Monthly Archive for December, 2011

VNB Board Members Leave En Masse

There’s been a shake-up on the Virginia National Bank board, Hawes Spencer wrote for The Hook last week. Mark Giles, the chairman and founding president of the local bank, quit the board effective immediately on December 19, along with Claire Gargalli and Leslie Disharoon; UVA neurosurgeon Neal Kassell left a couple of days later. Spencer writes that the initial three resignations resulted from “a disagreement over the composition of its board of directors,” though nothing specific is public yet. Though it may be unrelated, it cannot go without note that board members Hunter Craig and Wick McNeely appear to be in serious financial trouble as a result of their investments in the failed Biscuit Run housing development. To the extent to which their personal financial wellbeing is tied up in VNB stock, their short-term interests for the bank may deviate from other members’.

Giles’ departure from the board is particularly notable. More than any other individual, Giles has been the face of VNB.

Athletic Fields May Be Incorporated into Biscuit Run

As Biscuit Run State Park starts to take shape south of town, one of the uses that some county residents would like to see is the provision of athletic fields. Unfortunately, the state doesn’t provide such things—it’s the job of localities, which aren’t allowed to build them in state parks. A proposed land swap might solve the problem, Brian Wheeler reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville. The non-profit owns the 100-acre Southwood Mobile Home Park, directly adjacent to Biscuit Run, and they figure they can donate thirteen acres to Biscuit Run in exchange for being given thirteen back. Then they’d take seven of those and provide them as a proffer to the county in exchange for permission to increase the density of housing in Southwood. All of this requires sign-off from the county, the General Assembly, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, but there’s nothing extraordinary about the request, so it’s well within the realm of the possible.

Sewage Facility Will Not Be Built in Woolen Mills

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has voted to build a new sewage facility not in the Woolen Mills neighborhood, but instead a short distance away, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. A bare majority of the board voted to build it a short distance away, in a less populous area, rather than expand the unpopular existing facility in the Woolen Mills. Neighborhood residents complained that the new building would be enormous, totally out of scale for the neighborhood, and exacerbate the longtime problem of the terrible smell. County RSWA board members are unhappy about the cost of this option, with Supervisor Ken Boyd calling on the city to voluntarily pay the $13M difference. The new facility is necessary because the existing one cannot handle peak capacity, overflowing sewage into the Rivanna.

Daily Progress Erects Paywall

Media General has put up a paywall in front of Daily Progress website content. The media conglomerate entered into a relationship with Journalism Online earlier this year, the company that has developed the “Press+” platform. It limits readers to reading ten “premium” articles each month (no word on what constitutes “premium”) before they have to buy an online subscription, which runs $7/month.

I was an early alpha tester for the then-unnamed Press+ a couple of years ago, when I worked for a magazine, but after reviewing the meager and misguided technical documentation for their product, decided Press+ was much too crude to work. Simply blocking the URL in a program like Ad Block Plus, or running a browser in “private” or “incognito” mode when visiting an Press+ affiliate, are enough to prevent it from working entirely. The whole article is sent to the browser along with the payment requirement—a bit of code is simply used to display a little box above it; suppress the box, which is easily done, and you can read the article.

It’s also based on a model of charging a monthly fee per media outlet, which isn’t how many people read news now—in the Google News era, we sample our news from a great many sources, and are reluctant to commit financially to a media outlet like that. Instead, media outlets need to be charging micropayments on a per-read basis, anywhere from 1–25¢ per article, for which we’d all have a single monthly charge on our credit card. But to work, those need to be aggregated across dozens or hundreds of media outlets, and only an existing online retailer with a huge file of credit card numbers could make that work, which really means Amazon or Apple. (Google is trying this with One Pass, but they just don’t have an existing financial relationship with enough people.) Until that happens, companies like Media General are stuck with solutions like Press+, which a lot of industry experts are dubious will pay off. Media outlets eager to find new sources of revenue to replace sagging print subscription income are understandably flirting with the Press+ model, because what other options do they have?

This obviously leaves me in an awkward position for linking to news from here, since I’d routinely be sending people to articles they may well not be able to read. Luckily, a few alternatives are available. The first is to link to original stories on Charlottesville Tomorrow, which not infrequently is the ultimate source of the sort of Progress stories I tend to write about here. The second is to link to coverage on NBC-29 and CBS-19, which frequently gets their daily headlines from the Progress. While that’s really not fair to the Progress reporters, that does have the benefit of being a useful link. And the third alternative is to summarize stories in more detail, so that folks who cannot click through can still get the gist of the article. This is, again, not really fair to reporters. I’m open to suggestions here!

County Portion of Parkway Opening in January

VDOT expects to have the Albemarle portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway open in a month’s time, Aaron Richardson writes for the Daily Progress. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ask the Virginia Department of Transportation to open the county’s completed chunk of the road, and City Council doesn’t oppose that, though they want some minor improvements made at the road’s beginning and end.



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