Today's Patreon-fueled shout-out is for the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Campaign, an initiative that wants you to grow native plants in yards, farms, public spaces and gardens in the northern Piedmont. Native plants provide habitat, food sources for wildlife, ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change, and clean water. Start at the Plant Northern Piedmont Natives Facebook page and tell them Lonnie Murray sent you!
In today’s newsletter:
A brief rundown of today’s COVID numbers in Virginia
Jackson P. Burley placed on National Register of Historic Places
Neighbors of proposed event center near Batesville weigh in at community meeting
Chamber of Commerce preparing for Rebound Ball
There are another 2,228 new cases of COVID-19 in Virginia this morning as reported by the Virginia Department of Health. That brings the seven-day average of new daily cases down slightly to 2,354. The seven-day average for positive PCR tests rate has increased to 8 percent, up from 7.5 percent yesterday.
In the Blue Ridge Health District, there are another 36 COVID cases, bringing the seven-day average to 33 per day.
The outbreak in Staunton reported yesterday has traced back to Middle River Regional Jail, which had a facility-wide testing event on November 25. In all 213 inmates tested positive. Today Staunton reports another 48 cases. Augusta County reports 54 new cases and the city of Waynesboro reports 22 new cases. That’s a one-day high for Augusta County and the third highest for Waynesboro. (press release)
Several nearby residents of a historic property near Batesville spoke out last night against a permit the new owners have requested in order to hold up to 18 events per year. Scott Kelley and Nancy Sanford are a couple that purchased Bellevue Farm last December and use the property as their home and want to hold weddings and other events in an indoor riding ring. Lori Schweller of the firm Williams Mullen is their attorney.
“This property is about 145 acres and is zoned rural area,” Schweller said. “The entire property, and this is the home Bellevue, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is under conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.”
Planner Scott Clark said county zoning ordinance allows owners of historic properties to request a special use permit to hold events and the possibility is justified by the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
“The major overarching goal for the rural areas in the Comprehensive Plan are that ‘the rural area will have thriving farms and forests, traditional crossroads communities, protect the scenic areas, historic sites, and preserve natural resources,” Clark said, adding that the provision for events at historic properties predates similar provisions for wineries, breweries and cideries.
“Different types of events have different by-right uses and different special use requirements,” Clark added.
Special use permits can allow for conditions to mitigate impacts, including traffic management plans and limits to hours of operation.
In a question and answer period that lasted nearly two hours, neighboring residents stressed their opposition to the permit, citing traffic, light pollution, noise, and other disturbances. Rory Carpenter is an abutting property owner.
“My wife and I built our house here 30 years ago because of the beauty and tranquility of the area,” Carpenter said. “We raised our two children and we love it here. What we love most is the fact that it is rural and it is one of the most beautiful spots in Albemarle County.”
Mary Ann O’Brien said she did not think the use would benefit the Batesville area.
“We love the quiet, we love the calm, we’re concerned about the traffic the area,” O’Brien said. “We just don’t see any upside for Batesville or the community. We see only negatives.”
Others were opposed to a commercial use in the rural area. Stephen Yowell represents the Greenwood Foundation.
“The bottom line is in my opinion and in many others who I have spoken with about this, this is not an application for a special use permit,” Yowell said. “This is an application for a business license.”
Scott Kelley said their goal is to find a way to continue the working nature of the property and to make use of the agricultural buildings that have been there for decades.
“We’ve got a large farm and we’re trying to figure out what to do with the farm that is consistent with the preserving the nature of the property,” Kelley said. “We’re talking about doing very little to the exterior to any of the existing buildings, in fact trying to improve the one that is by everybody’s estimation is the eyesore is the indoor riding ring.”
Kelley said he and his wife did not have an intention to turn their property into a commercial winery.
The couple now has the opportunity to resubmit their application with revisions based on feedback received at the meeting. When they apply, the matter would need to go before the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors for public hearings.
The high school established by Albemarle and Charlottesville in the middle of the 20th century for Black students is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Jackson P. Burley opened in 1951 on Rose Hill Drive, eleven years after the city had built a new school for whites only. Jimmy Hollins of the Burley Varsity Club alumni group said Burley also was for Black students from Greene and Nelson.
“Burley was a big part of the Black community back in those days,” Hollins said. “When they played sports, football or basketball games, those games was crowded. Pretty crowded. And we not only had Black fans, we would have white fans that would come and stand outside of the gates and look at the games.”
Hollins said that’s because Burley was the only school in the area with a winning record. The National Register of Historic Places is an honorific designation that recognizes the historic significance of a property. (read the nomination form)
“The building represents a rare instance in which two localities—Charlottesville and Albemarle County—sought to achieve “separate but equal” educational facilities during segregation—and at a time when successful legal suits underway elsewhere in Virginia challenged the unequal and overcrowded conditions in black schools,” reads the page for Burley on the website for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The two localities built the school in order to justify continued segregation of students by race, a practice that was declared unconstitutional in 1954 in the Brown vs. the Board of Education case. Burley did not close until 1967 after all surrounding counties had lost their fight to keep schools separate.
Albemarle County now owns the building and operates as one of their middle schools despite being within city limits. All across Virginia, the majority of Black schools like the Christiansburg Institute and Dunbar High School in Lynchburg were closed rather than become desegregated themselves. That’s one reason Hollins says this designation is so critical.
“Originally in the state of Virginia, they had as far as Black high schools, they had 115 of the Black high schools,” Hollins said. “Now out of those 115, there are only three that are still high schools today that are working high schools.”
Many of the alumni from those schools today continue to meet under the auspices of the Virginia Interscholastic Association.
Hollins graduated from Burley in 1965.
“Personally I never through Burley would close,” Hollins said. “I always thought Burley would stay open as a high school
Hollins said when the pandemic is over, there will be an occasion to celebrate the listing.
We are a day away from the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce’s Rebound Ball, where the organization will honor local leaders including handing out awards that celebrate business resilience. A top event at the Ball is a conversation with Priya Parker, the author of a book called the Art of Gathering. She’s also a facilitator and speaker who attended the University of Virginia and will speak about the experience in a conversation with Chamber CEO Elizabeth Cromwell.
“One of my earliest memories there was one of the first questions people would ask me on the Lawn in the cafeteria, in my dorm, was what are you?” Parker said. “And I didn’t understand the question. I thought maybe they were asking me what year I was. I didn’t understand the code.”
Parker grew up in Africa and Southeast Asia, and is biracial. She said she didn’t understand why fellow students would select that question for their first inquiry into her life.
“I began to realize at UVA, specifically at the University and then as I stayed there longer and longer and I think in Charlottesville as well that race was a very big deal there, whether it was looking at parties that were allowed to go into early morning hours on Frat Row and then Black parties being broken up by the cops again and again and again.”
Parker said her questions about race were taken seriously by older students. She became involved with student self-governance.
“And long story short, I learned about a process called sustained dialogue through my research that took a different approach to race relations which was to help people come together in small groups, committed to talking about the issues that most mattered to them that are often kept behind closed doors,” Parker said.
At the Rebound Ball, she will tell the rest of the story of how she pursued the topic as an undergraduate and how it helped led to her career as a facilitator. She and Cromwell will also talk about lessons learned about the art of gathering during the pandemic. (buy tickets)
Today in meetings:
The Albemarle Board of Zoning Appeals meets at 2 p.m. (meeting info)
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization meets at 4 p.m. and Scottsville District (meeting info)
Charlottesville’s Tree Commission meets at 5 p.m. (meeting info)
Albemarle Supervisor Donna Price will have a town hall for the Scottsville District beginning at 7 p.m. (meeting info)