Town-gown relations, transportation discussed at community meeting
Charlottesville residents living near the University of Virginia raised concerns about unruly students before the Charlottesville City Council at a community forum Thursday.
At the same time, UVa students in attendance voiced an intent to achieve a more peaceful coexistence with their neighbors.
The Our Town series was established in 2010 to provide a way for citizens to bring issues to the council’s attention in an informal setting.
The latest Our Town meeting was held for the neighborhoods of Lewis Mountain, Venable, Rose Hill and Kellytown, and residents on the University Grounds. About 40 people attended the event in the Venable Elementary School gym.
Mayor Mike Signer said that the city government staff present at the meeting were there to hear residents’ concerns and to begin addressing them immediately.
Martin Kilian said an “unholy combination of slumlords, management companies that don’t do their work and student culture” continued to create littered properties and excess trash in the Venable neighborhood. He asked if the city could assign a part-time property inspector to the neighborhood.
Councilor Kathy Galvin said the city government is limited in its ability to sanction small landlords for building violations and was unsure what impact a part-time inspector would have on garbage issues in Venable.
Richard King said large student parties, once concentrated on Rugby Road, are moving farther away from Grounds. “UVa decided that it didn’t want to be the No. 1 party school and forced [the parties] off campus,” King said. “Fourteenth Street and Wertland Street are the new Rugby Road.”
Marilyn Wright said trash from weekend fraternity parties was not collected until the following Thursday. She said this allowed animals to get into the trash and create a larger mess. She proposed moving weekly trash collection from Thursdays to Mondays.
Nancy Carpenter said UVa should help pay for extra trash collection near Grounds.
“They need to be a good neighbor,” said Carpenter. “They are going to grow their student population. It’s only going to get worse.”
Two UVa students tried to address these concerns in their comments. Maeve Curtin, the UVa Student Council representative to City Council, shared her email address with the audience and said she would like to meet with Charlottesville residents and discuss these issues.
Third-year student Luke Nicholson received applause when he said he had recently founded a community service organization called Hoos Cleaning Up to pick up trash in the city.
He asked the council if there were areas beyond Grounds that the organization should visit. Councilor Kristin Szakos said that Hoos Cleaning Up should start by focusing on the area near the university.
Several transportation issues also were brought up during the meeting. Paul Long said there was a need for more frequent city bus service along Grady Avenue, especially when University Transit routes were curtailed over the summer and during football games. Szakos said the city has asked UVa Transit to prioritize Grady Avenue.
Roberto Armengol said a pedestrian crosswalk should be created at the intersection of 10th and West Street, near Venable Elementary School. He said speeding drivers during rush hour posed a great threat to students.
Szakos suggested that Armengol contact the Charlottesville School Board and request that a crossing guard be stationed at the intersection.
Galvin said that, despite the completion of construction on the Rio Road-U.S. 29 intersection, drivers were continuing to use alternative routes through the city’s urban neighborhoods.
“It is important for them to break those habits. … We could make it less desirable to go through neighborhood streets,” Galvin said.
Councilor Bob Fenwick also was in attendance while Councilor Wes Bellamy was absent.