Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bargain Hunters Descend on Woodbrook

Woodbrook was jammed this morning as bargain hunters arrived for its first annual neighborhood-wide yard sale. The event was organized by long time Woodbrook resident Heather Rose Dorsey and was open to all Woodbrook residents. Great buys could be found on virtually every Woodbrook street.

The two day event, which runs from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, ends tomorrow Sunday, June 22, 2014.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

North Town Center Development (Part 2 of 2)

The Gander Mountain store in the new North Town Center on US 29 just north of the Woodbrook Subdivision in Albemarle County.
In part two of this two part series we look at the story of one family whose lives were so profoundly affected by the North Town Center development that they no longer call Woodbrook their home. When Steve Vondra and Bonnie Morgan moved to Woodbrook in October 2009 they expected it to be their last move. It didn't turn out that way.

Listen: Our interview with Steve and Bonnie. (8m)

New to Charlottesville, Steve and Bonnie immediately fell in love with their new home in the 2700 block of Brookmere Road in Woodbrook. "It was so quietly settled in the back there," said Vondra. "It was just where we wanted to live," he added. "We had the woods in the back which was beautiful," said Morgan recalling their early days in their new Woodbrook home. "It was tucked away in the woods there, and that was perfect for us," she said.

Just a year later, Steve noticed surveyors working behind their home. A trip to the County office to view the site plans for the area confirmed that things were about to change in a big way. "After looking at those plans we started making plans to move the very next day," said Vondra.

Like many of their Woodbrook neighbors, Steve and Bonnie watched the forest behind their home disappear as construction began. "Every day we could see more change to our beloved back yard," said Morgan. "The trees just disappeared, the noise was horrendous, we could hear the bulldozers and the logging," she said. "We could see that our quiet little piece of paradise was gone," she added.

As the forest disappeared so did the noise and light buffer between their home and US 29. "Every night as more and more trees went down it was definitely noisier and we had a lot of light coming in our bedroom up on the second floor," said Vondra.

While they are very happy with their new home, Steve and Bonnie regret leaving Woodbrook. "If [the development] wasn't there we'd still be there," said Vondra. "I'd love to live in Woodbrook still," said Morgan. "Woodbrook would still be our first choice if it hadn't been for [the development]," she added.

We asked Mark Graham, Director of Community Development for Albemarle County to speak with us about the North Town Center development for this story. After initially agreeing to do so, Mr. Graham did not respond to our several email requests to establish a date for the interview.

Our interview with Steve Vondra and Bonnie Morgan was originally recorded on January 19, 2013.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

North Town Center Development (Part 1 of 2)

While Woodbrook resident's experience with the new North Town Center Development abutting the neighborhood on its north side varies, they are in agreement about one thing. They do not want to see a car dealership built on the site.

In a late November 2013 survey of residents, almost 80% of the forty-four homes responding said that they were opposed to the construction of an automobile dealership on the site. That's compared to just 35% who said they were opposed to the recently constructed Gander Mountain store in the Center.

That's not to say that residents whose properties are near the development approve. "We face the North Town development and we can see US 29 and all the businesses along it now, which used to be blocked by the large forested area," said one Woodbrook resident who asked to remain anonymous. "Before all the trees were cut down, we could barely tell that US 29 was nearby," they added.

Before (above) and after photos of the back yard at 2925 Brookmere Drive, in Woodbrook. (Before photo courtesy of Tom Bancroft.)

Problems with noise varied as well with 13% of respondents reporting that they had problems with excessive noise either during or following construction. Michael Juers, whose property lies within 500 feet of the development said, "There is a hum of traffic constantly. Sitting on my back deck enjoying the views and sounds of nature have been compromised." Another resident, who has asked to remain anonymous and whose property abuts the development said, "Noise level has also increased with loss of trees with delivery trucks, forklifts (back up sound is quite loud and can be heard over TV) and general traffic noise from US 29". They went on to say, "The construction crews also frequently worked outside the 10 pm to 7 am quiet zone during the clearing of the land." Former Woodbrook Community Association president Susan Reed echoed the concern of several residents, "There were times this summer when it sounded like something was crashing as they evidently were moving rocks. This was with all the windows closed and it was going on till 9:00 p.m. or so. We don't even back up to the property," she said. "When we walked the neighborhood, you could hear the noise through most of it," she added.

At 23%, almost twice as many Woodbrook residents were concerned about light pollution over noise problems. That's not surprising considering that the light coming from the site directly affects more residents.

However, it was the question of the car dealership that raised the greatest concern among Woodbrook residents. Sid Wood, whose property abuts the development, said, "I don't like the idea of a Jim Price Auto lot wrapping around the bank on the property". One resident who asked to remain anonymous said, "[My] biggest concern with the car dealership is the numerous bright lights they commonly have. The Jim Price Dealership lights are already quite intrusive with the missing trees." Another said, "Light pollution and daytime sound pollution are the biggest issues that I see with a car dealership. I'm not sure how many car dealerships still use an outdoor speaker system to call their sales staff, but I have heard Colonial's at times. That would be unacceptably close for a dealership at NTC." Susan Reed said, "Car lots have speakers and can usually be heard for a fair distance. Resident Josie Pipkin said, "A car dealership would bring in a lot of noise and light. The developers should have to address this and do what can be done to mitigate the impact on the neighborhood if plans for a dealership go forward." Heidi and Jim Douglas said, "[We are] not a fan[s] of people test driving vehicles near my property and my kid's school."

Before (above) and after photos of the back yard at 2925 Brookmere Drive. (Before photo courtesy of Sid Wood. Mr. Wood is not related to the developer Wendell Wood.)

Many Woodbrook residents are simply upset by the whole project. Jo An Eliason, whose property lies within 500 feet of the development, is strongly opposed to the project. "We are thinking of moving away from Woodbrook because of this disastrous mess. We have already lost good neighbors because if it. It has had a negative affect on the animals in our woods and the wonderful appeal of Woodbrook has been lost," she said. Ron Berube said, "It not only ignores, it devalues the community adjacent to it - Woodbrook." Woodbrook resident Gerry Petencin said, "What's most disturbing here is that at one point, after attending many Board of Supervisor's meetings, after watching that process unfold for years, we're led to believe that one set of things will happen, in terms of the nature of development. And then a VERY different set of things actually do happen."

Next week, in part two of this series, we talk to one Woodbrook family so profoundly impacted by this development that they no longer call Woodbrook their home.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Woodbrook's Christmas Lights 2013

It is once again time for our annual Woodbrook Christmas lights photo tour. Capturing Woodbrook at Christmas has been a tradition of this blog since 2009. Some of the displays we photographed in previous years have been retired and some new ones have appeared.

There were noticeably less displays this year, perhaps due to a few rainy weekends in early December. We do our best to capture as many displays as we can in a single evening. Our apologies to those of you whose creative displays we missed or were unable to photograph this year.

Santa Run 2013

For over a decade The Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department has celebrated Christmas with its annual Santa Run. This year Santa's armada of fire trucks arrived in Woodbrook at 6:45 p.m. on December 20th.

This year's route included all of Brookmere Drive, as well as parts of Idlewood Drive, Eastbrook Drive and Brentwood Road. The video above follows the run as it moves eastward along Brentwood Road at Idlewood Drive.

During the run the STVFD passes out candies for the kids and collects food for the local needy.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Woodbrook Residents Elect WCA Officers

Woodbrook residents last week elected three people to serve as officers for the Woodbrook Community Association, the voluntary organization that serves to represent the community in all matters affecting it. A record 44% of registered voters participated in the election.

The new board consists of Susan Fisher (President), Tahira Haroon (Vice-President) and Sharon Evans (Secretary/Treasurer). Only Ms. Haroon returns from last year's board.

"The new members of the Board look forward to a vibrant year in Woodbrook, and encourage all neighbors to engage in, and benefit from, what this great community has to offer," said Fisher in an email message to this blog late last week.

The election was the second to be held using the Internet. Residents received a ballot by email that allowed them to vote transparently using software specially designed for the election. Residents without access to the Internet were invited to vote by telephone. The election took place over a ten day period ending September 30, 2013. The elected officers will serve until the end of September 2014.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rio District Candidates Forum

From left to right: Charlottesville Tomorrow Executive Director Brian Wheeler, incumbent candidate Rodney Thomas (R) and challenger Brad Sheffield (D).
Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress co-hosted a forum for Rio District candidates Tuesday. The forum was held in the cafeteria at Woodbrook Elementary School. Participating were incumbent candidate Rodney Thomas (R) and challenger Brad Sheffield (D).

Listen to the full forum discussion here (1:15)

The forum was divided into three sections. In the first, the candidates answered seven questions jointly selected by Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress. In the second, seven written questions were taken from the audience. In the final section of the forum, the candidates were allowed to ask each other two questions each.

While the candidates did not specifically speak to Woodbrook issues, topics of local interest such as congestion on US29 were discussed.