Monthly Archive for January, 2009

UVa Buys Econo Lodge Under a Pseudonym

UVa bought the Econo Lodge on Emmett St. using a pseudonym, Will Goldsmith reports for C-Ville Weekly. They paid $6M back in May under the name “Meadow Creek II Corporation,” rather than as the UVa Foundation, which is the name of the corporation that holds the university’s property. They’ve never made their acquisition public—it’s Goldsmith who discovered it.

This is interesting because of the university’s relationship with adjacent landowners and the city itself. When UVa acquires land, it’s taken out of the tax base of the municipality, so their physical expansion is not particularly welcomed by the city or the county. (Hence the interest in UVa’s recent announcement that they’re looking to grow up, not out.) Some of the folks who own property adjacent to the university see themselves as holding the line against the school’s sprawl, so it’s reasonable to speculate that UVa used an alternate name to circumvent the prior owner’s reluctance to sell, and presumably to bargain for a lower price than might otherwise be exacted from the university. I can’t see that there’s anything illegal about that—there’s even an argument to be made that it’s a smart use of public funds—but if that is what’s going on, this does mark a new tack for the growing university.

Note, too, that the Daily Progress records a building permit to Meadow Creek II for 1600 Gordon Avenue, indicating at least one other property on the fringes of the university is owned by the corporation.

C’ville Real Estate Assessments to Increase

Charlottesville’s assessors have found that the value of property has increased in town, Henry Graff reports for NBC 29, and that will be reflected in real estate tax bills. On average, the increase is 2-3%, but some folks will see much higher jumps. Some Fifeville homes are up 18%, the gentrified 10th and Page is up 9%, and Belmont is up 8%. If you’re in Greenbrier, you’re in luck, tax-wise—that’s dropping 10%, on average.

Remember that assessments are based on the actual sale property of houses in a given neighborhood, with houses that haven’t sold recently being estimated based on comparable homes in the area. If you think your assessment is wrong, remember that you can appeal it. (But be honest with yourself. How much would you want for your house to sell it right now?) Next up: the debate over where to set the tax rate.

Tommy Garrett Subpoenas

Chicken farmer and faux celebrity Tommy Garrett has subpoenaed me for evidence in his lawsuit against The Hook. In the incredibly overbroad subpoena, his attorney asks for full documentation about any time I have ever communicated with anybody, ever, about Garrett or the lawsuit, along with everything I know about everybody who posted a comment to my blog entry about the case: names, e-mail address, IP addresses, etc. The idea that I could have any information relevant to this case is absurd, since I hadn’t written a word about the matter (or even heard of Garrett) until after his lawsuit had been filed.

What Garrett and his attorney may not know is that I’ve got a bit of a history of not taking any guff on the legal front—I was among the plaintiffs who took the youth curfew case up to the Supreme Court in the mid-90s, and I prevailed when Mattel came after me in federal court in 2000. So rest assured that I don’t intend to give up a thing unless compelled to do so by a court. Unfortunately, “hiring a lawyer to quash a subpoena” doesn’t appear in our household budget, so I’m acting as my own attorney here. But, hey, I’ve been exploring getting a law degree, so here’s a chance for a crash course. The requested information appears to be variously irrelevant, unnecessary to the case, confidential, and privileged.

I’d chalked up Garrett as a harmless kook, and pitied the guy enough that I’d resolved to basically ignore this matter save to cover the aspect of a local media outlet being sued. But my perspective is now considerably less charitable.

Planned YMCA Shrinks by a Third

The YMCA is dramatically shrinking the size of their planned McIntire Park facility, Rachana Dixit reports in the Progress. Recall that the city gave away $2M of public park to the Young Men’s Christian Association after the group agreed to build the facility and allow the Charlottesville High School swim team to have priority to the $1.25M lap pool (which the city paid for). The 75,000 square foot facility has shrunk by a third to 50,000 square feet, which the organization says is a result of a lack of donations because of a tight economy. They need to raise $15M, but they’re stuck at $7.5M. The good news is that the softball fields aren’t going anywhere. The smaller size of the building means that there’s no longer any reason to tear them up.

Biscuit Run on Hold

The developers behind the massive Biscuit Run project say it’s on hold, Tasha Kates writes in today’s Daily Progress, a result of the collapsed housing market. You’ll recall that Biscuit Run was sold to developers by the Breedens for $46M three years ago, and that the county calculated that the development would cost us the taxpayers $222M, but that we’re basically powerless to prevent it, so it was approved a year and a half ago. The planned 3,100 houses are to be located just south of town, but since nobody appears to be able to sell any existing houses right now, building new ones wouldn’t make any sense at all.



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