Council holds public hearing on sale of land on West Main Street

Charlottesville City Council appears poised to swap a small portion of land with a six-figure sum, though at least one member has reservations. 

The property is currently a landscaped buffer in front of the building that houses Shenanigans Toy Store at 601 West Main Street. 

“In 1979, the city purchased this small piece of land, 1,141 square feet or 15 feet by 70 or something,” said Chris Engel, the city’s Economic Development Director.

Engel said the city is now not sure what the purchase was intended for but the best indication was that it was for a roadway improvement. 

“That improvement never actually occurred so it has remained city property but the city hasn’t been taking care of it,” Engel said.

Main Street West LLC has asked to purchase the property at the 2022 assessment of $119,108.

Councilor Michael Payne said he had thought Council had already opted to not proceed with the sale. 

“Have their been any substantive changes between now and then and why is this item coming back to us after it was previously denied?” Payne asked. 

Engel said it had been discussed previously but had never been formally denied. Other Councilors recalled it being brought up before and Payne said there had been a consensus not to proceed.  

Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said if the city didn’t need the land for a specific purpose, they could get the cash as well as begin to receive real property tax revenue from the project. Engel said the property had gone through a departmental review.

“Nobody could identify any particular need for the property at this moment,” Engel said. 

Engel said the now-canceled West Main Streetscape did not even anticipate using the property. 

No one spoke during the public hearing. 

Councilor Brian Pinkston said he weighed future public use but pointed out that the city has owned it since he was seven years of age. 

“We haven’t done anything with it and it is  concerning to me that the owner of the land behind are the ones who have to keep up the maintenance on our property which is a problem,” Pinkston said. 

Payne said land is the city’s most valuable commodity and he did not support the sale. 

“I won’t pretend that this is the most important piece of land in the city,” Payne said. “It’s clearly not. But I still think there should be a high bar for the city relinquishing land that we own for a clear public benefit and we’re getting in the context of our budget an inconsequential amount of money.” 

Payne said the land could one day be used for a streetscape improvement, a bus stop, or a pocket park. 

There appeared to be three votes to proceed. A second reading is required but it will not be on the city’s consent agenda. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 23, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

Additionally, this was posted during a time I’ve upgraded to a new WordPress theme. Some things may not look as they should. But, it’s a fun experiment!

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