Navy Hill proposal faces crucial vote next week

Richmond

One Richmond City Council member told 8News on Tuesday: "Now is the time to hit the reset button and commit ourselves to a new project review process that is open, fair and equitable."

NAVY HILL aerial 2

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Navy Hill redevelopment plan hit a snag on Monday when a majority of Richmond City Council members voted to strike the project from the organizational development standing committee’s agenda, setting up another vote for next week that could scrap the deal altogether.

The committee, made up of the nine City Council members, voted 5-4 to approve recommendations to strike ordinances filed by Mayor Levar Stoney that authorized a deal with NH District Corp., a group of developers including President and CEO of Dominion Energy Thomas F. Farrell, II.

The council’s decision came as Johnson Consulting, a firm tasked with reviewing the $1.5 billion proposal by City Council members, shared its report on the redevelopment plan.

Strengths of the plan listed in the report include the potential for tax revenue, the proposed mixed-use development’s impact on addressing latent demand in downtown Richmond and the appeal of a new hotel in the area for convention center visitors.

In a statement released before the panel voted Monday, Stoney showed his support for the report by going over portions that detail how the proposal is “written in the city’s favor.”

“This third-party report, requested and funded entirely by City Council,” the mayor said, “confirms that the proposal is ‘written in the city’s favor,’ and reaffirms our confidence that in the event of a default, ‘the city has no legal or moral obligation’ and ‘retains control if the development does not perform.’”

“The report also asserts that the arena program and cost, as well as the financials associated with it, are reasonable and consistent with venues in comparable markets,” Stoney continued. “In reviewing the proposal’s financials, the third-party consultants found that all of the mechanisms deployed, including non-recourse bonds and a stabilization fund, are either entirely appropriate or the accepted industry standard and best practice.”

The Chicago-based firm found weaknesses while reviewing the proposal as well, claiming there’s no specific plan “to address GRTC or DSS from both a strategy or funding standpoint,” that no land appraisal was done before a Request For Proposal (RFP) solicitation and of a lack of an organizational plan from the NH District Corporation.

Second District Councilwoman Kim Gray, one of the members who voted in favor of striking the Navy Hill ordinances down, shared her thoughts about the decision with 8News on Tuesday.

“I support withdrawal of the Mayor’s Navy Hill ordinances and starting over with a new redevelopment and Request for Proposal process. Pre-conditions to the reissuance of the RFP should include the production of a Navy Hill area study plan, appraisals of all city-owned parcels of land in the Navy Hill subject area, and a comprehensive assessment of existing and required public infrastructure,” Gray said in an email. “I have heard overwhelmingly from my constituents that they want a more transparent public engagement process focused on a frank conversation about the project’s true impact on downtown redevelopment and its potential risk to taxpayers, the City’s General Fund and public school funding. Now is the time to hit the reset button and commit ourselves to a new project review process that is open, fair and equitable.”

Also on Monday, City Council members voted to approve a resolution asking Stoney to withdraw his existing Navy Hill ordinances. Last week, when the resolution became public, the mayor made it clear that he would not withdraw his proposal.

This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.

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