Garrett Business Owners Want More Parking

Business owners on Garrett Street are sad that people have to walk a block to get to the parking garage, Rachana Dixit wrote in yesterday’s Daily Progress. Though there’s lots of on-street parking, it’s all-day, and is often filled up by commuters by 9:00 AM. The city plans to turn fifteen of those spaces into two-hour spaces in spring, but some business owners don’t want to wait that long. Of course, once those become two-hour spaces, expect commuters to be angry at their loss of parking.

78 thoughts on “Garrett Business Owners Want More Parking”

  1. The consultants hired to evaluate the parking situation found that there is an abundance of parking for downtown. In fact, we have way too much for our current needs, and its too cheap (according to the study). I suggest anyone interested in this refer directly to the study, rather than Daily Progress’ lamentations against “parking woes.”

    This is an urban downtown, not a strip mall.

  2. How about they team up with ACAC to rent them some parking spaces in their lot.
    I have never seen that lot full.
    The salon had valet parking last week (the name of the place slips my mind).
    Anyone know what they are building in the “Garrett Business Owners” former parking lot?

  3. In Cville: do you have a link to the study? If its available somewhere I’d love to read it. Thanks.

  4. Reading this report, as someone who parks on the street during the day, this seems like they are planning on taking away all-day parking on some streets and replacing it with 2 hour parking (Garret Street north).
    I would think, and maybe I am wrong, that the people who work here and park all day spend more money at restaurants, drug stores, etc. on a weekly basis than the people who visit here.
    I may be wrong about this! I would think that they would cater more to the working employees than the visitors.
    I know they want to promote tourism, but how many of them are coming during the November-March months?
    I work all year long, not just during the nice months.
    How about they get the parking garages to lower the prices and maybe I would consider buying a space, thus opening up more on-street parking.
    I am still baffled at how the parking garages are private companies and not owned by the city.

  5. @In Cville: I agree with you with the exception of the recommendation to eliminate the exemption area for parking requirements and replace that with a choice of required parking or parking impact proffer. Urban parking is only free at the cost of higher prices for everything else, more congested roads, and a lower overall quality of life, plus a vast amount of wasted parking and damaged streams. If anything, the parking exempt area should be expanded to areas where walkable development is desired, like around the University and further out around Downtown.

  6. Lyle, you may want to consider attending this Friday’s downtown meeting, or a public hearing in early Dec. Up to this point pro-automobile stakeholders have had several months to guide the conversation, but this will be the first opportunity for those in the community who are concerned about sustainability and transportation choice to voice their opinion.

  7. Clearly the solution is for the people who want to buy overpriced potpourri baskets at fancy boutiques and get $500 haircuts to move to Friendship Court — then they can just walk across the street!

  8. @In Cville: This meeting? I’m going to make the early morning one.

    @james ford: Anyone getting a $500 hair cut is probably willing to drop a dollar or two for a better parking space, and we’re probably better off using that money to fund city services or at least pay for the cost of keeping that parking rather than forcing taxpayers to pay the bill.

    @Jeff: Yes, that’s my reading of the plan also. All-day free on-street commuter parking will be pushed further out so that customers will be able to have access to businesses. I commuted to work downtown for many years also and couldn’t afford a space. I parked further out and walked in. It was an inconvenience, but it wasn’t that bad, and it made riding my bike, walking, and taking transit faster by comparison.

  9. I confess, I’m probably both a shuffler and overstayer. Truthfully, I’m not really even sorry for it.

    The fact is that for a certain number of employees that commute, their employers don’t necessarily provide parking. Nonetheless, a car may be necessary to meet the needs of their job. For example, if one were a employee that maintained critical systems at a hospital, then when they were paged about a system down it would be unrealistic to drive to Scott Stadium and wait for a bus.

    We depend on all kinds of employees for businesses to function, and many of those employees cannot afford the $75.00 cost for private parking downtown. If parking tickets are $15.00 each, and you rarely get four in a month, then simple math dictates that the wiser choice is to shuffle and overstay.

    We won’t ever succeed in making all Albemarle county residents want to live in the city. Eliminating parking isn’t going force everyone to move to the city and take a bus, but it will make it harder for commuting employees to do their jobs. Why not do a survey of all the empty lots in Charlottesville and do more to encourage owners to use them for parking? It’s crazy to me that we have so many vacant lots where parking isn’t allowed.

    I’m all for sustainability, but when it is done right, it also accounts for commuters as a vital part of the city. the best cities have parking garages that you drive to and park for free, then you walk or take transit from there. In Charlottesville, walking and cycling is dangerous at best, and the system is still designed poorly for commuters. To do it right, it should be faster and more convenient to take mass transit. Also, if I park at U-hall or Scott Stadium, it doesn’t improve traffic one bit since I still have to drive through the city just to get to the lot. Commuter lots should be on the edge of the city.

  10. If your product is good enough, people will happily park and walk half a block to your door. The parking situations at Mas and Beer Run aren’t ideal, but people flock to both almost every night.

    Oh, and a hair cut at Moxie starts at about $50. When I moved here, I was shocked by how reasonable the salon prices were.

  11. Employees who work downtown should park on Monticello Avenue and walk the one block to Garrett Street, leaving the parking near the businesses for the customer.

  12. I’m fine walking a block or two, and I think that’s reasonable, provided that Monticello Avenue can accomodate employees adequately. My own situation relates to Main Street near the corner, where options are more limited (but if you know of better options to park and walk then please let me know!)

    I just feel the pain of commuters in general, and thought I’d put that voice out there before everyone declared holy war on them. Personally, I’ve never had too much trouble parking by the downtown mall; I just come prepared to pay to park. That does mean there is a “critical mass” that’s required before I’ll shop there (i.e. it makes no sense to go there and make a small purchase unless you can get validated).

  13. The study found that during the peak period only 63% of available parking was used.

    Repeat: 63% used during the peak period

    The city should be aiming for 85% occupancy and using market rates to do so. Right now, most of the problem is with street parking because it so under-priced relative to garages and lots. Implement market rates for street parking and step up enforcement of violations. All of a sudden those of you who need to park on the street won’t have too much trouble finding a spot. Of course, you’ll have to pay for it like everyone else.

  14. The pricing option was raised and recommended by the consultant. The question is whether the cost of parking should be borne by those who choose to drive downtown and use parking, or whether it should be distributed to all taxpayers regardless of their choice of transportation, access to an automobile, or use of downtown. The phrase “free parking” is really a misnomer.

  15. “City Council already shows differences of opinion over the pricing question. ” and that’s why it was included by council in the scope of the study.

  16. Cville Eye: Would you mind elaborating on that? I wasn’t aware that council had directed a discussion on price. It certainly seems possible, though.

  17. Yes, consultants do not volunteer information in studies that is not requested. Therefore, they would not spend time looking into for-pay-parking and its effects if not asked. It means they would be working for free, since it would not be a part of their contract (sscipe of inquiry).

  18. Cville Eye:

    Commuters are already parking on Monticello during the weekday
    as spillover from Garret Street & the One-way street connecting
    Garret to Monticello (Can’t remember the number of the street).
    As Monticello fills up eventually, the spill-over will work it’s
    way into the neighborhoods surrounding this area.

  19. All this also begs the question that often creates trouble downtown, parking for the trucks delivering the goods to the downtown area. I suspect that when the city gets the trash pickup off the side streets on theall it will alsoneed to get the delivery trucks off the sides streets, which means….you guessed it, less Water/High street parking spaces.

  20. Employees who work downtown should park on Monticello Avenue and walk the one block to Garrett Street, leaving the parking near the businesses for the customer.

    Well, yeah, it’s one block if the employee works on Garrett Street. But, few of them do. They work on Water Street, the Mall, Market Street and Jefferson Street. And, when they leave work at 5:00 pm, it’s dark and dangerous walking in that neighborhood. Do we have to make it even more dangerous?

    Let’s give working stiffs a break, shall we? If merchants want to subsidize parking for their customers, I think there’s a system to do that by providing validated parking in either of the two downtown parking garages.

  21. My remarks were made with the back drop of the head of the Octogon Groups inablility for its customers to park currently near the old Gleason’s building on Garrett Street. He brought it up at the last Council’s meeting. It was not made to solve the paring problems downtow. It seems many of the employers downtown can hardly stay in buisness themsleves, so I doubt if they can afford to pay for parking for their employees. A substantial number of them have never paid for parking for their customers. Parking for customers and employees contributes to suburban sprawl and will continue to. The relatively small number of people who will be able to afford the $400k condos downtown will be the people roaming around down there on foot. The city is eager to build another parking garage downtown, that people will not want to pay to park in and there is a need for at least two additional ones along west main street. And the city resident will be expected to pay for it. It has been a problem since the Mall was bricked and will continue to be so. Merchants are beginning to see how there is a substantial customer base along 29N and will probably continue moving there. I think I just heard that the Violet Shop (the house furnishings store) that spent a great deal of money on TV commercials has moved out Ivy Road. Same issues every 5 6to 7 years, no free parking, no nearby parking, rotate-every-two-hours parking, delivery truck parking during business hours, handicap-temporary parking. The city will not solve this problem based upon past history but at least they can address the problems surrounding the new development on the old Gleason’s property. If I were an investor, I wouldn’t build a match downtown because because Council does little for anybody but the Mall merchants which are basically a welfare cause.

  22. Yo- shouldn’t someone be jumping on Harry for his “unsafe to walk” comment? Really, there seems to be a double standard about these parts.

    Jump the guy on the right for any perceived slight, and let the rest go untouched. A double standard really kills the moral imperative attempts.

    Not that Harry is incorrect in his assertion of safety. Additionally, many merchants have to work hard to cover the hundreds and hundreds of bucks that subsidizing the parking will cost at the same time that the market seems to have very little confidence in the promised changes due soon.

    You just cannot have your cake and eat it too Marie.

  23. The difference is that Harry Landers named an apartment complex where residents have coabout the safety since it was built as Garrett Square. You painted with a much broader brush by naming streets. Glad to see that you have a quick eye, though. BTW, who is Marie?

  24. Cville Eye, “Aren’t the neighborhood streets public?”
    Try that argument in the north downtown permitted parking
    neighborhoods. You loose.
    They went permit route because the residents could not get
    parking in front of their own homes, etc. etc.

  25. I’m intrigued by CVille Eye’s comment that the downtown would not be viable without government subsidies. Are things that precarious right now? Would charging a $1 an hour for parking put many stores out of business? (I’m honestly asking)

    One thing about the economic downturn. It is effecting everywhere. For every Landmark hotel that’s delayed, there’s a Circuit City going under. I wonder what the net effect on downtown will be.

    Then there’s the possibility of the city continuing to subsidize downtown, but in a way that does not encourage more driving/congestion. What if the money from parking charges was poured somehow back into downtown businesses – so they could pay employees better, enhance services to customers, etc.

  26. The real problem here is the whole premise that “walking a block” is some sort of burden. I spent some time in Chicago over the summer, where I saw thousands upon thousands of people walking everywhere. Out of the thousands of people I saw, there were maybe a dozen overweight people; it was astonishing. Here, by contrast, every other person seems to be overweight. If the issue isn’t walking, but instead safety getting to and from one’s parked car, then that’s a different problem.

    The good news is that the problem of too many cars will solve itself as we approach a world with diminished oil: Conversations about new developments that require cars, new roads, and parking are really not very productive at this point.

  27. In Cville,

    Bull. Bull, bull, bull. You want to talk about parking for tourists, sure. There’s plenty of parking for them. They only need a space for a few hours and if they will be around longer then it’s not a big deal to cough up $10-$15 to park here all day.

    But the convenience of tourists is not the first concern of the city. The first concern should be that of the people who are actually a part of this community. Those who live or work in Charlottesville. We’ve got an enormous number of people working downtown who literally cannot afford to pay for garage parking each and every day. As an on-going expense, many would have to work an extra 2 hours just to pay for parking.

    Parking is ‘too cheap’? What are you smoking? When people have to work for several hours every day just to pay for the privilege of getting out of their cars to show up for work in the first place, parking is not ‘too cheap.’ Getting rid of all-day on-street spaces screws over the working people in the downtown community who can least afford it.

    Oh sure, they’ll find someplace else to park for free since the money for the garage just isn’t there for them. But where will it be? Blocks over past Garrett Square, where women will have to walk through the scenes of various murders of the past 6 months in the dark on their way to their cars.

  28. I think there are some falacies in “Parking for customers and employees contributes to suburban sprawl and will continue to.

    I think it oversimplfies the issue. If Albemarle residents stopped shopping and working downtown then the area would die. You simply cannot really expect everyone living in the county to move to the city. First of all, the country provides amenities that the city does not. Would I be able to raise chickens in Belmont? Perhaps I could hunt for deer along the meadowcreek trail? I wonder what Neighborhood Services would think if I converted my whole front yard to corn production? Maybe we could rip out some of the streets and replace them with gravel so we’d have a safe place to run?

    So, while I do think there are ways we can make urban areas
    that offer more of the amenities of country living (like adding more green space), there are some things it can never replace. Now reducing the number of megamansions and cookie cutter subdivisions that house commuters is a worthy goal, especially when I see many of those people as destroying the very amenities which caused me to move back to the rural area.

    So… what can we do? We can build better more efficient ways
    for commuters to get into the city and work while creating
    less traffic. I don’t need my car once I’m here, and I’m perfectly willing to walk a few blocks. What I don’t like is that if I drive an then take a bus that it adds 30 minutes each way to my travel time. That’s an additional hour of my life each day I can never get back. Now if I could park and then take faster mass transit (or run) from the parking lot on safe streets to a workplace that had showers for commuters, then I’d do that in a heart beat. Especially if once I got to my workplace, I could then easily get to all the other places I needed to go without needing my car. Believe it or not, there are communitie sthat have done this sort of thing successfuly.

  29. First of all, the country provides amenities that the city does not. Would I be able to raise chickens in Belmont?

    Actually, you could! (And you wouldn’t be alone.) Chickens are not prohibited by law or by zoning in the city.

    I wonder what Neighborhood Services would think if I converted my whole front yard to corn production?

    I love that idea. Surely somebody in town has converted their entire yard into a mini-farm, wouldn’t you think?

  30. @Waldo: I’ve seen some people fill in most of an empty lot with farming in the Woolen Mills, and some tomatoes in the front yard, but I haven’t seen a full-on front yard conversion yet. I’m almost entirely certain it’s allowed based on existing code. The weed ordinance doesn’t apply to crops.

    Bring Your Money, Leave Your Car

    I strongly agree with Lonnie that commuters, tourists and shoppers need better ways to get downtown. Ideally, I think we should be working towards a park and ride system that is actually faster, cheaper, more reliable, and more enjoyable than driving. We’re a long way from that, but we already have park and ride lots and a bus system. It may be that this could be optimized with existing resources to get people downtown, say with a shuttle to the most popular lots at peak traffic hours. If this were combined with congestion pricing (paying a variable toll for driving at the busiest times to keep traffic moving) and variable on-street parking prices so that parking was always available, we would have a world class transportation system without building any roads, any extra parking, and we’d have revenue sources for the sort of pedestrian amenities that Lonnie mentions like lighting, buried utilities, showers (ACAC already offers this), and street trees, plus better transit.

    For those interested in the book that In Cville mentioned, here’s a very brief synopsis by the author. It was intended for San Francisco, but the points are valid for Cville.

    Cynic, I agree with your point on Peak Oil. I don’t believe it’s going to be the collapse of our civilization, but the triple challenges of peak oil, climate change, and no money for projects mean that we need to think very creatively about what we can do for ourselves with what we already have. Once we do that, we win.

  31. Hey, if that did become the new standard for “city living” then you’d be one step closer towards me seriously considering living there! I would indeed be curious if anyone in the city has succeeded in turning their place into a mini-farm without running afowl of NDS and neighborhood associations.

    Give me some of what I get in the rural area, and an affordable place to live and I’ll give serious thought to giving up the commute. For a start, let’s put some energy into creating new quality greenspace, instead of merely minimizing the loss of what we’ve got.

    That said, no serious policy can work as long as it is based in a philosophy of “ignore the commuters and they’ll just go away”. We need to address both the reasons that it is currently more appealing to commute for many, and also come up with better solutions that take into account for the fact that people do indeed commute and probably aren’t going to stop anytime soon. Punishing people who’s only intention is trying to go to work, isn’t really a good goal for the city.

  32. Lyle,

    I’d support your plan. There are a few things I would add, like a lane (or even entire roads) devoted only to mass transit. Also, I know there was talk of giving all the buses the same switches that ambulances have to change the color of the lights. Imagine a world where you could hop on a bus and go all the way up 29 faster in a bus than in a car.

    Also, instead of building the Meadowcreek Parkway, lets build the Meadowcreek Bikeway instead. Frankly, it’d be a far better use of taxpayer dollars.

  33. I would indeed be curious if anyone in the city has succeeded in turning their place into a mini-farm without running afowl of NDS and neighborhood associations.

    If this was an intentional pun, bravo. And if not…let’s just pretend it was intentional. :)

  34. Lonnie,

    Good deal, I agree.

    There’s some heavy political backing behind the Parkway, so I’d hesitate to dovetail this strategy with scaling back the Parkway. I do agree that dropping an estimated $30.5 million on the County side, $27 million for the interchange, and $13.5 million on the City side, when we may not see similar funds in a long, long time fits strangely with this sort of strategy. Of course, it may be that the collapse of the building boom may have eroded the political will for the Parkway, I’m not close enough to the players to tell. To paraphrase something that County conservative Christian Schoenewald said a while back, “you don’t say no to free money, you just don’t do that.” And, to a lot of the folks around here at least, the Parkway seems like free money from the state, which could be lost with a more sensible approach.

  35. Lyle Solla-Yates,

    I would love to know from whence comes your optimism regarding peak oil. I’d feel more optimistic if I perceived that our leaders and citizens were aware of this impending crisis. We seem to be asleep at the switch as the locomotive hurtles off a cliff.

  36. Lonnie & Waldo:
    My front yard (on Baker St) is mostly seasonal plants that provide food for either me or the birds. I’ve had cabbage, herbs, kale, tomatoes, peppers, cosmos, sunflowers (big ones, little ones), tall plants, short plants, broom corn (that was a mistake), etc. It’s a chaotic mess of fun.

    The black eyed susans grow alongside lovage and anise hyssop. The parsley and rosemary share space with pineapple sage and salvias. The ground cherries wend through sunflower stalks. The beans and squash attack the bird feeder and popcorn and spread out onto the remaining grass. It works well. No chickens–the poodle would harry them to death.

    If I were more serious about the garden, I could easily provide for our family year round (canning, freezing, winter sowing), but my city house doesn’t have room for a larder–nor freezer.

    I do walk whenever possible. Safety and summer heat sometimes make it difficult. The lack of residential space on Roosevelt Brown Blvd leaves me wary of walking home after dark. I’d like more affordable housing in town (wouldn’t we all?) and more pedestrian railroad crossings West of 10th/Roosevelt Brown.

    I’d like to see safer bus stops–at least have a sidewalk available! And I understand that parking is an issue for downtown workers. When we lived in the DC area, we could buy Metropasses with pretax dollars. Maybe we need more efficient bussing and outlying park-n-ride lots.

  37. Jocelyn,

    Sounds like a nice garden! Off topic perhaps, but
    what species of ground cherry are you growing? I just started growing the native ground cherries in the past year or so.

    I was fascinated about there being this whole other crop native americans used to grow that is practically lost now (or at least the cultivated forms that used to exist). I just traded a guy for a beautiful south western ground cherry with big purple blooms, and another guy up north for Clammy Ground cherry (despite the name, it’s a neat plant).

    Also, I should mention that technically there is now a
    an exemption for people that wish to grow native wildflowers instead of
    lawns. You can read about that on the Neighborhood Development Services website. Waldo is right that under the existing weed ordinance ordinance you could turn your whole front yard into a vegetable garden too, but I was unaware that you could do chickens. Glad to hear it is a possibility and I hope people are doing that sort of thing though.

  38. Oh, and my pun was intentional, but the double “ordinance” above was not.

    (For some reason, things don’t wrap correcty on this blog for me so I can’t see the end of the lines.)

  39. Lonnie that thing with the comment is happening to me the comment go off and I can’t see them.

    Waldo is that something that can be fixed?

  40. That sounds like a terrible bug—it would drive me nuts. The code that creates this input form is really, really simple. I’m surprised that it would create a problem. But I’ll figure it out and fix it.

  41. My efforts (over 15 yrs) to convert my property to native, edible, natural and “organic” have met with annual “Unlawful Growth…” notices from the City. Today’s mail brought another one. I think they finally noticed my row of asparagus.

    The last “yard cop” who gave me the courtesy of an on-site explanation was unable to identify only a rose (it was blooming) and poke. For the rest, “If I say it’s a weed, it’s a weed.”

    I would support city ordinances to control fire hazards, impediments to traffic, and noxious weeds if they were written and enforced by people with some knowledge, and respect for gardens – let alone edible and ornamental native plants.

    By the way, why not bring back the Depression Era “Victory Garden”?

  42. @Cynic: Thank you for the question, I had to think about it for a while. Usually when someone asks why I’m hopeful about peak oil I spit out some optimistic facts I’ve run into about energy efficiency or smart growth or airships or thin film solar or local food. But facts like that aren’t where I derive my hope. With peak oil, we’re either going to preserve something similar to modern civilization or not. It’s high stakes, and it’s no wonder that most people don’t want to think about it. Generally when peak oil is presented, it’s very gloom and doom, Clusterf**k Nation and all that. There is no hope.

    That isn’t helpful. Hope produces change. We have to hope, or we won’t figure out how to deal with peak oil. Hope is absolutely necessary. I credit President-Elect Obama with helping me figure that one out.

    @Jocelyn and Paul: Bless you both, you’re paving the way for the rest of us.

  43. *** Further off-topic drift warning ***


    My experience with the city in the past has been much the same as what you reported. The Department of Neighborhood Development Services, which enforces the ordinance against rogue plants, doesn’t seem to have any employees who understand the basics of horticulture or who have the ability to identify even common plants. Good luck finding one who even understands the code! I have been given several contradictory interpretations of the weed ordinance within the space of a few minutes by the same code official. What he finished with was his assertion that anything could be a weed if he said so.

    The law does not give NDS the authority its code officials claim, but in my experience, NDS routinely exceeds its authority, and seems to have little regard for the letter of the law anyway. Upper level city management seems happy to look the other way and let them be.

    When you are cited by the city for a weed ordinance violation, you are in essence declared guilty. There is no court, no hearing, in fact there is no process for appeal at all. You can try, but once you are cited by NDS the system does not allow for a response other than for you to do what you have been told to do. You have ten days. If you don’t, the city will do it to you and send you a bill whether you are actually violating the law or not.

    In my case, (they have actually been several, but I’m referring to one in particular) I wrote several letters to the administration of NDS in which I made explicit reference to sections of city code which left my “weeds” outside of their jurisdiction. Not only were/are they intentionally cultivated, but much of what I was cited for acts as a stream buffer. Both are explicitly legal! My arguments were ignored with one exception, I was allowed a 3 ft. stream buffer, which virtually anyone with sense knows is a ridiculous notion. (Sadly, that department also administers erosion control.)

    I refused to obey the order from NDS and had a lawyer at the ready to file an injunction the day city informed me they would come to destroy my property. My September 11, 2001 started with me getting out of bed early to ready myself for a big showdown. Things changed that day, and suddenly weeds didn’t seem so important. That afternoon an on site conversation with the city manager bought me a temporary reprieve.

    I have spoken with quite a few people who have experienced the same thing, but they were mostly bullied into submission before the city goon squads came. I have spoken to a couple who have held their ground and ultimately won. I myself have been able to continue to do pretty much exactly what caused me to be cited in the past, but it took a ridiculously huge amount of effort and a very public refusal to back down. I have also had repeated instances in which I have had to reassert my refusal to give up my approach to landscaping. What I have is a sensible, sustainable, and I believe aesthetically pleasing approach to the maintenance of my property. I won’t stop merely because we have code officials who have never bothered to educate themselves about how we might actually implement the “green” approach the city’s rhetoric claims to support.

    There has been no change in the law and my hassles could resume at any point. Anyone who wants to farm their front yard is asking for a similar battle. The more urban farmers the better, so I heartily encourage you to give it a try, but do be ready to defend it even though it is legal.

  44. Wow, Louis. That’s a wild experience. Paul too. Thanks for persevering and passing this info on. I had no idea there would be so many hurdles to cultivating a yard.

  45. Louis and Paul,

    I’m curious. For native plants, have either of you tried the new process?

    You can find it here:

    Regarding vegetables, they should exempt under the current ordinance

    section 5-149, prohibits vegetation over 18” high,
    not including shrubs, trees, cultivated gardens, or vegetation along natural watercourses required to prevent erosion. (emphasis mine)

    You do need to maintain a buffer of 5 feet, so according to existing ordinance you still can’t plant corn all the way to the road (but you could grow anything short).

    If this is still a problem, then please let me know and I’ll be gald to bring it back before Dave Norris and/or City Council. We came to an agreement about all this and I feel it is important that staff live up to it.

  46. @danpri, I get it now, Marie as in Antoinette.
    @In Cville “I’m intrigued by CVille Eye’s comment that the downtown would not be viable without government subsidies.” In what other business district (Corner, Cherry Avenue, Preston, W. Main, or 29N) has the city spent tens of millions of dollars over a thirty year period putting in amphitheaters/Pavilions/theaters four-staged street bricking, side-street bricking, underground utilities, transit center, installing parks, building multiple parking garages, installing outdoor seating, planting trees and flower containers, and providing daily cleaning, building a hotel, charging it less than $28k a year in land rent, and writing-off a $10M loan (the total cost of the now-Double Tree was $16M)? How many hours weekly are devoted to those areas by city staff and how does that compare with staff time/consultant time spent downtown? Actually, the razing of Vinegar Hill was done expressly to expand the downtown retail area with suburban-type shopping structures (never really happened) as a way of keeping shoppers downtown to help the then-downtown property and business owners. In fact the city’s rationale for the now-Meadowcreek Parkway was to make it faster and easier for suburbanites to come downtown. Still, a large amount of downtown retail has left, so now the city has redefined it as Charlottesville’s “entertainment center.” During the time when the Mall was being created, there were thousands of people downtown daily shopping and conducting business. Of course, few people were there at night because the stores every night by six except Fridays. It was the same in every small-to-medium-sized town in America. Yes, there are many people down there at night now, primarily enjoying the restaurants and hanging out chatting on the street. But the volume of people frequenting the downtown weekly has declined. Unfortunately, the merchants in other parts of town are having their tax money going out of their districts.
    @Jackson Landers “We’ve got an enormous number of people working downtown who literally cannot afford to pay for garage parking each and every day.” That’s why, even though every city employee has been able to ride the bus for free for several years now, the city now pays 50% of its downtown employees’ Water Street garage parking. Now I heard Ric Barrick say yesterday that we will need to build another parking garage downtown in the future. Who’s subsidizing parking for the other city’s businesses?
    @Lonnie “I think there are some falacies in ‘Parking for customers and employees contributes to suburban sprawl and will continue to.” If stores such as Leggett and Sears had not agreed to move into Fashion Square it may not have been built. I use “suburban sprawl” to include businesses and retail.
    @ Lyle Solla-Yates “The weed ordinance doesn’t apply to crops.” You’re right. I remember that until about forty years years ago, there were an abundance of gardens in the southern part of the city. Corn, tomatoes, squashes, beans, cabbage, peas, salad greens surrounded by apple, peach and cherry trees were quite common. I suspect people whose gardens don’t look “cultivated” are the ones getting into trouble. I friend of mine about ten years ago was cited for her “English” flower garden. Everything was thrown in there without an apparent pattern, some items had grown up to two feet (herbs I thing) growing around roses, lilacs and other “standard” garden denizens. I was told she was heard all over NDS and the citation was trashed. Perhaps NDS thought that “cultivated” gardens means “plants in rows.” Maybe that’s how Jocelyn is now able to have her delightfully interesting garden.

  47. Lonnie,

    The weeds I was cited for were perfectly legal under the City Code at the time. They still are.

    As I wrote above, what the law actually allows doesn’t seem to matter too much to the City of Charlottesville. The city still claims to own a piece of private property they took from me a few years ago. That was done through the exercise of some secret eminent domain powers that don’t require the involvement of the courts or even the notification of the property owner. What happened was illegal under the U.S. Constitution and should be terrifying to anyone who believes in private property rights. I don’t have the money to do anything about it unfortunately. Talking to all of City Council, the City Attorney, and the City manager didn’t make any difference. They don’t deny what happened. The City Attorney even publicly acknowledged “inconsistencies,” but that doesn’t change things. They still claim to own my property. That’s “World Class” for you. Also, don’t forget what happened to Shirley Presley or with the Timberlake-Branham House. The Department of Neighborhood Development Services is the thread that connects all of those and many more similar incidents. Without the money to have the courts enforce the law, what it says doesn’t make much difference.

    Regarding the VMP Permit Application which you linked to, I’m interested in knowing where the city claims to have gotten the authority to require that or the authority to insist upon any buffer. It certainly isn’t in the code. The code, Sec. 5-149 that you quoted (actually rewrote since it doesn’t say what you claim to be a quote) above very clearly exempts any cultivated crop plant from the possibility of being in violation of that section. If something is cultivated or “purposefully planted and maintained,” it is not a weed. That means the city has no authority over it no matter how close it is to a property line or a road as long as it doesn’t hang over or obstruct traffic. That is very simply stated in the code and as unambiguous as possible in a document where the definition of “weeds” depends upon the word “weed” within it.

    The failure to define “weeds” with any sort of certainty is the basic problem here. It relies on meaningless, undefined words like “ornamental” and “flower,” when the vast majority of “noxious weeds” are themselves flowering plants and many are used ornamentally somewhere. The definition also seems to make common self seeding garden flowers technically illegal once they are in their second generation. What any of it means in practice depends more on what the code official happened to have for breakfast that day than anything objective. Once that citation is written though, nothing else matters. You’ve got weeds… be they petunia, daisy, or whatever. Want to appeal, sorry there is no appeal.

    The VMP form asks for a listing of species to be planted. By doing so, it calls attention to its own pointlessness. Planted = cultivated. No permit needed for that. Remember, the code makes it clear that the city doesn’t have authority over cultivated or purposefully planted and maintained vegetation. There is a mention of “ornamental” plants, but given the state of landscape and practically every other type of design, what’s an ornamental is limitless. If someone chooses to maintain their plantings by allowing them to grow 18 feet tall that is their prerogative. No further guidelines are given in the law. There are no limits in the code to what percentage of a property can be cultivated in any fashion. There are no limits to where on a property cultivated plants can be grown. Anyone completing that form is inviting city oversight of something they wouldn’t otherwise have any business messing with.

    The city’s creation of an unauthorized permitting system just adds another layer of bureaucracy to a still broken system. It doesn’t fix things. It relies even more on sophisticated knowledge on the part of enforcement personnel who don’t yet have basic knowledge. It is a bad idea, and I would suggest avoiding any involvement with it.

    It seems as though you have put a good bit of effort towards being an advocate for sensible approaches to landscape management, and I appreciate that. The city’s rhetoric about being “World Class” and its commitment to “sustainability” are nothing more than words and air.

    I hope what you have done has brought the reality closer to the rhetoric. We still have along way to go though. Years ago, Blake Caravati assured me that a more sensible approach to these issues was in the works and coming soon. It wasn’t. It still isn’t.

  48. Louis Schultz, I believe I saw you speak before a city council meeting several years ago about the city’s confiscation of your alley without compensation. I was very sympathetic and at the same time incensed that the city would treat a property owner is such a manner. I was outraged by the council’s apparent dismissal of your statements as though you are some kind of nut. Thank you for your thoughts on this matter also. Yes, Mr. Huja had a history ofdistortion while an employee and his successor, Mr. Tolbert, follows well in his foot steps.
    I’m sure however that there are those in the city are not using the the word “cultivated” in the traditional sense as “intentionally planted” (Native Americans ate cultivated corn and wild berries) but rather something like “manicured.” This situation can be described as a question of semantics or functioning ignorance. One major, overridding point here is the way the city’s staff, even the lowest ranked, treats the citizens it is supposed to be serving. Your concerns were met with arrogance from the bottom to the top.

  49. Louis,

    The city is basically given the ability to regulate “weeds” by the state of Virginia, and then by their own ordinance.

    Elsewhere there actually is text requiring that people keep the right-of-way next to roads (five feet) clear of vegetation. That intent was to make it safe for cars and frankly it’s pretty poorly enforced (I’m thinking over near Thai 99 on Fontaine). Keep in mind, that buffer need not be lawn, just anything under the height limit.

    If i get time later (and a faster internet connection), I’ll pull up the exact ordinance.

    The problem though is that previously what constituted a “weed” was based purely upon whether it was a “cultivated plant” or not and whether it was under the height limit. As people have already mentioned, there’s too much subjectivity there. Essentially what I’ve done with this Standard Operating Proceeedure is provide definitions as to what a weed actually is. A noxious weed is a better definition since there is a list maintained by both the state of virginia and the USDA. Better still, that classification is based upon a legitimate threat to heath, the environment or safety (instead of aesthetics).

    The voluntary agreement (Vegetation Management Plan) removes the height restriction in the code for those that opt in, in return for demponstrating that you’ll follow best management practices. So, yes, you have to agree to share your management plan, however, in return you know that NDS won’t come and arbitrarily mow your gardens down and fine you. It also gives you a measure of protection from your neighbors if they don’t agree with your aesthetics.

    The guidelines for the SOP were created by looking at waht other communities have done, and consulting with professional landscape architects familiar with natural landscaping. That said, it is a work in progress (with emphasis on progress). By using it Citizens can help convince NDS that we can allow legitimate natural landscaping without letting absentee landowners just “let things go”.

  50. Also, to bring this all back on topic… Waldo, consider this all a case in point of why the rural area is still more appealing to many of us.

    After all, I probably mow my “lawn” twice a year, and grow whatever I feel like regardless of how tall it is. No one is ever going to come to my home and fine me for it.

    So, while I’m doing my part to help the city where I work to be more like a place I’d like to live, it just isn’t there yet. Until it is, I’ll continue to commute, overstay and shuffle if necessary.

  51. FWIW, since two people have mentioned it now, there’s just no such thing as “off topic” here, as far as I’m concerned. Whenever we get off topic, it’s always interesting and informative. I don’t think I’ve ever complained about being off-topic before, and I don’t intend to start. :)

  52. I disagree that we citizens should allow the NDS to have absolute authority over anything. Somebody, somewhere will take them to court as has Presley, who won. It the city finds it costly to enforce ordinances that are not backed with definitions because they can, and the citizens allow them, then let them pay through the nose.
    What we need is good government which includes fairness, clarity, equal applicability, transparency, protest and redress. What has been described here doesn’t appear to have any of the components.

  53. About a year ago I had a very interesting chat with a City zoning inspector. Several months prior, I had started getting questions from several residents of the Woolen Mills regarding a house on Burgess Ln. Its owner or occupant had paved his entire front yard, which is a huge no-no under zoning code. It creates run-off and all that bad stuff, as well as being unsightly. Complaints had been made to the zoning department (with photos) dating back to when the first bit of work started on the yard. It was really obvious when one saw the way the yard was dug up, and rebar laid, exactly what was going to happen there. THAT was the time to stop the process, however nothing happened. The inspector either didn’t investigate at all, or he came, saw, and bolted.

    The zoning inspector is contacted again, goes out and looks at the paved yard, and then does nothing because he didn’t see cars parked on it during the few minutes he’s there. (That’s because they were probably at work, Einstein.) At any rate, after neighbors had gotten nowhere, I finally called him to inquire about the code and make sure I wasn’t going off half-cocked. He belligerently asks me “What do you want me to do about it… tell the guy to dig it up?” I told him that HE was the zoning inspector, so maybe it was his job to figure it all out.

    That’s when the conversation turned really surreal. He kept asking me the names of the different neighbors that had contacted me about this. He then proposed that we should adopt what he called a “tit-for-tat” zoning violation system. If a neighbor reports a violation, regardless of whether the complaint is valid or not, the zoning inspector should then be able to go to the complainant’s house and poke around looking for violations. After going around like that for a few more rounds with this clown, I finally had to bail on the conversation. He was utterly and completely out of touch with the citizenry and zoning code, and openly hostile to me and residents in general.

    Sorry for the length of the preceding story. But I have to wonder if this clown is the same guy going around poking people’s “weeds” and waving a yardstick in the air. At least we know that asphalt gets a hearty thumbs-up from him– so lose the noxious vegetation and bring in the paver if you want to win brownie points, folks.

    BTW, Louis and Laura have one of the coolest yards in Cville, full of amazing plants and neat critters (crayfish!)

  54. Cville eye,

    Nowhere did I or anyone else say that NDS should have absolute authority over anything (quite the opposite, in fact).

    What I’ve done though is listen to their side of the story and try to find a way for them to implement the existing oridinance in a more reasonable way. The main concern of the city and staff was finding the difference between people just “letting things go” (which is against the ordinance) and people trying to do natural landscaping. This SOP is now based on very practical things like reducing the risk of fire, injury, disease, and environmetal damage (as opposed to aesthetics).

    As for the point about lawsuits, well that is a valid point I’ve brough up to the county attourney. She pretty much dismissed it as a possibility immediately even though there’s a whole case history demonstrating otherwise in the John Marshal Law Review (I forwarded to her but i strongly suspected she didn’t even read it).

    So, yes, there are several precedents (one of the earliest being in Virginia) that weedlaws can be struck down when impletented unfairly against responsible citizens. That said, the city has now provided a mechanism to make the ordinance more equitable. If citizens try the new proceedure and find that they are still facing issues, then a lawsuit would be reasonable and you’d have a good shot at winning. that said, if people don’t even bother meeting the city halfway before resorting to the courts, then i don’t think they’d last five minutes.

  55. Lonnie,

    I would be glad to sue the city and I think I have a couple of really good cases. If I had the money I would. I’ve done everything I could to meet the city half-way and ran into nothing but ignorance and arrogance. From what I’ve seen and heard, that is routine.

    Thanks for pointing out that there’s an ordinance. Since we were discussing it already, I don’t know why you would think I was unaware of it though.

    I think you have some misconceptions about what the ordinance says. You may want to spend some more time with it. Your statement that a Vegetation Management Plan removes the height restriction is simply wrong. There is NO height restriction for any vegetation which is outside of the scope of that ordinance. No agreement can take away what didn’t exist.

    I don’t remember how to make neat quotations so excuse the form, but here is the definition of a weed from Sec. 5-149 of the Charlottesville Code of Ordinances:   Weeds  means any plant, grass, weed, brush or any other vegetation, herbaceous or woody, other than (i) trees, ornamental shrubbery and vegetable and flower gardens purposefully planted and maintained free of weed hazard or nuisance; (ii) cultivated crops; (iii) public recreational areas or trails intended to be left in their natural state; and (iv) vegetation along natural streams or watercourses when necessary to deter erosion. 

    The law goes on to say that if “weeds” are allowed to grow over 18″ tall under certain circumstances or if other vegetation is allowed to protrude on to a street or other public right-of-way or threatens to drop on someone on a public right-of-way than either situation would be illegal. The law say that violation of either of those two provisions is illegal and provides a procedure that must be followed (a) by the city if it wishes to have a property owner do something about it (b) by a property owner who receives such a notice.

    There is NO other authority given to the city that allows it to make any judgement about the appropriateness of ANY landscaping choice which does not violate one or both of those two provisions. That means that if something is planted(therefor cultivated), as long as it is not a noxious weed, (the code doesn’t even actually mention them) that no approval what-so-ever is need before hand or after. The city may attempt to claim otherwise, but it is not in the code.

    There are no guidelines about what is required after planting and no suggestion that there is a height limit or a requirement for pruning in order for a cultivated plant to be considered “maintained.” There a requirement that vegetation be cultivated at all if it is necessary to deter erosion, nor is there a requirement that native plants be used in those situations.

    The code doesn’t give the inspectors the authority to determine when a stream buffer is necessary or not. In fact, the code requires that property owners protect downstream neighbors from the effects of of preventable erosion. A reasonable person would err on the side of caution and allow vegetation to grow tall if there were any question of the need. Where the city requires stream buffers, they must be a minimum of 100 feet on each side. It also says they can be “allowed to evolve by natural succession.” Surely if a citizen wants to protect a stream where is isn’t specifically required, the city’s own guidelines would be a logical place to start. Nothing in the code requires a property owner to request to be allowed to protect water quality. The city, at least rhetorically, encourages that.

    Since you are citing legal precedents maybe you now have that faster internet connection that will help you find where the law says that a 5 foot buffer is required. I have looked all through the code and don’t see anything like that. Actually the closest subject I could find was a few places where tree and shrub buffers are required to be no further than 5 to 10 feet from a right of way. There is no mention of a buffer either in Chapter 5 which deals with building regulations or chapter 28 which deals with streets.

  56. “What I’ve done though is listen to their side of the story and try to find a way for them to implement the existing ordinance in a more reasonable way. ” How can one implement reason without definition. By your not recommending demanding a clarification of definitions in “weed” laws, you appeared to be tacitly allowing legal actions based upon the rationale posted by Paul “The last “yard cop” who gave me the courtesy of an on-site explanation was unable to identify only a rose (it was blooming) and poke. For the rest, ‘If I say it’s a weed, it’s a weed.’” Thank you for clarifying your meaning.

  57. Louis, while I hear your frustration with the city, you seem to ask for things like a clearer defintion for “cultivated” or “weed” yet aren’t keen on anything that would actually accomplish that.

    Think about this from a perspective of enforcement. NDS gets a call from a neighbor (or two) that complain about the “weeds” in your yard. How is NDS supposed to know that the buffer you’ve created is intentional and not just lazyness on your part? How do they know that it is cultivated and maintained? How would their staff (which have no degrees in botany or horticulture) know that what you’ve planting isn’t a weed and that you’re not just making excuses? In short how do they objectively distinguish between your property and that of an absentee landowner who just doesn’t want to maintain anything?

    This is what the VMP does. It provides objective guidelines so that no one will come along and arbitrarily fine you. It’s a voluntary agreement, so if you don’t want to agree to it, then don’t. That said, how is staff supposed to know then that you aren’t just growing “weeds”? If you want something from them beyond “If I say it’s a weed, then it’s a weed” then
    I can’t see another way to reasonably do that without agreeing to a common set of definitions (Ones which are pretty much the standard nationwide for natural landscaping) and a record on file which their staff can reference.

    As for authority, they don’t need it for the VMP since it is voluntary on your part and grants exemption from the weed ordinance. For stream buffers, you are probably right that oyu don’t need one since it is authorized under the existing ordinance. It is much more valuable for someone who intends a meadow instead of a traditional lawn, which wouldn’t be allowed under the existing ordinance. That said, even in your circumstance it would still be valuable to you, since it means that as staff changes that they’ve got a record on file that you are managing your property and thus they shouldn’t mess with you. You also gain a measure of objectivity somewhat lacking under the normal enforcement guidelines.

    C-ville Eye, it sounds like you haven’t even the read SOP. I think things will become clearer once you do. For example, It does have a definition section that clarifies all the things we’ve been discussing.

  58. Lonnie I was about to state that the 5′ you were referring to was from the SOP for establishing a Vegetation Mangement Plan (VMP) “1. A drawing of the garden area with respect to the entire parcel. Garden area shall not encroach within a minimum of 5’ from any developed areas, roads, or buildings in order to allow for maintenance of the area on said property, and to minimize risk of fire and unwanted spreading of vegetation.”
    Has this requirement of having a plan exists within city code or is this some kind of recommendation for city adoption?

  59. Oh, I forgot to say that a majority of “weed” offenses are cited during “neighborhood sweeps” by staff rather than complaints from neighbors. Those sweeps occur when a particular neighborhood is scheduled to be traveled by city staff for the purposes of issuing “preventative” citations. If they’re not going to issue them for north ddowntown then they have to make up for it in other neighborhoods. Woolen Mills seem to be just as good a place as any.

  60. Lonnie,

    You just don’t seem to get it. No one needs an exemption when the law isn’t being broken. Not for their gardens, not for walking down the sidewalk minding their own business, not for liking the Beatles instead of the Rolling Stones.

    I actually don’t care at all if the city can define a weed or not. Once they can, then maybe there is something legitimate they can then try to do to prevent anyone from having them. Until then, it would be best if they leave people alone to make landscaping decisions for themselves.

    I think the effort to eradicate most of what the city considers weeds to be inherently stupid and without any real point other than to put the city in the position of forcing a government approved aesthetic on its citizens. The fire hazard and vermin arguments have been demonstrated to be fallacies. Wood (like in the trees that are legal until someone declares them to be weeds) burns much hotter than a grass fire. No one has yet made trees generally illegal. You want to see some vermin, go downtown and it’s pretty easy to find rats. No weeds there though.

    Rather than trying to require citizens to ask for approval before planting, it would be better to have a process where someone who has been accused of something had an opportunity to defend him or herself without the presumption of guilt. There isn’t even a basic hearing process in place if you have been accused of having illegal vegetation. If there were, code officials might actually put a little effort into learning something about the job they do and put a little more effort into investigating complaints before they send out citations. As it is now, the just declare guilt without first having a clue whether the accused is guilty or not. That is simply wrong.

    The SOP is BS, just like the ordinance. It doesn’t clarify things or make anything more objective. Native species are legal!!! No one needs approval first to plant them. If someone plants native species, they are by the very definition of weed not within the scope of the ordinance. The city has nothing to say about them. The code doesn’t say anything at all about only 25% of a yard being any type of garden. That is a fabrication of someone who clearly doesn’t know how to read or else hopes that no one else can.

    What do you mean they don’t need authority for that? From what you wrote, the city by asking for a VMP is limiting something that is not limited by the law and would use that document or the lack of it to determine whether someone was in violation of the law. The law itself doesn’t make a distinction between those who have signed a form and those who haven’t.

    The law does limit the authority of the code officials. If something isn’t a weed as defined, it isn’t any of their business. If the city feels as though it has a legitimate issue, then it should be ready to demonstrate that. As it is, it will ignore a legitimate demonstration that it is in the wrong.

  61. Louis, I guess I respectfully disagree. I could elaborate but what’s the point really? I think I’ve provided all the information that I can here, and I can’t see that further discussion is really going to illuminate anything.

    Suffice it to say that your gripe is really with the city (and the state to some degree since they authorized the weed laws in the first place), so take it up with them. I admire that you’ve tried to do something innovative with your yard in the spirit of a greener Charlottesville, and wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

    If other people have serious questions about the SOP, or the rationale behind it, then I’d be glad to answer them offline.

  62. Lonnie,

    What am I to read your response as disagreeing with? You don’t make that clear. Are you simply unhappy that I haven’t raised what you consider to be “serious questions” about the legitimacy of the VMP procedure? If you referring to the wording of the law, it is easy to look up online. If you are referring to the points I have made, they all have serious implications for the hundreds of people who are cited by the city every year for perfectly harmless, and in many cases, perfectly legal activities. We know they have serious implications for Paul from what he has written. Illegal asparagus? Did they mistake it for marijuana?

    If I’m correct in my understanding, you are both not a resident of Charlottesville and were involved in the writing of the SOP and/or the VMP form. It seems you have somehow been made spokesman/negotiator for those of us who live here and want something other than officially approved, poisoned, and manicured lawns. If that’s true, then I think a public discussion of the rational behind and the legitimacy of the conclusions you and the city have come to would be very appropriate.

    I believe neither the SOP nor the VMP have any basis in the code. They limit practices that the law doesn’t give the city any power to limit. If anyone does have questions about the SOP or VMP, then I would suggest they be asked here so we can all participate and learn. Waldo has provided a unique and excellent forum for that(especially with his official word that nothing is off topic here).

  63. I believe neither the SOP nor the VMP have any basis in the code.

    I think that sums up what I disagree with. My interest and involvement in this was merely as someone who works in Charlottesville and is concerned about biodiversity and the environment. I’m no one’s spokesperson, but I was involved in writing the part of the SOP that allows people to voluntarily submit a VMP. As long as you think that’s “BS”, then I can’t really see how further dialogue is really productive. You have no idea how difficult it was to get that exemption written in there. You may not like it, but it is the best compromise possible at this time, and gives citizens of Charlottesville a methodolgy they didn’t have before to do Natural Landscaping responsibly without fear of fines or harrassment.

    It’s the best I could do, but feel free to push for something better yourself if you like.

  64. (note the first line above was supposed to be a quote. I mut have gotten my tags wrong.)

    Waldo, I will be so very grateful when you fix the bug with the word wrapping. I’m on IE 6 if that helps.

  65. Or, the city can define a VMP, establish its intent, define its parameters and place it into the city’s code. Then, staff can establish procedures for its use.

  66. Lonnie, I’m having the same problem with IE 7. The sidebar also wraps to the bottom of the blog. I try to remember to use a word processor (I not using one now) and then paste it to the window. I find it less aggravating. I wonder if its the result of having fixed column sizes.

  67. Lonnie
    While you may not be the “spokesperson” for the City on this, you seem to adopted the role of apologist. I had read the new ordinance before my last post, and all 71 posts on the subject. It doesn’t offer me any hope that it was drafted by anyone familiar with “Natural Landscaping”, let alone the personality of any homeowner wanting to do “Natural Landscaping”.

    Here is the most egregious paragraph:

    “For those property owners who desire to create Natural Landscaping, the Inspector will request a Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) permit application. A copy of this plan will be kept in the NDS address files. Approval of a VMP will exempt property owners from the 18” plant height requirements for this area of their yards, and permit the growing of native species instead of lawn grass. No more than 25% of available yard space can be developed/maintained in a VMP. All other regulations shall continue to apply.” City Ordinance

    Why allow only 25% of the lawn? Sounds totally arbitrary to me. Why not 23%, or 31%? Why not 100%? For that matter, why 5 feet?
    As for the permit application? “Talk me down” from my opinion that this serves mostly as an attempted impediment to natural landscaping and a bureaucratic “make work”. Other than the address of the miscreant, what useful info does this give NDS?

    My citation included a copy of the applicable City Code (Section 5-149, which excludes cultivated plants)and a picture of my offending asparagus. To be fair, an asparagus patch always looks pretty rough this time of year, the garden has been let go of late and there are some lambsquarters (brought over by the early european settlers and more nutritious than spinach) mixed in, which the frost also killed, and will be cut with the asparagus.

    Judging from the other posts, and as quoted in my citatation, it seems clear that the city code is unclear – at best. It seems unconstituional in assuming you are guilty until you prove your innocence and failing to provide an appeals process.

    So, having survived annual citations for several years, I think I can live with the old ordinance(s) and will not be applying for a VMP. Probably, as soon as I cut my asparagus, as always after a killing frost, the NDS will be satisfied.

    To belabor a point – competence of the staff. My citation includes a handwritten note, a nice humanizing touch, but marred by “overgrowth at or above 18″ within 150 sq ft of public right of ways…”. So, within “sq ft” of anything? Figure that out.

    It seems simple to me. Establish an appeals process that doesn’t involve the court system, but would involve at least one person knowledgeable of gardening and native plants (and doesn’t equate cultivated with manicured). We have resources, the Nature Conservancy employees in the area, active chapters of the Native Plant Society, and Master Gardeners – and UVA. I’m available for consultation – for free.

    Also, the plant material ignorance seems prevalent throughout all departments. Noxious and invasive species are often planted by various departments. One of the most common weeds I have to deal with in my yard are seedlings of the oaks from the downtown mall (acorns probably carried here by Blue Jays). Monticello avenue from Avon to Ridge has several female Ginko trees which are copious producers of fruit that smells like rancid butter. Ginkos are propagated by cloning. You can buy and plant male trees only (no stinky fruit).

    If you have read this far, you may be interested to know that I am one of many area residents cultivating an organization designed to help citizens deal with this sort of problem. We are still in the organizational stage, our next meeting is 09Dec. For more info –

    Finally, may I add my thanks to Waldo for this forum. This is my first experience with this sort of thing, and, like my stint in the Army, “interesting, but not again”. Since spelling is not my strong suit, my apologies for any misses, and my observation that a spell cheker would be a nice addition.

  68. Paul, I went to your web site and saw where you are looking for citizen input on important issues that affect this community. You should continue checkin this web site and members of the Alliance should weigh-in.

  69. The 25% was added in later by staff after sseing another community that had that restriction. I’ve already asked them to remove it, and they’ve provisionally agreed (pending running it by the attourney and such). So, yes, I agree that part doesn’t make sense, but it shouldn’t be there much longer.

    The five foot buffer only applies to developed areas (i.e. if your property borders a woods, there’s no reason to provide a buffer. Along roads it preserves visibility, and next adjoining properties serves as a fire break. where it comse up to a neighbors property, it helps prevent unwanted vegetation from spreading onto their lawn. It also provides an effective visual cue that that this isn’t just an unmangaged property. If you want, I can dig up some photos of natural landscaping to demonstrate.

    As for noxious weeds, it is very important to note that this isn’t just a species that is irritating to someone
    somewhere. Nor is it anything non-native (Poison Ivy is actually a noxious weed, even though it is native). It is a real classification used by the USDA. There are also levels of severity. The VMP is only concerned with ones that are ranked as a serious threat to heath, safety and the environment.

  70. Since spelling is not my strong suit, my apologies for any misses, and my observation that a spell cheker would be a nice addition.

    That’s actually a function of the web browser, rather than of a website. Firefox and Safari offer spell checking. I’m a little surprised that Internet Explorer doesn’t (I assume that’s what you’re using), but then IE has been years behind the curve for almost a decade.

  71. @Waldo: “but then IE has been years behind the curve for almost a decade.” It’s part of their strategy of expecting the majority of users not to notice or to point the finger elsewhere (like at you). It’s fairly successful.

  72. Parking here is ludicrous. $2 an hour for the garage? If I’m a daily parker/commuter, that’s nearing or exceeding parking in DC levels.. I regularly paid $12-$13 to park in downtown DC. No way I will pay that in C’ville.

    There are plenty of places to park over on Garrett Street (if you get there earlier enough), and the side street that intersects it (6th?), as well as the ones that intersect 6th (Belmont Ave, Monticello?).

    Yes, you have to walk a couple blocks. The neighborhood is *fine* at 5-6pm.. there’s a steady stream of commuters that go down 4th under the bridge and walk down Garrett Street at that time. Safety in numbers, people — not like it’s that dangerous to begin with.

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