A small plot of land in Charlottesville is garnering a surprising amount of attention.
The city, which owns the 15-by-70-foot parcel in front of Shenanigans Toy Store at 601 W. Main St., had put the land up for sale. The owner of 601 W. Main offered to buy it for $120,000. Now the city says it isn’t so sure.
Up until last week, the city seemed on track to accept Allan Cadgene’s offer for the plot of mulch and shrubbery in the city’s Starr Hill neighborhood.
The deal made sense to Cadgene, seeing as he maintains it anyway, he told The Daily Progress.
“We’ve maintained that lot because the city doesn’t,” Cadgene said.
He regularly pays for landscaping and maintenance to help keep the property clean, an effort to attract more customers to the several businesses that are tenants in his building.
In the past, Cadgene has received notices from the city about the need for weed control or snow-shoveling, even though the city owns the land parcel.
“So after that happened, I said I should just buy it from the city because I maintain it anyway,” he said. “I don’t know what to do. Dealing with the city has been overly frustrating during these last couple years.”
At first look, it may seem that pocketing $120,000 for a piece of land it does not regularly maintain would be an easy choice. Plus, Mayor Lloyd Snook pointed out that if Cadgene did buy the land, it would increase the taxable value of his property, resulting in more tax revenue for the city.
“On the other hand, land is very much at a premium,” Snook told The Daily Progress. “We’re not going to have any more of it made. So there are those who feel like we’ve got to be guarding jealously every bit of land we’ve got.”
According to Cadgene, the city previously determined it did not need the land, which is what allowed it to be considered for sale in the first place and perhaps why an “ordinance to approve 601 West Main Street Land Sale” was listed on the agenda of the most recent city council meeting.
But it was removed from the agenda by recently appointed City Manager Sam Sanders.
“I want to give staff additional time to go back and reconsider what particular actions were taken in order for them to reach the conclusion to recommend the potential sale in the first place,” Sanders said during the Sept. 5 meeting.
He added that staff is examining why more vegetation has not been planted on the land.
Snook said that the possibility of selling the plot came up months ago, and at the time he was “theoretically” open to it.
“But frankly I did not think it was anywhere near as large a parcel as it is. I had impression it was 20 feet by 10 feet,” he said. “Fifteen feet by 70 feet is enough for anything from trees to electrical vehicle charging stations to a bus stop.”
According to Snook, some people, including Council Member Michael Payne and candidate for council Natalie Oschrin, suggested converting the land into a pocket park, a small green space open to the public.
That had some support at the meeting last week, when two locals spoke during public comment advocating for the city to maintain ownership.
Kay Slaughter asked the city to plant additional trees and beautify the area.
“While a landowner might want to expand a building’s footprint or its parking area, this must be weighed against any public interest,” Slaughter told council.
Cadgene said he wouldn’t put more parking on the small property.
“The goal would be to make it a better statement for my tenants behind there. They need visibility from West Main Street to make it a better landscaped area,” he said.
Amanda Stevens, owner of Shenanigans and one of Cadgene’s tenants, supports his purchase.
“I think it would be better maintained and would look nicer for all the businesses that are really working hard to stay customer-friendly and have a nice street space,” Stevens told The Daily Progress. “I haven’t seen that from city in regard to that piece of land.”