The Washington Town Council filled its second vacancy in as many months at its regular monthly meeting Monday night (Jan. 12) at town hall, appointing Frederic Catlin to one of two open seats on the town’s planning commission.
The council’s unanimous vote on the appointment, to a term that runs through April 2018, included the “aye” of Gary Aichele, who was appointed to fill the council seat from which Dan Spethmann resigned this fall. Catlin, an educational administrator and Albemarle County native, lives on Mount Salem Avenue with his wife, Alice, a teacher and administrator at Mountain Laurel Farm School in Flint Hill.
“There’s no question there are a lot of important planning issues facing the town,” said Mayor John Fox Sullivan, “and we have a good group on the commission.”
“And another vacant seat to fill,” said council member Gary Schwartz of the planning commission, on which he also serves with chair Brad Schneider and newcomer Judy DeSarno.
The council also voted to extend the tourist-home permit granted a year ago to Jackie Meuse for the second-floor apartment of her building on Main Street, which houses the Hair Gallery and the Little Washington Wellness & Spa. At the time the council required a review a year later, but Sullivan said Meuse has been renovating the apartment “and, for whatever reason, has not yet had a chance to rent the apartment, which she hopes to start doing in February.”
The vote to extend the permit, and schedule the review for next January, was unanimous.
After a lengthy discussion, the council also approved a measure to spend up to $4,000 for an “influent monitoring” study of about a dozen of the town’s largest non-residential customers; the study is needed, Schwartz explained, because of the unexpectedly high levels of grease, and possibly of bacteria-killing chemicals (in a wastewater treatment plant, bacteria needs to thrive).
The list of buildings to be monitored includes The Inn at Little Washington (and its laundry building, and its Parsonage annex, formerly Clopton House); the Country Cafe, Stonyman Gourmet, Gay Street Inn, White Moose Inn, the county courthouse complex; the Hair Gallery/Little Washington Spa, Tula’s and the Kramer Building, Wine Loves Chocolate, Foster Harris House B&B, and the Medical Center on Gay Street.
Depending on the results, Schwartz said, grease tanks in use by some of the businesses may need to be cleaned or emptied, and notices might need to be sent to users about substances that should not be entering the system.
The council also passed a resolution appreciating former Theatre at Washington owner Wendy Weinberg for nearly three decades of bringing classical and popular music, jazz, dance, theater, humor and film to the 200-seat facility and the town. The resolution noted that “we are indebted to all that she has done for us, her commitment to town and county and her continuous good cheer,” and praised her “stewardship of an historic venue [that] has brought together all segments of our diverse community for entertainment, joy, laughter, education and just plain fun.”
Planning commission chair Schneider spoke near the end of the council’s meeting to suggest the town start planning now for maintenance of its aging water system, and that it consider also building a small annex on the town hall property, “maybe half the size of John McCarthy’s office near the courthouse,” where the town clerk and town administrative office could be housed.
Citing the cramped space (in an attic-like loge that overlooks the main council chamber) and the narrow, dangerous stairwell used to reach it, Schneider said the town could host an architectural competition among local architects to design it to complement the 18th-century brick style of the town hall.
Aichele said he agreed that the current administrative space used by town clerk Laura Dodd is “inadequate and hazardous.” He suggested the town start talking about longer-term space solutions, “rather than a stopgap solution,” including the possibility of moving its public meeting and administrative space to Avon Hall, the aging, empty former estate house owned by the town for a decade.