Charlottesville Neighborhood Closer To Being Historic

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

December 13, 2005

From historical landmarks to statues and buildings, the city of Charlottesville is full of rich history, but it's important to be sure that it stays preserved.

The Planning commission is recommending part of Charlottesville near the University be designated a local historic area, which received mixed reaction to local residents and property owners.

Almost 20 community members spoke at a public hearing about redrawing the local historic area of Rugby Road, University Circle, and Venable Neighborhood. A majority asked for protection.

"Old homes are charming. If you tear them down you can never rebuild them, you lose a part of the history," said Karen Douglas who lives on University Circle. "Our past is our future and that's just how I think."

Because of recent development, especially student housing, the goal is to protect the historic structures. The plan restricts much of the zone, but gives some leeway with demolition in the southern area above the corner.

"Inclusion in a historic district increases property values. It provides some stability to the neighborhood," said Jim Tolbert of Charlottesville Neighborhood Development Service. "It means you can buy an old home, invest in it, and not have to worry about your next-door-neighbor doing something outlandish with theirs or tearing theirs down and destroying the character of the neighborhoods."

Others did not want restrictions on their property because they felt it was theirs.

"If you buy something and I have to tell you what you can do with it or you can't do with it, you tell me, is that fair? When it doesn't belong to you and you're going to tell me and dictate to me what I can do with it? No it's not fair," said area property owner Daniel Veliky.

Most of the properties would need to be reviewed for demolition, construction, and design.

"It does limit if I am a property owner and I want to do anything to my property beyond basic maintenance work or repair, then I've got to go to the BAR and seek approval," said Tolbert.

Much of the area was already a national and state historic district--but making it a local designation will limit what you can do to the property without review.

The City Council will review the Planning Commission's proposal in the beginning of next year.

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