Saturday, April 21, 2007

taking by typo

The map above, received from Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Services January 5, 2007, shows the Timberlake-Branham property at 1512 East Market as being protected by a "minor design control district". This property was conferred "Individually Protected Property" (IPP) status by vote of City Council, October 18, 1993.

I apologize to black and white photography readers for introducing this color subject. I wouldn't do so if it wasn't important to national historic preservation efforts in general and to the Place, the Woolen Mills Village, in particular.

Since January when we received this map, the Charlottesville (Virginia) Zoning Administrator has issued a determination claiming that the size of the Timberlake-Branham IPP (on the left above) was reduced by approximately 75% in 2003 as the result of a clerical error.

Friends of the neighborhood locally and from across the country are passionately opposed to the Zoning Administrator's directive. The delisting is destructive: destructive to the local quality of life and environment, destructive to the possibility of a National Historic Register District nomination for this venerable village.

When local government moves to strip one of the few existing "design control districts" from our neighborhood we turn from sheep to "the Fightin' Sheep." This transformation is absolutely necessary if we hope to survive as a unique residential neighborhood. Since the dark days of the 50s and 60s, erosion of the neighborhood's historic assets has occurred secondary to inappropriate zoning applied by the mid 20th Century "urban renewal" City Council. We won't be slaughtered again.

The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) heard an appeal of this "taking by typo" Thursday afternoon 4/17/07. It was confusing stuff. There were multiple lawyers in the room.

Additionally the BZA heard from members of the public, friends of the neighborhood, and from one real estate developer who feels the historic designation is inappropriate.

Why does this matter? I will paste in one of the statements from the public hearing.

I can?t speak to the technical threshold questions and, in fact I don?t want to. I heard some of the lawyers mentioning that you?ve already been given voluminous memos about these questions.

I guess my position would be to urge you to try to see through them and to think hard about the very basic questions that you are presented with today.
One of them is the right to property, which is protected by state law and also by the Federal Constitution.

Of course we are speaking about the rights of individual property owners but also the rights of adjoining land-owners and the entire community in protection of the historical-district. The very basic notion being that you have got to give the people due-process, you?ve got to give people notice and an appropriate hearing, you?ve got to give them some forum within which their interests can be heard.

I really think it would be frightening and an unspeakable precedent for you to allow taking of property interest by typo, or by some sort of administrative oversight, it is really a very frightening thing and it doesn?t do fairness to the individual parties in this case, here the adjoining landowners.

Taking by typo? That is just absolutely wrong.

The other thing that I really urge you to think about is the precedents that you are setting for the future., and the ability of the community as a whole to rely on the records.

We have to be able to rely on the accuracy of the records and to rely on the fairness of the procedure in changing those records.

If Mr. Emory hadn't sort of randomly been looking through the records and discovered this error we might not have known about it. Thank heavens he did.

But you can't put that burden on individual property owners to constantly be checking and to be sure that an administrator hasn't introduced an error.

Again, this is not to cast any aspersions on administrators, they are busy and mistakes get made.

Again, I would urge you to think both about fairness to the parties here and what the most minimum due process requires, which is notice and an opportunity to be heard. And then also to think about the precedent and the way in which this kind of taking by typo would really threaten and jeopardize all of our ability to trust the stability of the records.--Anne Coughlin

Thomas Jefferson, for all his faults, was a surveyor "with a difference". The Woolen Mills village, for all its faults, was a residential mill village with a difference. It is a cultural and physical landscape unique to Charlottesville.

The 1922 Davison's Textile Blue Book lists 20 cotton mills, 16 knitting mills, 14 silk mills and 14 woolen mills in the state of Virginia. By 1935, 22 percent of the industrial workers in the Virginia labored in textile mills, many lived in textile mill villages. Yet despite the central place of the textile mill-village in Virginia's history little research has been done on the folkways of mill-villages in our state. To our knowledge there isn't a National Register textile mill residential historic district in Virginia. We'd like to address that lack. We'd like the care and recognition long withheld from this deserving area to be applied.

Woolen Mills Road, a 501(c)3 formed in 2006, exists to serve:
(i) to promote for the general public the preservation and improvement of the natural and historic resources of the Woolen Mills neighborhood located in the City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle, Virginia;
(ii) to promote and engage in study of and education regarding the Woolen Mills neighborhood

If you'd like to become a Woolie, the life-time membership fee is $1.00. Please contact Victoria Dunham:

dunham at historicwoolenmills dot org

If you'd like to contribute funds to help battle the Goliath republican lawyer team your dollars will be spent on slingshots and rocks. If you do not believe in pugilism, so indicate, and your gift will be used for research, education and the historic district nomination.

(Audio of the entire meeting is available at the Charlottesville-Tomorrow website,
print and broadcast media links here

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