In an ongoing effort to provide a “voice to the voiceless” in Charlottesville, The Schilling Show Blog and News has committed to publishing materials refused for publication at other media outlets. In this case, an unpublished letter from Belmont residents to the Daily Progress responds to the newspaper’s May 29, 2010 story, “Charlottesville unaware it can measure bass in noise battle.”

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dear Rachana Dixit (reporter) and the Daily Progress,

Your discussion in last week’s issue which clearly revealed the City’s failure to measure bass levels with their sound meters was on point. You clearly reveal the City’s inconsistencies and ignorance of this important issue – indeed, they have been telling residents since day-one that they were not able to measure bass with their meters. Thank you for clearly proving that this is not the case and that these measure are possible.

However, it is disappointing to see that your article contains the same anti-neighborhood slant, misinformation, and flat-out lies found in previous reports in the Charlottesville media. This makes one wonder about the integrity of journalism and news in our city.

First, it is surprising that you failed to quote anywhere in your article the NCC code which specifically states:

“The intent of the Neighborhood Commercial Corridor district is to establish a zoning classification for the Fontaine and Belmont commercial areas that recognize their compact nature, their pedestrian orientation, and the small neighborhood nature of the businesses. This zoning district recognizes the areas as small town center type commercial areas and provides for the ability to develop on small lots with minimal parking dependent upon pedestrian access. The regulations recognize the character of the existing area and respect that they are neighborhood commercial districts located within established residential neighborhoods.”

What is happening in our neighborhood directly violates this code due to the parking and traffic issues as well as due to the noise levels that prevent us from being able to sleep let alone enjoy the sanctity of our own homes.

You left out any mention of such facts as:

  • the Christmas Striptease Party (photos of which were also forwarded to the City Council, to Read Broadhead at City Hall, and to the Planning Commission) ,
  • the drunken patrons using our yards as toilets (to the point where Janet Hatcher was forced to cut down her dogwood tree due to the damage done),
  • the drunken patrons damaging personal property (Jennifer Braverman’s car side-swiped, Janet Hatcher’s retaining wall destoyed multiple times)

Why the failure to report these facts? Where are the photos of patrons inappropriate acts that were taken by the paper?

Specifically, your decision to end the article with a quote from Melissa Easter who stated that we residents who are fighting for our rights will have to “get out” leaves the reader with that same thought. This is evidenced by online responses left to your article by certain readers who have been left with this prejudiced viewpoint. Interestingly enough, the Easters DID, in fact, drive out the family behind the BBQ joint, due to their noise (as per this resident’s email to the Council about this fact). Is that what the businesses want…. to drive out families? Is that really healthy for our “established, residential neighborhood”?

Again, we families have personally renovated the neighborhood to make it a place where businesses would even want to come, and then these same businesses turn around and destroy our quality of life directly in violation of NCC code as written above? We refuse to let this happen!

Additionally, I thought that you and your paper were going to research the issues fully and the following quote shows that you failed to do so: ” Baldi said he has been willing to work with authorities and has tried to meet with residents, but they refuse. “I don’t know what other choice there is,” he said.”

This is a flat-out lie.

The fact is that a couple of months ago, at the last minute, the Neighborhood Association switched the venue of our meeting from the Clark School to Bel Rio. Many of us residents and Belmont business owners felt that this was inappropriate given all that has gone on, and a group of residents and business owners wrote Jesse Fiske saying that we would meet with Baldi, but in the normal venue – The Clark School. When the Neighborhood Association refused to honor our request, some of us boycotted the meeting. However, the meeting DID take place at Bel Rio, and there was face-to-face discussion of these matters with Baldi. So, to resume, we have not refused to meet with Baldi, rather a core group of us did not attend that one meeting.

To sum up this point, Baldi has “met with” many members of the neighborhood both formally during meetings and informally on a daily basis as we residents have had an ongoing dialogue with him about these same issues. So you see, Melissa Easter wishing that everyone could just “play nice” without having the city involved is disingenuous at the best. We have gone to her personally and to Baldi personally numerous times to request that they respect the residential nature of our neighborhood. In reality, she has shown her true colors in her quote, i.e. she is saying that rather than respect the neighborhood that we residents should “get out” of our neighborhood!

Also, quoting Tolbert who says that “(Bel Rio is) the only one” is not true. There have been other issues, specifically with the Easters who put the Tiki Bar outside and who put amplified music on their terrace. Melissa Easter specifically, promised residents (after the debacle of “Saxx” with all of their noise) that she would no longer rent out to loud, late-night businesses. She has obviously sorely failed at keeping her word. Indeed, Shirley Shotwell confronted Melissa Easter face-to-face after a Council meeting, flatly telling her: “You lied to us” because Easter went back back on her word by once again renting out to a venue which keeps the neighborhood up all too often until 2:00 A.M.

So, how does one define “working with authorities” when talking about Baldi? Playing the music too loudly – as per our picture below of a reading of 84 decibles (taken on a weeknight) – only to turn it down once the police because they have arrived to ask him too? Of course, that means that residents have already been disturbed/woken up and had to call the police. You have also failed to point out that the police will not cite Baldi unless they are called more than once on the same night, i.e. police have had to be called too many times to count, but because there has not been more than one call on any given night, the police will not cite him “as a courtesy” (as explained to us by Officer Jones of the Cville police force). So, due to the “courtesy” of the Cville police dept., the police would have to be called again, and Baldi would have to be measured again, and the noise would have to be over the limit again in that same night. It’s hard to get cited when you get a 2nd chance every night to disturb prevent citizens from sleeping and enjoying the sanctity of their own homes late at night.

This issue goes much deeper than the scope of your article, and it is shameful that you and your newspaper have fallen short. I am left wondering if the Daily Progress has other motives for not reporting the true story? Is your newspaper afraid of taking a stand that appears to be anti-business for fear of losing advertising revenues, for example?

Our neighborhood is not anti-business. There are many succesful and respectful business in Belmont. However, the current situation is unjust and runs in direct contradiction to the code as it stands. This is a newly imposed monoculture of restaurants (7 restaurants in a 2-block stretch) which compromises our quality of life with their noise, their overwhelming mixture of kitchen odors, and their patrons who overdrink, who yell, who get into fights, who climb fences, who destroy property, and who use our yards as toilets.

Not only is our quality of life compromised, but our property values decrease as a result. This fact has been studied and published comprehensively in many journals, and we have already provided the City with the official studies and data as proof of the far-reaching adverse effects of their poor city planning.

We can only hope that the media continues to research and properly report what is going on. At this point, it seems that that job is being left to the private citizens of Belmont. We are not “the few”, but rather we are the residents who are remaining vocal in the fight for all of those in our neighborhood who are already working full-time, who are elderly, who are dealing with health issues, who are raising children, who are taking care of families, and who are trying to have a decent homelife.

We are quite simply demanding our rights as American citizens – the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in our own homes. We are staying in the fight because we are fighting for what is right. The Easters et al. will continue to try and paint us as “the few” and the “complainers” in order to serve their purposes. So, as far as being the “few”, I challenge you to name more than a handful of our forefathers who signed the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, they too were the “complainers” who stood up and who spoke out for the many suffering under an oppressive situation.

The media needs to do better work exposing the truth of this issue.

Finally, over the past year, there have been three murders in the Cville area directly related to the music scene and drinking. For this reason, it is unconscionable that the City is not doing a better job at protecting us from this same presence in our “historic, established residential” neighborhood.

We will continue to demand that our “historic, established, residential neighborhood” and our quality of life not be destroyed.

Sincerely,

Kimber Hawkey (Belmont Ave)
Charles Gendrot (Belmont Ave)
Cheryl Hailey (Douglas Ave)
Janet Hatcher (Douglas Ave)
Shirley Shotwell (Douglas Ave)
Jennifer + Stan Braverman (Douglas Ave)
Megan Vail (Elliot Ave)
Cheryl Hailey (Douglas Ave)
Jessie Hester-Mautner (Douglas Ave
)Joan Dragon (disgusted out-of-towner who can’t sleep when visiting)

2 COMMENTS

  1. In vapid defense of the Daily Progress, the letter exceeds the word limitations for published letters. I, myself, find the restriction, well, restrictive. Then again, I get complaints — all the time — for being too wordy.

    I am glad that these ten residents of Belmont — plus one guest — have a place to air their grievances. Too bad it is on a backwater weblog site whhere few serious residents of the area loiter — or so it appears to this (new) reader.

    Despite the well-voiced complaints, I see nothing too new here. It does make me gald that I do not live in Belmont — the residents’ description of their environment sounds dreadful — and, frankly, I cannot stand to live around cranky, complaining neighbors. Mine, fortunately, are sufficiently docile — AND — they don’t use my yard as a toilet (not even for their dogs).

    It also verifies something I believed all along. That is, this entire broohaha has at its roots Bel|Rio’s so-called “Christmas Striptease Party” — whch it wasn’t. Oh, and that it is not JUST Bel Rio, but all the restaurants and nightlife — or life of any sort.

    The solution appears obvious to me. Forget noise ordinances. Close down all the restaurants. Put up Hospital Zone signs. And get on with life.

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