RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond’s temporary plan to fill the former Lee Circle was approved despite the city’s Urban Design Committee recommending the proposal be rejected.

Richmond’s Planning Commission voted Monday to adopt the city’s proposal, which has received mixed reviews from residents. The plan calls for the city to install $100,000 worth of plants in the traffic circle until a long-term proposal on the space’s reimagination is put forward.

Members of the Planning Commission voiced concerns about going against the city’s Urban Design Committee’s recommendation, with much of Monday’s discussion focusing on alternative options and getting more community input.

The city’s Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission each back the removal of the fences put around the area. But residents and community members who spoke during the Planning Commission’s meeting Monday were divided on when it should come down.

Some said that removing the barriers would lead people to start gathering in the area again before the flowers are planted, citing safety concerns in a busy traffic circle, while others said the community should be allowed to access the public space.

While Planning Commission members questioned whether the plan could be put on hold until there was more input from the community, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders said a proper community engagement period would “be a multi-year process.”

The space around the former Robert E. Lee monument became a focal point for protester demonstrations over police brutality and racism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. The former Lee statue’s pedestal was tagged with messages honoring those killed by law enforcement, anti-police graffiti, profanity and more.

Speeches were made in front of the monument and memorials to those killed by police, including Marcus-David Peters, were placed in the traffic circle. The public space around the statue was informally renamed as “Marcus-David Peters Circle” by protesters who gathered in the area during civil unrest in 2020.

After it was hit with graffiti, the Lee monument was named the most influential work of protest art since World War II by the New York Times Style Magazine and made the cover of National Geographic.

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