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Curveball vote over Boulevard real estate slides by at Richmond City Council

Posted at 7:11 PM, Dec 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-16 00:36:04-05

RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond City Council made a controversial late-night decision concerning the 60 acres of real estate on the Boulevard, around the Diamond stadium, Monday night.

Plans for a Children's Hospital have been shelved, and Mayor Dwight Jones has made it clear that the future of baseball isn’t his main concern.

Now the focus is on the development of the city-owned land that runs along the Scott’s Addition boundaries; an area seeing a renaissance as a residential, culinary and event destination.

Late Monday night, with the chambers empty but for officials and a lone reporter, City Council advanced a plan that had been slated to be continued.

There were some flip flops concerning the agenda, and then around 11 p.m., a vote was made. There was a five-member majority.

Councilwoman Kathy Graziano, Fourth District, made the motion to take a final vote Monday night.

"We need to move forward and get some economic development rolling,” said Graziano. “And the Boulevard is a perfect to start.”

Graziano voted for the measure, along with Ellen Robertson, Cynthia Newbille, Chris Hilbert, and Council President Michelle Mosby.

The resolution calls for 60 days of public comment on how to best use the land. In the next step, city leaders would solicit bids from private developers based on those comments.

At the crux is whether a violation was made. Residents said that quietly voting on a measure that was listed “to be continued,” has effectively denied people’s right to speak for or against it.

Reva Trammell, Charles Samuels, Jon Baliles, and Parker Agelasto voted against the resolution.

"It was wrong,” said Trammell, 8th District Council member. “It was wrong to the taxpayers, to the citizens of this city.”

Trammell believes there's a hidden agenda.

"Yes, I do," Trammell said. "Think about it.  You got three people up there getting ready to run for Mayor; that's what's out there."

Concerned neighbor and developer Charlie Diradour is concerned over how the vote took shape and wants the process to move at a different tempo.

"If you can't fix Carver Elementary school in a timely fashion, how can you develop this property in a timely fashion?" Diradour questioned.

He said he also worried how this could impact the taxpayer.

"Look at the Redskins deal, look at the brewery deal downtown,” Diradour said. “Here's where we are, we're in the city where we're presented with a plan, and told this is the plan -- now, we want your buy in.”

Despite a public outcry that council evaded the public, Graziano said council wants to be open.

“We want to be transparent.  We want the public to comment on what is going forward."

"Suffice it to say that the Mayor is very pleased that Richmond City Council has voted to move forward with us in reviewing the huge potential of the Boulevard site,” said the mayor’s Press Secretary Tammy Hawley.  “We're all aware that the city has many urgent needs, like funding for schools, infrastructure and services.”

Discussions concerning highest and best use of our limited assets is critical and the paper establishes a process for a period of public engagement, including public meetings," she said. "We'll be developing that public engagement schedule and sharing it with you as soon as it is available. We also should be releasing the findings of a study very soon."