Woodbrook Lagoon’s New Bench and Bridge

The January appearance of a new bench and bridge in the Woodbrook Lagoon came as a surprise to some Woodbrook residents who believed negotiations with the developers were still ongoing.

Jon Schwaner, a 17 year-old Woodbrook resident, is responsible for the structures. They were a part of his Eagle Scout project. His father, Carl Schwaner, assisted Jon with County and neighborhood negotiations.
Woodbrook residents may recall that in late April 2012, the Woodbrook Community Association took a survey of residents on the subject of the construction of a bench and deck by the young Schwaner. While a small majority of residents were in favor of the project, those residents whose properties are nearest the site were almost unanimously opposed.

To get to the bottom of how a project so divisive to the neighborhood got built without Woodbrook resident’s knowledge, we spoke with three individuals. They were Greg Harper, the Water Resources Manager for Albemarle County, Woodbrook Resident Carl Schwaner and Woodbrook Community Association President Susan Reed.

Seventeen-year-old Woodbrook resident Jon Schwaner supervised the design and construction of the bench and bridge as a part of his Eagle Scout project. Jon also raised the funds needed to build the structures. By all accounts the structures are well-built, sturdy and attractive.

Greg Harper spoke to us with the understanding that most of the initial negotiations with the Schwaners were done by his subordinate Mr. Gregor Patsch. Mr. Patsch is no longer in the employ of Albemarle County. Mr. Harper believes that it may have been the County that recommended against the original idea of a deck due to safety problems resulting from the deck’s proximity to the channel.

“I understand that there were more supporters than not in the neighborhood,” says Harper. “We worked with Jon on the design just to make sure it was ‘beefy’ enough to withstand standard loads,” he added. “We think it looks good,” he said. “Primarily we kind of relied, I think, on Jon and Carl to let us know what was going on out there,” says Harper. “I did want to not necessarily allow something that most people did not want,” he added.

Prior to construction, the County reviewed plans for the bridge and made recommendations as to its structure. “Nobody [at the County] did an official inspection [of the bridge],” says Harper. “There is no formal process for that,” he added. Following completion of the work, the ownership of the structures transfers to the County, who is responsible for their ongoing maintenance.

Satellite view showing the location of the bench and bridge. In the upper left is the corner of Brookmere and Idlewood Drive in the Woodbrook subdivision. In the lower right is the Raintree subdivision.

Carl Schwaner, is a Woodbrook resident and father to Jon Schwaner. “We had a vote, in the neighborhood, online, which my son’s project got a majority of the vote,” says Schwaner. “[Mrs. Reed] never responded to [my] email requesting that the results be made public.” During this time, Jon, the younger Schwaner, modified his plans to include a “bench and a bridge” and requested by email that the WCA take a new neighborhood survey. According to Schwaner, there was no response from the WCA. “We waited two months between emails to see if [Mrs. Reed] would respond,” says Schwaner.

“I waited, and I waited and I waited,” says Schwaner referring to his attempts to communicate with the WCA. According to Schwaner, multiple requests were made of the WCA to meet with neighbors on-site, none of which received a response from the WCA. “Nobody ever contacted us”, says Schwaner. By September all communication with the WCA had ended.

So, then, why did the Schwaners believe they had the green light to proceed with the project? According to Mr. Schwaner, County representative Gregor Patsch advised the father and son team that they didn’t need neighborhood approval to proceed. “The project was so small in scope, so low impact, that the neighborhood really had no vote in the matter whatsoever,” said Schwaner referring to his earlier conversation with Patsch. With Patsch no longer in the employ of the County, his supervisor Greg Harper signed off on the project on November 30, 2012 clearing the way for construction to begin in January 2013.

When asked if either of the Schwaners attempted to communicate with any other member of the WCA besides President Reed, Carl said, “No.” He continued, “The reason that communication was not attempted to be restarted again in December was that it was quite apparent by that point that there was going to be ‘foot dragging’ and lots of ‘hemming and hawing’, and we felt that the neighborhood association had been given plenty of fair opportunity to respond to this, and that trying to restart that communication process was just gong to drag it out and drag it out,” says Schwaner. “I just wasn’t going to allow that to happen”, Schwaner added.

We asked Carl what he would like to say to those that are concerned about the recent discovery by a Woodbrook resident of condoms and condom wrappers at the site. “I’ve seen no evidence of major partying down there,” says Schwaner. “It’s not going to happen to any great extent,” he added.

The bridge, located a few feet from the bench, crosses a small channel.

Susan Reed has served four terms as President of the Woodbrook Community Association. During her presidency she has appeared several times before the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission on behalf of the neighborhood and was instrumental in stopping a roadway connection with Arden Place.

According to Reed, Schwaner did not respond to the WCA’s request to obtain the support of residents whose properties abut the Lagoon. Concerned that the survey it commissioned especially for Schwaner did not adequately represent the concerns of those residents closest to the proposed development, the WCA prepared a map identifying homes most affected by the project. “There was one comment, where somebody’s property abutted [the project] that asked that their opinion should be weighted a bit more as they were going to have to deal with the fallout [of the project],” says Reed. Reed says she emailed a copy of the map to the senior Schwaner with the request that he get abutting property owners to sign off on the project. That never happened, according to Reed.

There also appears to be some misunderstanding surrounding the April 2012 WCA survey. Reed says that what some are calling a “vote” was intended to be an informal survey. “It was just like taking the temperature, so to speak, before we got into all the deep waters. There were very nearly just as many [neighbors] against it as there were for it,” says Reed. “This was meant to be a preliminary survey,” she added pointing out that the survey also included a question about a neighborhood sign.

“The sign was included because several people had expressed interest in getting our neighborhood sign back and we wanted to see numbers on that as well as the bench idea,” says Reed. While the question of the bench clearly divided the neighborhood, there was almost unanimous support for the sign.

I asked Reed to respond to the discovery of condoms and condom wrappers near the new bench. “A bench just makes it more convenient for that sort of activity,” says Reed. “Frankly that’s one of the things we had worried about,” she said. “The neighbors that live down there see parties going on in summer evenings in the woods,” she added.

Moving forward, Reed says the WCA will continue to monitor the situation and will deal with problems resulting from the structures if and when they occur.

The bench looking south.

The last word in our story goes to the neighbors themselves. In an email survey conducted last week, we polled all Woodbrook residents living within 400 feet of the bench and bridge. Of those residents responding, none had ever been contacted by the Schwaners, nor had they seen the project. A majority of respondents said they were still opposed to the project and wanted the structures removed. “We feel the project was never mentioned in the original project plans. The misrepresentation of this goes against the wishes of those residents within the distance of the bridge/bench,” said one respondent.

What do you think? Did the Schwaners perform due diligence in soliciting neighborhood opinion on the project? Were they obligated to do so? What is the role of the WCA in such matters? Did the County act responsibly in dealing with the Schwaners directly? As always, please be respectful in your comments.

94 thoughts on “Woodbrook Lagoon’s New Bench and Bridge

  1. These developers continue to disrespect Woodbrook property rights by encroaching on our boundaries.

    Susan Reed has been an extremely competent and engaged president of the neighborhood association. It is not clear from this article whether Susan was unresponsive, nonresponsive or just did not give the developers the answer that they wanted when they asked the neighborbood Association to take a poll of homeowners.

    The developers were provided with the means to gain support from the homeowners directly affected. The county had the means to talk to the Woodbrook neighborhood president. In the end, the developers continued with their own vision.

    I wish the developers would turn their attention to getting the county to address traffic problems on Rio Rd near their "entrance" which have already caused one death.

  2. First nicely made bench and bridge. Why is it there? This was a dead issue.

    I thought the issue was that of access across a Woodbrook resident's property? We were banding together to help a resident prevent people trespassing across his backyard.

    We said that a path could not be paved or made big enough to help the fire department put out fires to homes or the new apartment building. This was done to prevent people from being in the area.

    100 places in the area where a Scout can do a service project – we all said don't put a project where it might harm or infringe on a fellow resident.

    Why was this site the only place to put bridge? Putting a bridge into the yard of someone who has spent years asking people not walk thought his yard.

    Will Scouts, the County or the builders be paying for a fence to be put to protect the yard? Will Scouts, the County, the builders or WCA be paying the increased home and property insurance for this resident?

  3. I think the bench and bridge are very lovely and an addition to the neighborhood. You could have a business in your back yard like those families close to 29 🙁
    I am tired of some woodbrook residents' negativity. Save it for fighting the big battles.

  4. At this point, the issue is more with the "process" than with the bench, per se. Residents within 400' of the project clearly were not in favor of this construction, yet their wishes seemed to have been overlooked.

  5. First things first….

    All county parks close at sunset for good reason. Lets get the county to at least post an official 'closed after sunset' sign. If there's an incident or party, the police will be able to enforce something as simple as 'Leave'.

    Reasons: safety, privacy, noise.

    and, perhaps, most important…

    The bridge and its traffic is the priority, at least for me it is. I'd be in favor of leaving the bench and removing the bridge. Seems like the bridge is a major change and would clearly not have won a vote. Perhaps the builders can see that now.

  6. When I talked with Greg Harper at the County in May 2011, he said that the County had no plans to develop this area for recreational use. I confirmed this to be still true when I talked to him again for this story.

    By installing signage, the County might be seen as endorsing recreational use of the area.

  7. My vote? Thumbs up!

    Thumbs up to Jon for having the vision, initiative, and skill to create this delightful addition for our neighborhood to enjoy.

    Thumbs up to Carl for having the courage and persistence to support his son’s vision.

    Thumbs up to Albemarle County for not saddling these two remarkable individuals with needless red tape.

    When my husband and I were down there on Friday afternoon, we ran into Jon and Carl clearing trees and brush that had obstructed the path during the recent storms. How did we get so lucky? Just go down there. Listen to the peepers. Spend a few minutes on the bench at the confluence of the streams. Cross the bridge and check out the pair of ducks. Let’s plant some daylilies and daffodils down there, maybe some rhododendron or wild azaleas.

  8. Mrs. Reed has always been very responsive to any concern I've raised during her time as our community association president. It's hard to believe that she would treat the Schwaners as poorly as they claim.

  9. Thank you for your post, Mr. Gould. It contains some truth, partial truths, misleading statements, and fabrications.

    I will respond to the entire community in the near future.

    Thank you to all who have supported my son in this little project, and "Let's Talk!" to those who have not supported this project.

    If you would like to discuss this project, I wholeheartedly urge you to contact me either by phone (434-466-4164), or by e-mail (cschwaner@comcast.net).

  10. Carl: I try my very best to present the facts of our stories objectively and fairly.

    If there are specific issues that you feel were not reported fairly, please explain them here. That's the purpose of this space.

  11. I too am tired of all the negativity from Woodbrook residents, expressed in
    the name of property rights, worries about hooliganism, etc. I thank the Schwaners
    for making a useful contribution to the area.

  12. we visited the lovely bench and bridge today. Thank you John for the fine work done on the bench. Sadly, someone has already spray painted it and this just makes me very sad. Our property is at the back of the subdivision and we have had similar experiences. It is always wonderful when someone does something positive for a neighborhood. Anyone with a complaint should see the bench and the bridge and shame on whoever took a gift like this and vandalized it.

  13. Thank you for your thoughts. As I've said earlier, Ms. Reed has done a number of positive things for our neighborhood. I'm not sure why she was, for the most part, unresponsive after the initial survey was released despite many requests.

    I urge you to give me a call if you would like to discuss this further. 434-466-4164 Thanks!

  14. Thank you, Kathy! I enjoyed meeting you and your husband on your walk.

    Your vision of the property is mine as well. It truly is a hidden gem of Woodbrook. I hope our neighbors discover and use the trail. Studies have shown that the more active an area is with neighborhood residents, the less likely undesirable activity will occur.

  15. Mr. Kropf,

    Does it change your opinion of the bridge given the fact that it, in no way, connects to any property outside of Woodbrook? It is simply a 16'x4' wooden bridge over a small ravine completely contained on the County property? It was installed to permit easy use of loop trail that is also solely contained on the County property, and does not connect outside of Woodbrook.

    Please feel free to give me a call to discuss! 434-466-4164


  16. Thanks for your support. Unfortunately, we are currently dealing with new businesses being built on our borders severely affecting a number of our neighbors.

  17. Thank you for your response.

    Developers had nothing whatsoever to do with this project. It was conceived, designed, and implemented by my 17 year old son with much guidance, support, and formal approval from the Boy Scouts of America and the County Of Albemarle Water Resources Management Office. I assisted my son with many questions, and the involvement of the neighborhood.

    Ms. Reed has indeed handled many issues for the neighborhood, and I have applauded her efforts on a number of these. On this particular issue, there were certainly problems with responsiveness despite a quite a few requests for meetings with concerned residents, offers of meeting at the site to discuss the project, and some requests to publish information for the neighborhood's consumption.

    Please feel free to give me a call if you wish to discuss this project! 434-466-4164

  18. Mr. Hull,

    Thanks for the kudos on the construction. Jon worked hard on the designs, and had some expert guidance from a civil engineer and a master carpenter.

    The access to this property does not cross anyone's private property. The bridge is nowhere near anyone's private property. The project is wholly contained on Albemarle County property. It does not connect any part of Woodbrook with any other property. This is a completely different issue from the Arden Place path.

    Please feel free to give me a call.

  19. According to the dictionary, a person or persons who improve a property are 'developers', even when done so as a community service. Apologies if this use of the word caused confusion.

  20. I'm glad you had a chance to visit the property today. I'm saddened to learn about the vandalism which must have happened in the past 48 hours. On Friday, Jon and I cleared a number of trees that had fallen across the path during the snow.

    I have said from the start of Jon's project that I would do what I can to keep the area looking nice as long as I'm able. A little sanding will hopefully take care of the spray paint.

    Hopefully idiotic vandals won't prevent the neighborhood from enjoying the trail. 🙂

  21. A couple of things do not add up:

    1. If this was Jon's project, how come YOU did all the talking with the neighborhood/WCA? If you were worried about dissenting views then perhaps this was not the right service project for Woodbrook. There was 100% support for a new entrance sign however.

    2. If this was such a great addition to Woodbrook how come we are learning about it via this blog post and not from Jon? I, for one, was surprised that it was there.

    Sorry to hear it was vandalized already. But that confirms our fears that it would attract this kind of behavior. Hope it does not become the "party spot" this summer.

  22. Thank you for you questions.

    There are very good answers to both of these questions, and they will be answered when I respond to the entire community in the near future.

    As I wrote in a comment to the initial survey:

    "I walk my dog on the property nearly every day. In 18 years, I have never felt unsafe on the property. There certainly have been some signs of teenage activity in the area, but I believe that making it a nice place for residents of the neighborhood to take a stroll would tend to do more to discourage such activity, than encourage it. Do we hide in our homes and let negative elements take over, or do we proactively ensure our neighborhood is the way we would like it?"

    The results of the initial survey were never published by the Woodbrook Community Association despite a number of requests from us to do so.

    I appreciate all opportunities to discuss the project, as I have offered from the beginning. Please feel free to give me a call, or an e-mail, to discuss the project. 434-466-4164, cschwaner@comcast.net

    Thank you. Carl

  23. Unfortunately, this blog is not followed by the entire neighborhood, as is evidenced by the 28% of the 203 homes in Woodbrook that responded to the initial survey.

    I feel a response to such a complicated issue, with a number of reported inaccuracies and misconceptions, should be addressed to the entire neighborhood.

    Please keep an eye out for my response.

  24. It is nice to hear that 75% of Woodbrook homes are 'reached' by the blog.

    However the response rate was 28%, which is likely not representative of the entire neighborhood's opinion on the matter.

    Electronic Communication of this nature is very fleeting. During our phone conversation, Mr. Gould, I posed the question: "How many people will go back to visit a blog and read the comments after their initial vote?" Understandably, you did not have an answer. I expect that number is quite low. Given this supposition, and the misconceptions that a number posters to the original survey had, I would be hard-pressed to consider the blog as a vehicle for an informed neighborhood. Though, admittedly, it is hard to argue with its expediency.

    That is why I will be hand-delivering a letter outlining my documented version of events to all Woodbrook homes in the next few days.

  25. We've received a couple of emails from folks that say their comments are not showing up here. While we do reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or not respectful, we have not had to do so on this story so far.

    We've temporarily turned off the "word verification" system to help you comment more easily. If you are still having problems getting your comments posted, please send them to us by email and will be happy to post them on your behalf. Our email address is shown on the left side of this page.

  26. Seems like such a small thing. I walk back there and I think its a nice touch. Kids will be kids and if you are worried about giving them a place to misbehave, trust me, they will find other avenues, they dont need a bench. I think any time we try and improve an area with a nice thing that states, sit, linger, enjoy the moment and the view, in this crazed world, thats a good thing….especially considering the heart and motives behind the the person who made it.

  27. Letters overkill, maybe? Might I suggest your letter promote the public space available to all residents, complete with new bench? The more presence we all have down there, the better.

  28. I think this is a minor issue, if an issue at all. The County always intended public use of the property (and don’t bother saying that is not true – check their original grant proposal for the project). They included trails for a reason, so why would they turn down a scout’s offer to build a nice bench and bridge?

    And kudos to Mr. Schwaner for remaining engaged on the issue. After reading the article I fully believed it was not the whole story or not wholly accurate. This is not the first time the author has claimed objectivity, when his bias is evident. I wish I could say I look forward to the “truth” but really I don’t care to follow the pending squabble (e.g., someone already calling out his son for not being his own spokesperson).

    To the blog in general, I enjoy receiving info about the neighborhood but if you are going to post so rarely, it should be no surprise that many are frustrated at the negativity of the content. As disinterested as I am in the posts about flowers and X-mas lights, it does show there is an actual interest in the community by the WCA as opposed to it simply being an appreciated (by some, at least), but unsolicited and un-checked bulldog pseudo-community association. I would much rather see the energy go to improving the neighborhood and community. Maybe there is more behind the scenes, but it does not show through this blog, which as you say goes to most residents.

  29. Thanks, Dusty. I agree with your assessment about kids misbehaving…for time immemorial young adults have misbehaved, and will find places to do so. I certainly was not a model teenager – just ask my Mom!

    Your comments nicely sum up the impetus behind the project.

  30. We've never said that the space was not intended for public use, only that the County has never had plans to provide recreational facilities. If you are interested, you can listen to my original interview with Greg Harper posted on this blog in May 2011.

    With regard to your general comments about this blog, we do our best to choose stories that we believe are of general interest to the neighborhood. The invitation has always been open to all Woodbrook residents to suggest stories for publication here.

  31. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Hand-delivering letters to the entire neighborhood may be a bit of overkill, but I know of no other way to reach every home in the neighborhood. I understand that many will not read the letter, or won't offer any feedback, but at least everyone will have been afforded the opportunity to comment, and will be made aware that the trail is there and ready for their walks and contemplation….and the added foot traffic will hopefully discourage undesirable activity.

  32. Thanks for your support on this issue.

    You are right, the initial plan from the County called for a 'pocket park' complete with parking spaces, etc. I'm not sure why this was never achieved, though I expect feedback from some members of the community made the County nervous.

    I hope you are able to enjoy the trail…

  33. I visited the site this afternoon, and indeed some inconsiderate vandals spray painted the bench, and some of the nearby trees. My wife commented that the spray paint job on the bench was somewhat artfully done, though it still amounts to vandalism.

    Interestingly, I saw no other trash left behind; no empty paint cans, or other debris indicating a party.

    The actions of a few vandals will not deter me, nor should it deter the neighborhood, from enjoying this wonderful outdoor space. I will be in touch with the County to discuss possible solutions to the spray painting – which I will be happy to assist in eliminating, if possible.

    Again, I urge anyone who would like to discuss this issue to contact me at 434-466-4164, or cschwaner@comcast.net.

  34. I am sorry for the people that feel like they have to post their opinions anonymously! Really, isn't it time we all grow up and speak our minds. The danger of these anonymous posts is that we don't really know how many people are actually unhappy. If I hid behind the potential for vandalism of my own property It would be a sad thing. I don't have enough money to put up a fence high enough to keep out that potential and honestly no one would really like it if I did!

  35. So the WCA concedes the area was always intended for public use, complete with a walking path? But somehow the addition of a bench is a significant problem?

    It's not like the question was about the addition of a public-use trail. I'd assume those in the area who did not want the bench also did not want a trail, but it is already there.

  36. I wrote a comment in support of the generous and lovely work of the Schwaners in the pocket park that was fully vetted to the Woodbrook neighborhood a couple of years before it was built. I hope this comment makes it to the board:

    Those who assert that this park was always meant to be open to the public and a community resource are correct. This is exactly what the representatives of the County told us in several poorly attended meetings. They also explained that the original purpose of their project was to clean up the filthy conditions in this swamp (on public land) that was contributing to the devastating pollution of the Chesapeake bay.

    Before the clean-up, I took a couple of walks along a well traveled trail in the swamp. I didn't do it more than twice because of the stench that rose from the muck of a property that formerly served as kind of uncontained septic tank for Woodbrook.

    In our neighborhood we have only two public amenities–the school with its recreational areas, and the cleaned-up lagoon that now supports water birds that apparently avoided the lagoon as did we human beings. I was deeply disappointed when a third amenity–a path to shopping–was quashed. Please, please, please, don't fight another quality of life improvement in Woodbrook.

  37. P.S. After the destruction of the path that ran up to the public ground behind Woodbrook, I have a hard time accepting that the opposition to improvements in our neighborhood are all about procedural issues.

    Also, for some time I have wanted to note that I have seen dog waste in our streets and, much worse, on the school's grounds. Cleaning up after our dogs would be a huge contribution to quality of life in Woodbrook as well as the right thing to do for our neighbors and for Woodbrook School students, teachers, staff, and visitors.

  38. I have spoken with Mrs. Reed at some length about this situation. I know that she had given a map of neighbors for Carl to contact, neighbors who live within a certain number of feet of the bench. Then she went on a trip and was not available for a short time. She did not leave until she was sure that Carl would contact the neighbors, and apparently he did not. I am dismayed that Carl allowed his son to build a bridge, which was not talked about beforehand at all. Also, he did not contact the numbers discussed, as Gene Powell says he was not contacted. Come on, Carl. I know you were trying to do something good, but since it was not really approved by the neighbors, you had no business going ahead. It was suggested that your son build a sign for our subdivision. I think that everyone would have approved that. Stop trying to blame Mrs. Reed for your misjudgment.

  39. Thank you, Cheryl. I, too, wish that Anonymous posters would use their names so that we could have an adult conversation. It is far too easy to speak poorly of someone or something while hiding behind the Anonymous label.

    That being said, I am always grateful for all comments whether they are good, bad, or indifferent. I am able to accept criticism, and blame when warranted.

    I am, however, unable to sit quietly by while someone impugns my character, my honesty, or that of my son. I strongly believe in the community benefit of this project, and look forward to continued, honest discussion of the process.

  40. I spoke with Gene Powell in the Kroger parking lot (I believe) one afternoon and described the project that Jon was considering. Mr. Powell was not in favor of the project due to same concerns expressed by some others. I listened to his concerns and thanked him for his input. I'm sorry that he does not recall the conversation but it most assuredly took place.

    As for your other contentions, they are answered fully in the aforementioned letter which will be hand-delivered to all homes in the neighborhood this week.

    As with everyone, I encourage you to contact me to discuss this issue. 434-466-4164 cschwaner@comcast.net

    Thank you!

  41. Thanks again for your reply, and involvement on this issue.

    I would respond here in full to your contentions, but I have explained this fully in the aforementioned letter to be hand-delivered to every home in Woodbrook this week.

    It would be nice if concerned individuals would hold off on their accusations until the entire story is heard. Accusations without full knowledge of events may have become a part of the political landscape in this country, but certainly is not the way civilized individuals treat each other.

    As with everyone else, I urge you to contact me to discuss the other side of this issue. 434-466-4164 cschwaner@comcast.net

    Thank you.

  42. Thanks, Jenny.

    Jon told me he had spoken with you yesterday. Thanks for taking the time to speak with him.

    I appreciate the confirmation that I had spoken with Gene. As I indicated in a previous post, I acknowledged that he was not in favor of the project.

    I, too, am saddened to see such contention in the neighborhood, but I understand that people have differing views. The key is communication.

    I did not call Susan after my initial phone call with her, and perhaps that was a mistake on my part. Though at this point I am glad that communication was handled through e-mails because documentation of the process exists.

    My thinking at the time was that it was apparent after the initial survey results were never released despite requests to do so, the WCA did not seem interested in informing the neighborhood. This was further reinforced in July when, despite more requests, WCA did not publish Jon's second letter to the neighborhood. We were attempting to be communicative with the neighborhood, and were stonewalled.

    As I've said, I never received the contact info of the concerned neighbors from Ms. Reed, again despite a number of requests. Jon or I never received communication from any concerned neighbors in spite of Jon's initial offer to field questions on the original survey, or my plea to do so in the comments section of the survey.

    I was forced to conclude that since the vote (and yes, calling it a 'Vote' was first used by Ms. Reed and the Blog) did not go the way they wished, their hope was to kill the project by Jon and me giving up on it due to non-cooperation. At that point it became a contentious situation in my opinion.

    I also feel the need to point out, once more, that Jon was responsive to the concerns expressed in the comments section of the survey by abandoning the concept of the deck in favor of a single bench. We could have gone ahead with the original project design since we had the County's support, and his project received a minimum of 58% of the vote up to a maximum of 65% if the 'Don't Care' and 'Maybe' votes are considered. Instead, Jon chose the path of compromise and cooperation.

    Once more, Ms. Reed has done many fine things for the neighborhood, and I have applauded her efforts. I do not always agree with stances she takes, or conclusions she reaches, but I appreciate her willingness to serve. It is a position in which the occupant will never be able to make everyone happy.

    I hope that you take advantage of the trail during your daily dog walk group. I always enjoy talking with your group.

    Feel free to give me a call if you'd like. 434-466-4164

  43. Running into someone in the Kroger parking lot and asking them is a far cry from making a real effort to reach out to those who had concerns. And since that's the only neighbor you talked to, it would seem that you wanted any efforts to be organized by someone else.

  44. We have lived in Woodbrook for four years and I have never had any contact with Susan Reed or the Homeowners Association, other than to be embarrassed by our neighborhood's apparent penchant for divisiveness and inordinate fear of "outsiders."

    This is the first I have heard of a survey, the project, or any "controversy." However, I wholeheartedly approve of the bench and bridge, which makes the trail more useful for the residents.

    I would like to see our neighborhood come together and be inclusive and supportive of one another, especially of efforts to make our neighborhood a better place to live. In the four years we have been here there have been two homeowner's associations (2009), with campaigns to discredit the other), and then the bit about the path and the dugouts (whereby opinions were put forth as representing "Woodbrook residents" without asking ALL (or even many) Woodbrook residents) and now this, all hashed out publicly on a blog.

    Occasionally you will find that people don't behave the way you wish they would. They leave trash, their dog's poop, etc. in common areas or on private property. They play music too loud. They paint their house a color you don't like but you have to look at it. Isn't the point of being neighbors to negotiate these spaces, and to work together in a spirit of tolerance, compassion, and togetherness to make our neighborhood one we are proud of?

    Please. Can the bickering stop? Can we realize that we are lucky to have a bridge and bench that we didn't have to build and don't have to maintain (but get to use)? Can we maybe have a neighborhood potluck or some attempt at neighborliness?

  45. I think it's a lovely addition to the neighborhood, and especially as done from such nice motives. Nobody's property rights are affected. All the negativity is disconcerting.

  46. Hello! Susan F. here – our family recently moved into the neighborhood. We've enjoyed meeting many of you as our paths cross, and look forward to meeting others. I just wanted to chime in and thank Carl for taking the time to deliver his letter; being new to Woodbrook, we hadn't learned about the blog (or the WCA), and whereas this is certainly a disappointing first look into the neighborhood happenings, it's nice to learn about an issue that is clearly important to so many. I'm hesitant to comment much since we missed the period in question and thus don't understand the concerns that were raised, but as someone who chose Woodbrook as a home for us and our daughter because of its family-friendly appeal in a location that seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to other nearby locations, a project such as this seems like such a lovely addition, and it's great to see someone take the initiative to undergo a well-meaning project. I hope that we will one day have the opportunity to impact the neighborhood in such a small but thoughtful way.

  47. Jon, my wife Sandy, and I delivered the letter to all 203 Woodbrook Homes today (Wednesday). We had conversations with many of our neighbors along the way – some of whom were supportive, and some of whom were not. Every conversation was civil, and I appreciated every comment.

    My sincerest thanks to those who have supported this project! I hope everyone is able to enjoy the gift that Jon has given to the Community. It was his way of saying thank you to Woodbrook for a wonderful place to grow up.

    I shall no longer respond to any comments on this blog.

    As always, I welcome any individual, or group of neighbors, who wish to discuss this process further.

    Please feel free to contact me at any time.

    434-466-4164 cschwaner@comcast.net

  48. As a parent I appreciate your obvious commitment and support for your son. I'm sorry you and your son have come across so much controversy and lack of community support. We should stand behind our neighborhood's youth and be proud of their hard work.

  49. I fully understand why people want to remain anonymous in their comments. Carl is coming across as a bully in all this as evidenced by his need to comment on every single posting and his 6 page(!) letter. Can you say obsessive ? I'm kind of scared of him. I seriously doubt that anyone claimed there would be "strange rituals" regarding the bench.

    He seems overly involved in what should be Jon's project.

  50. Wow, What a volume of posting and comments for a park bench. Doubt I can add anything that hasn't been said, but that won't stop me: We are at risk of being a bunch of scared old people! As scared old people ANY change is a threat. A bench is a threat. A dugout is a threat. A hoodie forgotten in a dugout can be seen as vandalism or littering. A little decorative bridge, a landscaping feature that literally goes nowhere, can be seen as a threat.

    I can tell you that from visiting with a number of people, especially younger people, that we are perceived as being kinda whacky for getting upset over stuff like this.

    Jon, Nice work on your Eagle Project and that real accomplishment in your life and Scouting career. The bridge is solid and nicely built, same with the bench. It's sad that somebody had to vandalize the bench (the rainbow paint), strange that they seemed to do so with some artistic intent.

    The "Woodbrook Lagoon" project, I had my doubts that what was being attempted there would work: Catching storm runoff via bank overflows and then gradual release back into the creek. Every project is an experiment, and I think this one has worked pretty well. I think there is less flooding downstream now. I think the area is generally nicer than before. I wonder if there isn't more stagnant water than had been planned for, but hopefully all the tadpoles will keep the mosquitoes under control. It's a nature preserve back in there, nice!

    There will probably be real Woodbrook issues to deal with in the future, whether roads into Woodbrook that damage the peaceful, long established character of the neighborhood, or big-box developments up on 29 that seem to violate the planning process we thought we were seeing some years ago. The greater community will support us on those issues. UNLESS they've written us off as the whacky "boy who cries wolf" about everything.

    Regards, Gerry P.

  51. I have seen multiple comments questioning my father's involvement in my project and questioning my own leadership in regards to its implementation. Hopefully I can alleviate any concerns people have.

    The intention of an Eagle Scout project is to teach the scouts leadership and how to effectively manage projects. A major aspect of leadership is the ability to recognize your own faults and delegate the best person for the job. I have never been very good at political PR because I tend to be blunt and very effective at angering others. With this in mind I asked my father to deal with the petty politics regarding this project. However, I personally wrote the letters giving information about the project and asking for input before we started. (Sadly, only one of the two letters reached the public for reasons unknown, possibly an email or so lost to an internet server)

    It is true that the scout must be in charge of receiving the appropriate permissions for the project, but that did not involve talking to the neighbourhood. I, personally, went through the process necessary for permission from the county, and was notified that permission was not required from the neighbourhood. Thus all contact with the neighbourhood was courtesy and not my personal responsibility as project leader.

    I hope this clears things up. Thank you everybody for a invaluable lesson in community relations.

    – Jon Schwaner

  52. I agree with HypatiaDuJour, I am embarrassed by the fact that this was made into such an issue. If there is bad behavior going on in the area I'm sure it was there before the project. I think the email that was sent on Sunday was very negative and completely unnecessary. Thank you Jon for the wonderful bench and congratulations on achieving the rank of Eagle Scout.

  53. I apologize for not putting my name to this but I am also afraid of Carl, what with the excessive comments and hand-delivered 6-page letter and all.

    Anyway, back to the issue at hand. When this project started the neighborhood was split with regard to the bench project. As you would expect, the people that live closest were most concerned with the consequences. This is not being "negative", but rather we are a neighborhood with differing opinions. There is nothing wrong or unusual about that.

    I have read through these comments and I feel that many have missed the point. It was the process that failed here, not whether the bench looks good (well, before it was vandalized). It is the fact that at least 20 people expressed concerns that were not considered by the Schwaners. Are we being good neighbors to these folks?

    Many have expressed what a wonderful addition the bench is to the neighborhood. I say, even more so, what a wonderful addition to our neighborhood is Susan's four years of service as WCA President, looking out for all of us. What a wonderful addition to our neighborhood is Dan's four years of service, keeping us informed via this blog. They are keeping our neighborhood together. They should be applauded. Wouldn't it be great if the rest of us contributed something of value as well?

  54. I agree with you Gerry. We don't want to be scared of all change. Businesses encroaching on woodbrook residents is worthy of attention, a bench and bridge are not. However, this shows we do have very involved residents. Perhaps we could use this engagement to insure Woodbrook continues to be a prime, lovely neighborhood. Perhaps we could work with the residents to help preserve and better the area: natural gardening with few pesticides and fertilizers, buffers to help with storm runoff, cutting ivy from trees, keeping our cats from bothering wildlife. Woodbrook is a wonderful place we all love to call home.

  55. Hi Carl,

    My earlier negativity about the bridge was a mistake.

    I visited it and I see it's not the threat I though it was since it crosses a little interior stream that is very easy to cross anyway.

    I am switching to the Yes side of the discussion. Thankss go to you and your son for the contribution to the woods.

  56. I think you miss the point – there is no real process to have been followed. None.

    County property, county was ok with it. He sought a neighborhood vote and won (and 28 to 20 is not a small majority – that is massive). If it is a neighborhood "issue" then a vote is a vote, no matter what street you live on.

  57. Thanks Jon and Carl for the beautiful spot… I look forward to using it with my family. You have our full support. Dealing with those scared folks can be exasperating, and it sounds like you tried a great deal. I know this from the baseball field project. I have never met you, but you certainly dont seem like a bully or anyone to be scared of. In your letter and posts you have been polite and a gentleman. Please don't be bullied into NOT reponding here. I look forward to the next neighborhood election.

  58. The bottom line for me is that the bench and bridge are already there. Those who wish to should enjoy them and do their part to help keep them looking nice. Those who don't should stay away from them. And I think that both sides should be willing to call the authorities and/or the County if they see illegal or illict things going on. That will protect both the project AND the neighborhood.

    Please forgive the long missive; but I felt that if some strictly factual information was presented, folks might calm down and maybe understand some things a bit better.

  59. The bench and bridge are done and they seem to have been built nicely. (Although I did like the appearance better before the painting was done; doesn't blend in nearly as well now! That, of course, was not Jon's fault) They are probably farther away from Woodbrook than some people may think.

    Why might some of the neighbors be against this project? It has nothing to do with the fact that an Eagle Scout did it or fear of change per se. Some of the neighbors on that end of the neighborhood see and hear parties in the woods on summer evenings and some have involved illicit drug useage. That's not to say that the bench will cause that; but it is in the woods and teens do like to hide when doing things like that. There have also been some crimes in the past few years in which a business on the other side has been robbed and the criminals fled through the woods into Woodbrook. This happened with a store in the mall a couple of years ago and they kept the cash and scattered the checks through WB. It happened with the Carmike. Again, I'm in no way stating that a bench and bridge will necessarily make that happen more; just saying that some of our neighbors may have more reason to be concerned than those who live further away.

  60. Now to the bridge and bench project. It was not the Community Association's responsibility to vet, canvas for, or organize meetings for the project. It would have been a courtesy to do so, but this was the responsibility of the scout to do this and is considered part of the leadership testing for the Eagle Scout award. That may sound harsh, but it is true. Given the fact that there was a group of people in the neighborhood who had objections, Jon (and Carl) knew that this would be a somewhat troublesome issue. I couldn't find any information on how many Eagle Scouts attempt a project that is "contentious", but the Schwanners live in the neighborhood so that was their choice to make. Jon and Carl could have put out a simple flier to the neighborhood if they felt that they were being ignored. Tedious, I grant you, but it seems to me simpler than a 6 page missive explaining things later.

  61. I have been researching things so it has taken me awhile to weigh in. I hope by just presenting some facts that people may begin to see both sides.

    First things first: there have been some comments about some things that happened in the past in Woodbrook and they aren't factually correct. There have never been 2 community associations in the neighborhood. There was a kerfuffle awhile back that had to do with the sharing of email addresses and so there were 2 sites to receive information for a brief while. However, the same people remained as officers in the WCA until the next election and there was not arguement about that.

    Secondly, there have been several comments about the removal of the sidewalk that was on Arden Place property. I listened to a podcast of the board of supervisors meeting when the vote was taken on that sidewalk. It was voted down. The sidewalk then appeared and no one on the BOS could say what happened. A group of Woodbrook residents met with the developer of Arden Place and -surprise!- he did not want the sidewalk either. He had put it in because it had mysteriously appeared on his blueprints and he thought that the vote had been somehow overturned. That is why he voluntarily removed it so quickly. Albemarle Square had said that they were going to fence in the back of their property so that folks couldn't cut from the sidewalk to the shopping center that way. At any rate, I personally think it is a good thing to hold the BOS to what was voted on in a public meeting; I feel it would set a dangerous precedent to just let them do something other than what was voted on! To further complicate matters, one of the BOS members had talked on the radio about a "nice, wide sidewalk that could be turned into a road later on" if they so desired. So while you may have really wanted that sidewalk, A) it was voted against by the BOS and B) would you feel the same if it turned out that was a way to get the developer to pay for a big chunk of something that became a road later? A is a fact, B is a conjecture.

    Someone has to sign as the "beneficiary" of an Eagle Scout project. I don't know if the original intent was to have the WCA sign as the benficiary or not, but in point of fact, it makes far more sense for Albemarle County to sign off as such which they evidently did. The beneficiary has to agree to maintain said project and it is far easier for the County (who has crews and etc.) to maintain the project than for a group to sign now for something that future neighbors might not want to truck over and maintain. (Translate that into: it's hard to get volunteers for anything these days! County has paid staff for those kinds of things.) The County also had the authority to put in a clause stating that if the project began to cause too much trouble, it could be removed. That would've been difficult for a neighborhood group to say. This clause was, indeed, put into the paperwork. (I'm guessing the type of trouble they mean is the attractive nuisance type; not trouble between neighbors!)

    Regarding the talk about it supposedly being a pocket park in the lagoon: Greg Harper of the County said that, although that was the original intent, that was not being pursued by the County and that there was no intent for it to be a "recreational facility". He said that they did not want to create trails; they just wanted the natural foot traffic to make whatever trails came out of that.
    The project became a water resources project and they did a good job of cleaning the place up.

  62. I wonder if we will ALL hear about a neighborhood election. How long are terms anyway? When does the Association meet? Not all residents are included in communications. Is there a process other than commenting on this blog?

  63. Woodbrook Community Association elections are held in September of each year. Notification of new residents is by flyer, existing residents by email or telephone.

    If you are presently receiving email from the WCA you will be automatically notified when the next election is to be held.

    You can read all about last September's election here:


    Last September's election had the largest voter participation on record.

  64. What if you are not currently receiving email from the WCA? I don't believe there is any process to add new families who move into the neighborhood. No one has ever asked for our email or phone number.

    There are 203 homes in Woodbrook, I believe it was said above. How many people voted in the last election?

  65. Anonymous: You can join the WCA mailing list by clicking the "Subscribe Now" button in the left hand margin of this blog. You must provide your street address so it can be confirmed that you actually do live in Woodbrook. Once done, you'll receive all mailings from the WCA including crime alerts and other helpful information.

    We find new families by comparing current property records with those from the previous year. This is done each August to ensure that the mailing list is current for the September election.

    It should be pointed out that some Woodbrook residents have asked that they *not* be included on any list or flyer distribution. We respect their privacy by not contacting them by email or telephone.

    Everything I know about the last election is contained in the story at the link I've previously provided.

  66. Elections are publicized. Turnout is notoriously low and it's hard to get anyone to take the positions.

    No one wants to do the work and then people want to complain about how things are done. Many people don't choose to be involved in any way at all.

  67. Can someone clarify what the WCA does? What work is involved? Are there meetings? What is dicussed? Why is there a treasurer? Where is the money from and how is it used? I remember a potluck, or something like that, scheduled at the school a couple years ago, but that is all I can think of. If more is happening behind the scenes I'd like the neighborhood to receive a description. I subscribe to this blog and see the facebook page, but still don't know what the WCA does.

  68. For the most part, the activities of the WCA are posted on this blog. If you want to learn more about when and how they meet, you need to contact President Susan Reed.

    If you don't have Susan's email address, write to me at the address in the left hand margin of this blog and I'll forward your message to her.

  69. Returning from self-exile, I offer my final words on this topic.

    Susan Reed and I talked this morning on the phone to discuss closing the door on this controversy and move forward.

    Susan and I agree that neither of us wished this issue to turn into a neighborhood battle. We both love our community, and we both volunteer many, many hours of our time in an attempt to keep it a wonderful place to live.

    We also both agree that we wish more people would become involved. We live in a crisis driven society that seemingly only gets up off the couch when a situation gets out of hand, instead of doing the work to avoid the crises.

    My personal hope is that this issue, that has garnered so much attention, will lead to more community involvement. And that folks will take a moment to reflect on the difference between civil discussion and needless bickering and innuendo.

    Susan and I do not agree on everything, be it on this issue, past issues, or, likely, future issues. Nor should we. It would be a boring world indeed if everyone was in lock step with everyone else. Too many wonderful projects would never have been accomplished if there was complete agreement, or if naysayers were always were victorious. An example I've used to illustrate this principle (though admittedly lightyears more important than a bench and a bridge in the woods): I'm quite sure that many residents of the Black Hills of South Dakota weren't thrilled with the noise, inconvenience, and increased influx of people when Mount Rushmore was proposed. Does anyone now think Mount Rushmore was terrible mistake?

    Mistakes were made on 'both sides' of this issue, but we agree that the project is completed, and we hope that people will utilize the trail and enjoy the gift to the community that has been my son Jon's intent from the beginning. I couldn't be prouder of him.

    For my part, I remain committed to keeping this area a natural environment for our community to enjoy as long as I'm able. I'll pick up trash when I see it, take care of vandalism when possible, and deal with the problems Mother Nature throws our way.

    My sincere appreciation goes out to those who have expressed support of the project. I have received many e-mails, phone calls, and spoken with many people out in the streets of Woodbrook. I've also appreciated the civil comments from those who have concerns about potential problems the project may elicit. Anyone who sees something that isn't desirable should feel free to contact me, and I'll do my best to resolve it.

    Darn, I can be awfully long winded.

    Thank you….and GET INVOLVED!

    Carl R. Schwaner 434-466-4164 cschwaner@comcast.net

  70. I appreciate your openness and accessibility, Carl. I wish our Association was the same. It is clear that the property record match method noted above doesn't work very well, since there are at least two people responding here who do not receive mailings or were even aware of the Association. It is also concerning to me that people who subscribe to the blog and receive communications STILL aren't aware of the meetings and functions of the WCA. The question about why a treasurer is needed is a good one. There aren't any homeowner association dues, so what money is there to keep track of? There seems to be a cabal who meet mostly in secret without input from the majority of residents. The process of finding a website, filling out a form, having that generated response forwarded to the president and hoping she then responds/contacts is a convoluted method to get involved with a group that is supposed to be available and accessible and representative. That leaves too many "excuses" for not responding or posting information to the community at large (such as the results of the survey, referenced by the Schwaners). Our elected officials should be open, accessible, transparent, and available as contacts not just to residents, but to others who would want to engage the neighborhood. Look to other HOA's for examples.

    Perhaps these are changes that can be made if others get involved, as Carl suggests above.

  71. Anonymous: Since 2009 my wife and I have personally delivered several flyers to yours and every other door in this neighborhood. In December 2010 we mailed, at our personal expense, a post card to every home in the neighborhood who was still not accounted for at that time. By the fall of 2012, we had exhausted ourselves trying to reach those last few neighbors who apparently did not want to be bothered.

    I can't tell you how the WCA spends the money it collects in voluntary membership fees. You'll have to ask them about that. As I said above, if you don't know how to reach them, write to me and I'll pass your note along to them.

    To your comment about publishing the bench survey, it was, as I have explained many times before, always available to all Woodbrook residents on our email list. It still is today. It was never *not* published.

    Your point about the property record method of reaching new neighbors is noted. It does have the drawback that it doesn't reach those neighbors who are renters. Perhaps you would be willing to volunteer to deliver flyers for us this fall?

    It's worth noting that none of the people here who have complained about not knowing about the email list have since signed up.

    And, lastly, it's hard to take your comments about "open, accessible, transparent and available" seriously when you yourself hide behind an anonymous handle.

    This is the last anonymous comment we are going to approve for this post.

  72. Dan, I'd like to encourage you to disallow ALL anonymous posts to this blog, not only on this particular issue. I just don't think there's a place for anonymity among neighbors–the retreat behind that shield has allowed the level of rancor and paranoia in this discussion to rise to disturbing levels.

  73. Congrats on building the bridge and bench. I will be sure to come over from Carrsbrook (horrors) and check it out.
    Now we just need a bridge from Idlewood Dr to Arden Creek Lane for bike/ped use. I would love to be able to walk to the movies and library from Carrsbrook area. That land is also county land, not private.

  74. I thought this was a neighborhood blog where we could post our thoughts and comments freely. Now I see that it gets reported in Charlottesville Tomorrow. Don't think I'll feel so free to voice an honest opinion from now on.

  75. Mary: Charlottesville Tomorrow and the Daily Progress picked up this story on their own (we did not ask them to cover it).

    This is a public blog, and anything you post here is in the public domain. If you are concerned about a particular comment you made here, write to us at the address in the left hand margin and we'll be happy to remove it.

  76. When I was the treasurer of the WCA, we collected voluntary "dues" at the annual picnic and used the money for the picnic's food and entertainment. I did pass on my ledger to the new treasurer, and I assume that he/she has it now. Every penny was accounted for. There was also a questionnaire filled out annually by those attending the picnic, including email, phone, etc., and asking for any suggestions for the neighborhood. I don't know if the picnic didn't happen last fall, or if I missed it, but that could be the reason why we don't have more information. Please, everyone who criticizes the WCA, PLEASE give a year of service to your neighborhood. It is good for everyone to know what is involved and to get involved yourself. It's also a great way to get to know your neighbors!

  77. "This is a public blog, and anything you post here is in the public domain."

    And people wonder why some would post anonymously? Without the anonymous posting, we would otherwise have not seen the range of opinions and concerns shared. It also led to the most discussion of the WCA I have seen to date. You already have the ability to screen comments, so why limit community discourse by prohibiting anonymity? There are more than 200 homes in the neighborhood and people think everyone should be comfortable sharing opinions with their "neighbors" whom they've never met? Besides, what I would say was the least appropriate comment was not posted anonymously and has since been removed.

    You of course have the right to do prohibit anonymous comments , but it seems to me like a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived attack on the WCA (true, the cabal comment was a bit much!). I hope you continue to allow it on future blogs.

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