difference, you are just wasting your breath. Residents of Stadium Rd. expressed a lot of displeasure with the building of the football stadium and certain aspects of its design, did anything change? Exactly. If you live close to UVA you should only expect change and new construction, if you can’t live with this you should move. Nothing UVA builds will ever affect your property value, and in the end that is really the only thing you are worried about. Everyone should cherish UVA and what its presence attributes to our community. Charlottesville would be nothing without it. Just don’t be asinine.

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