City Council: Vote on Monroe Park renovation plan delayed

Richmond City Council on Monday voted to postpone the final decision in the Monroe Park renovation plan until April 14th.

Richmond City Council on Monday voted to postpone the final decision in the Monroe Park renovation plan until April 14th. The plan includes a 30-year lease agreement between the City of Richmond and a nonprofit to fund $6 million in renovations to the park.

During the over 3 1/2 hour meeting, the council heard from 23 speakers in opposition of the lease agreement and less than a dozen speakers supporting the plan.

“Leasing the park does not absolve the city the financial burden of renovations,” said plan opponent Amber McNeal. “Instead it removes oversight and introduces the possibility of classist or racist exclusions.”

The proposal is supported by the Monroe Park Conservancy board, a nonprofit coalition of VCU representatives, city officials, and local citizens that will work to raise private money to support $3 million of the park project. The other half of the funding will come from the city. The Monroe Park Conservancy board’s proposal was one out of two bids received by the council on Monday; the second bid was submitted by anarchist leader Moriah Karn, under the Keep Monroe Park Open and Free Committee.

City council president Charles Samuels (2nd District) restricted opposition speakers to two minutes, and allowed overtime for the supporting speakers. Samuels said no time for public comment will be allowed during the Land Use, Housing, and Transportation committee meeting on April 9th, nor during the subsequent vote during the full city council meeting on April 14th.

The greatest concerns expressed by the opposition were of those who did not feel safety was a legitimate concern for park visitors and were concerned about where the population of homeless people currently living in the park will go during and after the renovations.

Joseph Andrew Collin echoed the concern of many of the other homeless persons present when he said “that park is the only home we got.”

But several speakers in support of the measure said the homeless population will not be kicked out of the park.

“Monroe Park Conservancy … has no intent to exclude the homeless, nor anyone else,” said Alice Massie, president of the Monroe Park Conservancy.

Mark Dray, a citizen member of the conservancy said all people, including the homeless, will be welcome in the park after the renovations. “It is hoped however that the renovation of the park with a focus on safety and keeping it clean will make it even more welcoming and inviting to all that would like to use it,” Dray said.

After the public discussion, some council members offered their own opinion on the Monroe Park debate. Councilwoman Reva Trammell (8th District) said she was concerned about the lack of further discussion allowed on the ordinance before it will be put to a vote. Councilman Parker Agelasto (5th District) said he was opposed to the way the lease currently stands because it does not allow for enough citizen representation on the board of conservancy.

“I’m not confident we need a conservancy as a middle-man,” Agelasto said. “The city is losing certain controls and oversights.”

Trammell and Agelasto were the only two members of the council to oppose passing the consent items (including the postponement of the Monroe Park plan) during the evening’s vote.

The council also agreed to postpone the rest of the regular agenda and unanimously approved an amended the consent agenda after the debate.

Notable items passed by the council included:

  • Ord. No. 2014-27 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To declare surplus and to direct the conveyance of City-owned real estate located at 210 North Belvidere Street for nominal consideration to Monroe Park Campus Corporation for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of the property to Virginia Commonwealth University for the construction of the Institute of Contemporary Art.
  • Ord. No. 2014-35 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To amend Ord. No. 2013-48-75, adopted May 28, 2013, which adopted a General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 and made appropriations pursuant thereto, to transfer funds in the amount of $90,000 from the Non- Departmental agency, Brookland Park Theatre And Nehemiah CDC line item and to appropriate $90,000 to Nehemiah Community Development Corporation, Inc. for the purpose of making a grant pursuant to section 15.2-953(B) of the Code of Virginia (1950), as amended, to an organization furnishing services to beautify and maintain communities or to prevent neighborhood deterioration for use in supporting the revitalization of Brookland Park Boulevard.
  • Ord. No. 2014-36 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer to accept funds in the amount of $1,494,787 from the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia and to appropriate the increase to the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Special Fund Budget by increasing estimated revenues and the amount appropriated to the Department of Police by $1,494,787 for the purpose using asset forfeiture funds to (i) build and equip a new canine training facility, (ii) acquire updated tactical body armor for the City’s Special Weapons and Tactics team, (iii) acquire a driving simulator for the City’s police training academy, and (iv) acquire software to meet accreditation requirements of the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.

Also during the meeting several Richmonders were commended during the council’s awards period, including Seattle Seahawks football player Burton Michael Robinson, a Henrico native honored for his athletic achievements and charitable work. Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones presented the formal recognition to Robinson at the commencement of the council meeting, the only time the mayor was present.

Other honorees included:

  • Amy King, executive director of Rebuilding Together of Richmond
  • Anthony (Tony) Squire, Squires Richmond Basketball nonprofit for boys
  • John Marshall High School basketball team, state championship winners

City Council President Charles Samuels also acknowledged the the loss of GWAR frontman Dave Brockie.

Photo by: aNgeLinRicHmoNd

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