Neighbors Take a Stand in Woolen Mills Tree Debate
Several people in the Woolen Mills neighborhood of Charlottesville are upset with a developer who has taken down six trees on the historic landscape.
One neighbor was arrested for silently protesting in front of trees being cut down.
Robin Hanes watched three trees go down before she decided to step in front of what the developers were slicing from her neighborhood. After spending the a majority of her Tuesday in jail, she and her neighbors hope developer Lindsay Milby understands and respects the historic landscape.
Hanes said, "People think of architecture as being what lasts. To me, trees have been here so much longer."
She walked by and showed NBC29 the trees in Woolen Mills she took a stand in front of before they were knocked down and remarked, "It was really dramatic."
Hanes sat in front of a Norway Spruce before being handcuffed and taken to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail Tuesday. She explained, "That tree was worth doing something for."
Hanes is an active member of the Charlottesville Tree Commission. She added, "I've never done anything like this but if there's ever a time, this is it."
Hanes is not alone. Jim Burke, a Woolen Mills neighbor, said, "It's a historic neighborhood and that this particular piece of property was part of the old golf course."
Victoria Dunham, the president of the neighborhood, released this statement in support of Hanes' cause:
I want to state for the record that I stand behind our board member, Robin Hanes, 100%. Her civil disobedience was an act of bravery, and reflects the fact that many of us in the neighborhood are fed up with the pro-density/anti-green vision being forced on us by outsiders. The property was owned by a long-time and much-loved WM resident, Lola Holloway Knight. We've always considered that corner containing the grove of trees to be an iconic piece of the historic WM village landscape. It's been singled out many times as one of the quintessential parts of the fabric that makes up the Woolen Mills.
When we found out that Joe Milby, a real estate agent and developer, had purchased the property, we initially worried that he was a flipper, but hoped that his intention was to move into the house because he liked the property and neighborhood. We soon discovered that his intention was to shoehorn multiple structures onto the strip of greenspace next to Lola's house. I, along with other neighbors, pleaded with the Milbys to reconsider, but it fell on deaf ears. He proceeded with his destruction yesterday, knowing full well that this action was vehemently opposed by not only the adjacent neighbors, but also by many others in the Woolen Mills.
Woolies, as we've been called for the last century, are fiercely protective of the historical, cultural, and environmental fabric of our neighborhood. We're puzzled by outsiders who come here with the intent of reshaping that fabric rather than enjoying it. In doing so, they erode the things that make us unique. It's not about NIMBY-ism or being exclusionary. It's about sharing our vision of a green neighborhood that honors its agrarian past and present.
Burke added, "We feel sad about what has happened but we feel great about her."
Milby also released this statement regarding why the trees are being cut down and precautions they have taken:
We are Charlottesville natives and city residents and respect the integrity of all the neighborhoods. We are simply building a custom designed cottage on a vacant city lot that we own, that will enhance the landscape of the neighborhood. We personally paid for a consultation with an arborist. Unfortunately, the tree could not be saved.
Hanes said the developer, "plans to live there and their mother plans to live in the house next to them." She says she'll believe that when she sees it.
No matter who lives in the custom designed cottage, Hanes hopes they plant other trees to replace the ones they chopped down.
Several of Hanes' neighbors stopped by while she spent time in jail to show their support. Hanes says she doesn't know exactly when her court arraignment will be, but it should take place in May.
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