By Sean Tubbs
Friday, September 23, 2011
Residents of two of Charlottesville’s central neighborhoods had the opportunity Thursday night to give advice to city councilors and department heads about how local government can work more effectively to serve their needs.
The City Council’s latest town hall meeting was targeted at residents of the Rose Hill neighborhood and a nearby community that is only now finding an identity.
“We’ve discovered a lot of people don’t know what Kellytown is,” said Tom Bowe, the president of the Kellytown Neighborhood Association.
One city councilor said he could understand that sentiment.
“I’ve lived on Rugby Avenue for thirty years, and I wasn’t really sure if I was a resident of Kellytown,” said City Councilor David Brown. “Part of it in my view is that neighborhoods form around a community of interest, and that’s often a problem. What are the problems that can bring an identity to this neighborhood?”
City government recognizes many neighborhoods, but does not make decisions about their boundaries.
Bowe said problems facing the neighborhood include cut-through traffic on Rose Hill Drive, as well as the pressures of more development. He said the neighborhood is considering seeking historical status from the city in part to help protect its residential character.
“We’re concerned about commercial development on Rose Hill Drive and Amherst Street," Bowe said. He pointed to a pending development by Artisan Construction that will consolidate four businesses into one medical clinic, which he said will include an inappropriate access onto Amherst Street.
“That is a neighborhood street,” Bowe said. “If [patients] want to go to Barracks Road after they go to the clinic, they would cut through our neighborhood.”
Susan Hoffman, a resident of Augusta Street, said she felt a developer outmaneuvered the neighborhood during a rezoning process that allowed for the development.
“It is difficult for a neighborhood to pull together and come to a consensus in a short amount of time,” Hoffman said. “For the developer, that’s their business, and they have lawyers. We felt like we didn’t have any voice in the matter.”
Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said he understood the neighborhood’s concerns, and that his department tries to inform citizens about how rezoning and other development applications work.
“If neighbors have concerns, we’ll give you advice on how the process works,” Tolbert said. “We’re not going to tell you how to defeat it, but we’ll put you in touch with the developer and help you strategize.”
Neighborhood resident Anne Colony is helping to research the history of Kellytown.
“It’s apparently one of the first free black neighborhoods in Charlottesville,” Colony said. “We are talking about doing a historic plaque to give a little of the history.”
Colony added that many in the neighborhood believe that Thomas Jefferson looked at the area as a potential location for the University of Virginia.
Tolbert also used the meeting to educate people about a new honorary street name that is being applied to Rose Hill Drive. The street will gain a second name, Jackson P. Burley Drive, from Preston Avenue to Madison Avenue.
James Hollins, the president of the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association, asked the council to increase police patrols.
“Rose Hill is basically a quiet area and we like to keep it quiet and have the police come through late at night,” Hollins said.
In 2009, Councilor Kristin Szakos campaigned on a platform to hold town hall-style meetings in order to reach people who might feel uncomfortable coming to city hall for a regular meeting.
“I think they are going probably better than we expected,” said city spokesman Ric Barrick.
The program will continue next year, but Barrick said neighborhood associations will be encouraged to take a more active role in planning them.
The next town hall meeting will be held on Oct.13 at Walker Upper Elementary School for residents of the Greenbrier and Rugby neighborhoods.