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Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023
Scottsville is in a rough spot. The small town’s government will be short about $200,000 next year — that’s 25% of its budget. One of two things must now happen: Taxes are raised, or cuts are made.
The trouble is, many residents don’t want either. The Town Council itself is in stark disagreement over what to do, and the debates have become heated. Earlier this month, one councilor was so discouraged when his colleagues voted against a possible solution that he quit his position on the spot.
“I did not choose the problems that this town is going to inherit tonight from the decision that you all made,” Councilor Zachary Bullock said. “And you will need to find someone else who is willing to serve to solve those problems.”
The town’s mayor and its administrator had hoped to avoid this situation by allowing a developer to transform Scottsville’s vacant and blighted tire factory into a 200-unit apartment building. Such a development would bring in contractor fees, jobs and — most importantly — people. But many Scottsville residents opposed a development that would essentially double the town’s population.
At a public hearing last month, many commenters worried the town’s infrastructure and services (think roads and police) would not be capable of handling such a large influx of people. One resident was concerned those renters would have incredible influence over town politics. What if they banded together and dissolved the town’s charter?
Other speakers mentioned concerns about the “types of people” who might rent affordable units. “I like meeting new people, but I don’t want it to be a busload of immigrants,” a resident said. Still more feared wealthy households moving in and driving up the overall cost of living in town. And some councilors said that people who rent are not involved or committed community members.
(Reader Ethan Tate asked a great question on Twitter about why we didn’t name the people who made these comments. In the video of the Council meeting, commenters didn’t give their names or their names weren’t audible. We chose not to delay the report further by tracking them down.)
In the end, Council voted four to two against the project.
(For more of the back story on how Scottsville handled this proposal, check out this article on how unprecedented such a project is for the small town, and this article for details about the proposed apartment complex.)
Back in Charlottesville, the City Council has appointed a new member. Leah Puryear, a four-term Charlottesville School Board member and director of the University of Virginia’s Upward Bound Program since 1982, will begin Monday. She will serve until the end of the year, then the position will be filled by whomever voters elect in November. Puryear has not said whether she intends to run.
The Council chose Puryear during a closed session from six shortlisted candidates. It was a difficult decision that councilors were deliberating “literally to the last minute,” said Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade. But Puryear rose above the rest for her years experience on the school board, her familiarity with Council members and because she “has had people criticize her before” and “has thick skin,” said Mayor Lloyd Snook.
Puryear’s priorities during her appointment will be getting a budget approved, hiring a new city manager, ushering through a new zoning ordinance, and perhaps investing in mental health care. You can read more about her positions on key issues before Council this year in her Q&A here.
Thanks for reading!
Jessie Higgins, managing editor
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