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Save an Albemarle Co Historical Site
Posted by: Nancy Pratt Melton Date: August 27, 2000 at 17:34:04
  of 43079

The Daily Progress
Charlottesville, Albemarle Co,Virginia

August 23, 2000

Daily Progress staff writer

Albemarle County’s Planning Commission very reluctantly gave its stamp
of approval Tuesday night to a proposed subdivision soon to be built
atop the vestiges of an 18th-century village southeast of
The 4-0 vote paved the way for landowner William Orr to build a
seven-lot development at the 63-acre site referred to as Milton Village,
a “primary shipping depot” on the Rivanna River founded in 1789,
according to a county staff report. Most members of the commission,
which recently recommended adoption of a proposed Historic Preservation
Plan that it is hoped would save historically significant resources such
as Milton, voiced strong opposition to the development. But these same
commissioners also conceded that they were powerless to stop the
proposal. Because the development is “by-right” and therefore not
subject to most county regulations, Orr can do, more or less, what he
wants within rural-area zoning parameters.
“I just think we’re in an unfortunate circumstance here,” Commissioner
Dennis Rooker said. “We do not have the discretion, legally, to turn
this subdivision down, much as I would like to.”
Commissioner William Rieley echoed Rooker, adding that the Orr proposal
was a “classic case of why we need a historic preservation ordinance
badly” and “why a voluntary ordinance [would be] so inadequate.”
The county Board of Supervisors will consider the Historic Preservation
Plan, which recommends adopting an ordinance that would curb property
rights to protect an estimated 2,000-plus historic structures and 400
archaeological sites, in October. Typically, a by-right division would
not go to the commission. But two of Orr’s neighbors had requested in a
June 28 letter that commissioners reconsider the development proposal,
triggering an automatic review.
While most commissioners were more than willing to reconsider the
development, at least two commissioners, William W Finley and Rodney S
Thomas, voiced frustration with the seven-member panel for forcing Orr
to sit through a Planning Commission meeting.
Thomas praised Orr, who told commissioners that archaeologists were free
to scour his property for the ruins of the original, 94-lot,
grid-pattern village.
“What would you do if they found artifacts?” Thomas asked Orr.
“I think we would stop what we’re doing,” said Orr, who added that he
hadn’t discovered anything.
Although Milton includes only two identified historic resources today,
both antebellum houses, it could be “one of the [county’s] most
important archaeological
sites,” according to an independent 1995 report on Albemarle’s historic
resources. The county staff report, which was drafted earlier this
month, states that part of the property “was once owned by Thomas
Jefferson.” But the report also states that “there is no architectural
evidence of early structures visible on the site.” Archaeologists from
the University of Virginia and Monticello told commissioners at the
meeting that the site was an important historic resource but added that
they would need time to unearth the remnants of the village.
After the meeting, Orr said that he had earlier considered selling the
development rights of the property to the county by way of Albemarle’s
recently adopted Acquisition of Conservation Easements program.
But, Orr said, county staff had learned that the property was not on any
historic-resources list and that it was unlikely that the county, which
has allocated a mere $1 million for easements in fiscal year 2000-2001,
would buy his development rights.
Orr also said that archaeologists had limited time to look for historic
resources on his property, saying that he wanted to pave a new road on
the property by winter “It’s been on the market for 2 1/2 years,” Orr
said “I really just want to sell it.” Commissioners William Boston
‘Petie” Craddock, whose land borders the proposed development, and
Rieley, who said he could not vote for the proposal “in good
conscience,” abstained from the vote Commissioner C Jared Loewenstein
was absent.

Fellow Researchers,

In recent years, I have had the unpleasant experience of dealing with county
planning commissions. One thing I have learned, is when they approve something,
it really is a recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors. The Board has
to make an approval. If lots of folks contact the County Board of Supervisors
and make their opinions heard, many times they postpone a vote in favor for more
study of the problem. It sounds like they have doubts, they just need some
convincing. So, we need to push a little.

I have been to several webpages, trying to focus on what sites we can 'home' in
on concerning the "Milton Village". The obvious is the Albemarle County Board of

Their email address:

They also have a "Who's Who" link on their main web page. If you click on that
page you will find all the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors names and

I also tried to find who is in charge of the archeology research there and
someone referred me to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. They have a comment box, so I asked them if
there is anything that we can do. I am waiting for a reply.

From personal experience, we need lots and lots of folks to write in or they
won't listen. What you can do to help is contact anyone researching
Milton/Meltons and folks researching in the Albemarle area and send them a link
to the newspaper "Daily Progress" so they can contact the paper and let them know that we need to preserve our historic sites. Email:

Then, give them a link to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors: Their email address:

If enough people give them the message, that they must stop this destruction of
an historical site, they may vote to stop and give the archeologists time to do
their work and hopefully save the site.

HISTORICAL SITES! What you write could save the "Milton Village"! Please try!

We must act now, as I have no idea how much time we have, before the Board
approves the recommendation of the Planning Committee.

Good Luck!

Nancy Pratt Melton
Editor of the

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