“This rape, pillage and burn kind of attack that happened here, very suddenly, is very unacceptable,” said Marian Agnew, who says she would like the football fields to be open year-round to the public.
“It’s just a great illustration of how not to do economic development in the city of Richmond,” said Suzanne Keller, another attendee at the packed meeting. Link
Third District Councilman Chris A. Hilbert, who was at Tuesday’s meeting along with City Council President Charles R. Samuels, is calling for an independent oversight board for the Redskins project to ensure “transparency along with checks and balances.”
The oversight board would provide some measure of evaluating whether promises made in the early stages of the economic-development deal were kept.
“I feel very let down by the process,” Hilbert said, adding that he and other city representatives made assurances to the public that were not followed through.
“I appreciate and share the lack of trust that some folks expressed this evening,” Hilbert said. Link
Alyse Marshall-Auernheimer, president of the West Grace Street Association, said many of the residents her group represents were outraged by the loss of the trees and the fitness trail. She added that the plans shown to residents in November did not reflect the shift that Jones said took place a month earlier.
“If you knew in October that the plan needed to remove trees, why did you tell us in November that they were going to stay?” she said. “There was definitely a lot of anger for not letting us know what was going to happen.” Link
No one bothered to contact the baseball team about that. In the meeting minutes, Jane Ferrara, deputy director of economic and community development, informs the Urban Design Committee that “they haven’t spoken with the Squirrels yet.” Link
On January 9 2013, construction began on the Redskins Training Center in Richmond. Although the public was told that it was “an opportunity to truly preserve a green space in the city, the vita-course is saved, a significant volume of the trees will remain,” the entire property was cleared.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones issued the following statement:
January 15…I remain very concerned about the loss of the trees at the development site for the Redskins training camp. We now have a better understanding of how we got to this point and where the communications were not clear about this matter.
In October a shift was made in the plans for the site. That shift, which moved our project roughly 100 feet west on the site, came about to protect the visibility of a future special events center behind the Science Museum. The trees were removed in accordance with those revamped plans. Those plans were submitted to the Urban Design Committee and the Planning Commission.
While our original intent was to preserve as many trees as possible and while it was our belief that plans drawn up supported that intent, the shift of the 100 feet to the west essentially caused the removal of most of the trees we had intended to preserve….
What was not mentioned is that the Jones administration presented the revised site plan to city council and the public on November 12. It showed a parking lot expanded from 98 spaces to 244, a new entrance on Leigh Street, a new “street” to the Science Museum and the remaining development moved 100′ .
This is an image from the city council video of the November 12 meeting showing the revised site plan projected onto the large screen in the council chamber:
Suzette Denslow, the mayor’s chief of staff presented the information.
Jane Ferrara, the city’s deputy director of economic and community development attended the meeting. She is a Certified Commercial Investment Member and shared primary responsibility for putting the deal together. She submitted the revised site plan to the city planning commission for review. She is also a member of the planning commission. She is also the former executive director of the economic development authority.
Richard Johnson, chair of the economic development authority, also attended to meeting.
Byron Marshall, the city’s chief administrative officer, apparently did not attend the meeting although he was present at the earlier informal session.
This is an image from the video showing Ferrara on the left, Johnson and Denslow at the meeting:
None of them informed city council or the public about any of the changes to the site plan!
A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that city officials botched the budgeting and planning for a $2.4 million program intended to address foreclosed and abandoned properties in Highland Park, Barton Heights and Church Hill, leaving a local builder to foot the bill for expenses he says the city was supposed to cover.