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Promises, promises

1/31/2020, 6 a.m.
We congratulate Richmond City Council members Kim B. Gray, Chris A. Hilbert, Kristen N. Larson, Stephanie A. Lynch and Reva ...

We congratulate Richmond City Council members Kim B. Gray, Chris A. Hilbert, Kristen N. Larson, Stephanie A. Lynch and Reva M. Trammell who — like we — are neither bought nor bound to Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell’s and Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s vision of a $1.5 billion new Coliseum and accompanying development in Downtown.

The five council members introduced a resolution at Monday night’s City Council meeting asking Mayor Stoney to withdraw the expensive Navy Hill plan.

Instead, they would like to see proposals submitted by other developers after assessments are done of the value of the city-owned property in the development area and of the existing and required infrastructure. They also want a more transparent process with more public engagement.

We agree.

Their request for a more accurate picture of what the city and the taxpayers would be giving up and gaining — financially and otherwise — by Mr. Farrell’s plan is neither “laughable” or “selfish,” as Mayor Stoney contends. We believe it would be less than prudent for City Council to commit city tax money to a 30-year payback plan for a big, new Coliseum and to sell city-owned land for possibly less than its true value to private developers without asking tough questions.

We are glad these five members of the nine-member City Council are looking more deeply into this project and its implications and ramifications than Mayor Stoney and Mr. Farrell would like.

And, yes, the Navy Hill project will become an election issue for City Council and the mayor in November, even if council tanks the project as expected during the Feb. 24 vote. We are certain Mayor Stoney will seek to capitalize on it — or club opponents with it — during his bid for re-election in November. Ms. Lynch won her 5th District seat on City Council during a special election last November because she listened to voters and expressed concern about and opposition to the Navy Hill development plan.

We want readers and voters to be clear: Ms. Lynch and the four other City Council members who asked the mayor to withdraw the plan are not opposed to development of the area. But they are opposed to many aspects of the plan pre- sented by Mayor Stoney and the Navy Hill District Corp., led by Mr. Farrell.

We still have heard no clear explanation from Mayor Stoney or the Navy Hill gang of why the private money to be invested in portions of the project outside of the Coliseum still cannot take place, or why a new Coliseum is central to the overall project’s success.

The project’s financing and other components have shape- shifted in the past few weeks as Mayor Stoney and the Navy Hill gang have pulled out all the stops to make it more enticing to Richmond voters and to put more pressure on City Council to approve it.

In the last few weeks, they have trotted out the head of CoStar, a real estate research and information company, saying he will expand the business to add 1,000 new jobs and move into an office tower in the proposed development. They also announced a shrinking of the TIF District, Tax Incremental Funding District, in Downtown to repay the loans on the Coliseum on a lark that the General Assembly will approve a bill granting state sales tax money to be dedicated to help pay for the public and private elements of the project.