Planning Commission approves Folk Fest amphitheater

Now the question is: will construction be completed in time for this year’s Folk Festival?

Update #3 — March 19, 2014; 6:26 AM

Venture Richmond, organizers the Richmond Folk Festival, has cleared the final bureaucratic hurdle and may now build a natural amphitheater on the grounds of Tredegar Green (see below) following a 6-2 approval yesterday by the City’s Planning Commission.

Last fall, Venture Richmond announced plans to build a nearly 5-acre “green” amphitheater to host the annual Richmond Folk Festival on land owned by both Venture Richmond and the City. Those plans came about after Venture Richmond and NewMarket Corp agreed to no longer use the tract of land that hosted a large stage for future festivals (see bottommost post).

But natural amphitheater plans caused protests from nearby residents and those who believed that the venue would affect future use of the adjacent Kanawha Canal. After the Planning Commission, which only has authority over the City property involved in the project, delayed their decision in January (see below), Venture Richmond resubmitted plans for a new amphitheater project–spanning between Tredegar and S. 2nd streets–that wouldn’t infringe upon the canal towpath on the City-owned property and would also block festivals from operating on city property north of the towpath’s brick wall.

The area highlighted in orange is City-owned property that has been removed from the plan.

The area highlighted in orange is City-owned property that has been removed from the plan.

“We just thought, let’s resolve the issue that seems to be a problem,” said Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Let’s see if we can get 90 percent of what we want approved so that we can move forward.”

Berry said that amphitheater construction will likely begin in May. It’s unknown if the project will be completed in time for the 2014 Richmond Folk Festival. The annual festival is typically held in October.

— ∮∮∮ —

Update #2 — January 26, 2014; 11:03 AM

Venture Richmond’s plans to build a natural amphitheater (see below) hit a snag last Tuesday when the Richmond Planning Commission delayed their final decision on the proposal, causing anxiety for Venture Richmond as it faces a ticking clock to have the amphitheater built in time for the 2014 Richmond Folk Festival.

The commission delayed its decision for 45 days because of concerns over who would pay for future amphitheater modifications should the Kanawha Canal (which is currently dry and unkept) be refilled and how the future amphitheater would affect the navigatability of a refilled canal.

From Richmond Bizsense:

The delay came as a surprise to Venture Richmond and its executive director, Jack Berry. The group is working to get the new facility up and running in time for the popular music event and its 200,000 attendees in October.

Berry said Venture Richmond does not have a contingency plan for hosting the main stage of the Folk Festival if the proposed amphitheater is not ready.

“Our timetable is already very compressed, and it will make it very difficult for us to have the site ready for the 10th anniversary of the festival in October,” Berry said. “I never imagined that we would be in this position, so we don’t have a Plan B yet.”

— ∮∮∮ —

Update #1 — September 17, 2013; 9:13 AM

The Richmond Planning Commission yesterday endorsed Venture Richmond’s amphitheater project near the James River and Kanawha Canal (see below) by a vote of 7-0.

But before the project is approved, the final project design must go before the Urban Design Committee, whose members neither recommend nor rejected Venture Richmond’s plans two weeks ago due to a deadlocked vote. If the final design is approved, it will go before the Planning Commission once again.

Next week, Venture Richmond plans to apply for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fill some of the wetlands near the canal.

— ∮∮∮ —

Original — September 13, 2013

Is this the last year of the Folk Festival?

Hard to say for sure. Beginning next year, organizers of the annual festival, Venture Richmond, may not have a suitable venue to host the Folk Festival, which brought over 200,000 people downtown last year.

Why can’t they keep using the same spot?

The festival’s largest stage (the Altria Stage) was on land owned by NewMarket Corp. NewMarket gave Venture Richmond permission to use their property for the last eight years, but the two parties agreed that it was time for the Folk Festival to have its own location.

NewMarket donated a nearly 4.3-acre parcel to Venture Richmond (which gave some of that land to the City) that’s adjacent to the current Folk Festival location to help ensure the festival continues. The land slopes from the top of the hill at 2nd Street (near the Virginia War Memorial) down to Tredegar Street. The grounds are bisected by remnants of the Kanawha Canal (more on that later).

Hooray! What’re the plans for the new stage?

It would technically be an amphitheater for performances (PDF), and Venture Richmond wouldn’t install a permanent stage, just refurbish the area to make it more hospitable to events and large crowds.

“We would like to make it a beautiful, park-like setting,” said Lisa Sims, the deputy director at Venture Richmond, about the proposed modifications.

If it’s built, visitors could watch a performance and also get nice views of the James and the downtown skyline. The site renovations will also include a bike trail on the north bank at the Lee Bridge.

In addition, the plans calls for a restoration of the canal that “takes it back to the period in time when the canal was navigable,” Sims said. The refurbished canal would allow for small boat traffic once water is piped in and recirculated,1 although Venture Richmond doesn’t have it in their budget to do that. But it could be done by the City (or someone else) at a later date.

Supporters of Venture Richmond’s plan include the City’s Department of Planning and Development Review and the City Historic Preservation Officer. Venture Richmond would like to get the process underway by early 2014.

That sounds awesome! What’s the problem?

As with most parts of downtown Richmond, there’s a question of historical preservation. The Kanawha Canal, which bisects the parcel of land, was surveyed and planned by George Washington.

In order to build the amphitheater site, workers will alter the north and south banks of the canal by cutting and filling parts of each bank to create a smoother slope. As you can imagine, not everyone is excited about the plans to alter something that directly connects Richmond to George Washington.

Local lawyer John W. Pearsall III–who served on the Historic Richmond Foundation committee that recommended restoring the 200-year-old canal back in 1988–is chief among them.

Here’s an excerpt from a report (PDF) by the City’s Department of Planning and Development Review:

The cutting of the north bank and removal of timber retaining walls will be necessary to reshape the upper level of the amphitheater. A limited amount of fill will be added to create a more gradual slope on the south bank of the canal.

Doing this will improve spectator’s line of sight, improve the aesthetics of long-neglected parts of the canal area, as well as make the grounds more manageable for maintenance.

Pearsall doesn’t think there needs to be any cutting or filling on the site at all (even if it is a small amount), and thinks it can be avoided if designers simply raise the movable main stage to improve the line of sight of visitors. He’s also concerned about the elevation above sea level required to accommodate the canal once it’s filled with water to allow boats, if it ever is.

Are there other concerns?

Some Oregon Hill residents are understandably worried about the noise and increased traffic near their homes should the project happen. For their part, Venture Richmond has reached out to neighborhood advocates and civic leaders to discuss those concerns, which Sims said would continue if the project goes forward.

What do you mean ‘if’ it goes forward?

Earlier this month, the Urban Design Committee deadlocked 4-4 over the plans. While the decision doesn’t kill the project outright, it does mean that the committee has no formal recommendation for the City’s Planning Commission.

On Monday, September 16th at 1:00 PM at City Hall, the Planning Commission will host a public meeting to consider and decide whether the amphitheater project can go forward. If the commission approves the plan, it will continue on its current course of city, state, and federal review. If the commission doesn’t approve the plan, it seems the Folk Festival may not happen, at least not in 2014.

Are you serious? No Folk Festival next year?

“It is a definite uncertainty,” Sims said, adding that she cannot say for sure if Venture Richmond could secure another venue. But they may not want to, because the goal of Venture Richmond is to bring people downtown, something the Folk Festival is excellent at. It wouldn’t be the Folk Festival if it took place in, say, the Meadow Event Park, where the Virginia State Fair takes place.

Some have suggested that Venture Richmond simply move the two tented Folk Festival stages on Brown’s Island to the site of the proposed amphitheater, then they could move the main stage to Brown’s Island. But the tents need a relatively flat surface, and the gradient on the hill of the proposed project is too sizable, so that wouldn’t work.

Where can I get more information?

Venture Richmond offers their take on things here, local company 3 North has their proposed renderings (PDF) of the new amphitheater. You can also read the Department of Planning and Development Review report and recommendation here (PDF), an historical assessment (PDF) by Dutton + Associates, and report (PDF) endorsing Venture Richmond’s plan by the City Historic Preservation Officer.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. The Army Corps of Engineers would have to approve this. 
  • error

    Report an error

Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Richard on said:

    What is wrong with the stage being higher? And why not put the stage on top of what could be a green roofed parking deck where the existing surface parking is? That area is going to need more parking as more people ‘venture’ to the river. Venture Richmond’s $500,000 plan is too cheap for such a setting, particularly as it shifts the cost by damaging an historic resource. Even less impressive is their threat to take their toys and go home (no festival) if they don’t get what they want.

  2. When I see “Pearsall” and “history”, this is what I think of:

  3. Cookie on said:

    I wish they would omit the big name acts that draw the giant crowds.

  4. Morgan on said:

    @John Murden–
    Is it fair to judge someone on the behaviors of their relatives? Surely you know its not the same man. Mr. Pearsall III does a great job maintaining the Ellen Glasgow house. I’ve seen him fight behind the scenes for correct legislation that won’t wipe out historic housing, i.e. the receivership ordinance. He is someone I have grown to respect. Please don’t try to tarnish his reputation with that of someone elses past.

  5. marsha on said:

    I’m offended by this threat and the attempt at manipulation. We’re talking about only one stage. Certainly, they can re-organize things to make it work. Possibly they could:

    1. swap a smaller stage site with this one
    2. move food vendors/ other vendors to this site, allowing for another stage elsewhere
    3. add another stage on the land north of this site where there appears to be much room
    4. extend the hours that the festival runs, so they could get by with less stages (why does it start at noon on Sat.?)

    Certainly, they’ve already come up with some solution, as this year’s festival is going on with the space as is. This should have been planned for and worked out before the recent construction of Brown’s Island Way. Why wasn’t it designed in a location that would not interfere with the old setup, or why was it constructed at all? Why didn’t Venture Richmond work with the City on that?

  6. There is no reason the canal cannot be altered to conform to the needs of the amphitheater. It would not jeapordize the future of a canal that has not been used in a century and there are no plans to restore. If that should come to pass, millions will have to be invested along the length of it to make it usable. Venture Richmond is not the bogeyman they have been made out to be. They sponsor tons of project that benefit Richmond like Friday Cheers, the 2nd Street Festival, Easter on Parade and yes, the Richmond Folk Festival. This is a no brainer.

  7. Morgan – A family that got to where there are on the backs of the poor, selling out one historic neighborhood to preserve another, has some real accounting to do before their name is clean.

  8. Good explaining, Nate.

  9. I didn’t know that the canal actually ran through there, now that I do I’d say it’s fine where it is. Venture should be able to work around it if they want to put in a stage there. Also, is this really just for the Folk Festival? It seems a bit drastic for just a once a year event. If they build it I’m sure they’ll want to host move other stuff to that site too; Friday Cheers perhaps, but there’s no mention of that. I know Oregon Hill people might complain about the noise there moving closer and such. Are they planning any bigger acts? If it is, Venture should say so, if they are just keeping along what they’ve been doing, seems to be working well as is.

  10. Scott Burger on said:

    Subject: Re: [woodlandheights] Add your opinion to the RFF main stage discussion

    Carolyn, thank you so much for your interest. Please feel free to share this with your neighbors.

    Here is a short, objective response to Ranson’s email:

    I urge folks to download the Oregon Hill Home Improvement Council PDF report linked on this URL and take the time to read it as it contains very important information, photos, maps, and history regarding this issue:

    Also, here is a video of Jack Berry of Venture Richmond presenting to the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association (please listen to the questions also):

    Especially important point to understand: Under the current proposal, the amphitheater would be available for rent by groups other than Venture Richmond. Its use is NOT restricted to just the Folk Festival weekend.

    A few previous letters :

    The Planning Commission on Monday will be considering the “location, character and extent” of the use of City of Richmond property as part of the proposed project. (Venture Richmond has yet to apply to have the property rezoned.) We can address the fact that this is the wrong “location” for the amphitheater, because it will harm the canal and negatively impact the Oregon Hill neighborhood and War Memorial with major parking and noise problems. It is also important to address the “extent” of the project, since if the project is confined to below the canal it would avoid damage to the canal and the parking and noise problems would be reduced.

    An amphitheater is not a permitted use in the area above the canal (zoned R-03 — residential office). We must not allow that area above the canal to be rezoned, because once it is re-zoned Venture Richmond can put an amphitheater there “by right.” Unless Venture Richmond applies for a “conditional” rezoning (which is unlikely) there will be no restrictions other than the general restictions under the zoning category.

    If the venue is confined to the area below the canal it will avoid the need to damage the canal, and the volume and parking problems would be reduced.
    Venture Richmond already operates Brown’s Island, and their main stage should logically go on that island where the noise and parking is less problematic.

    I know many Oregon Hill neighbors would greatly appreciate it if Woodland Heights neighbors could send a note in support of Oregon Hill neighbors’ concerns to the Secretary of the Planning Commission:

    And here is a more emotional, personal response:

    I could give a very curt, profanity-laden reply to what I regard as a despicable, dishonorable campaign designed to spread misinformation and marginalize my neighbors’ concerns, but I am desperately trying to keep my cool. I will let loose a few personal thoughts, though please understand these are MY personal thoughts and not necessarily representative of Oregon Hill or other opponents of the plan.

    If you look at the full history of how this ‘Tredegar Green’ has come forward (including the watering down of certain aspects of the Downtown Master Plan by the Riverfront Plan), you will understand that this really is more about corporate control of real estate than music festival. Venture Richmond, in moving this proposal forward, has not conceded anything- they are going for the full enchilada and seeing what sticks before they agree to any conditions. Given the previous destruction of the canal wall (and its inadequate investigation) that happened after Venture Richmond took possession of the surrounding property, Venture Richmond cannot be trusted with the extremely valuable legacy of the historic Kanawha Canal. The current push is built around a false premise of urgency and holds the Folk Festival unnecessarily hostage. I also think that the way that the City government has handled this proposal is very questionable.

    Keep in mind that I am saying this as someone who loves music, has attended the Folk Festival every year since its very first year as the National Folk Festival, has volunteered for the National and Richmond Folk Festival multiple years, and won Folk Festival Volunteer of the Year 2010 award.

    I pray that Venture Richmond will come to its senses, stop pushing this flawed plan, and work towards more viable alternatives. I dream of a beautiful, solar PV canopied amphitheater on Brown’s Island or Mayo Island that can be a real point of civic pride.

    Personally, it has been very difficult and sad for me to have music lovers like Todd Ranson put Venture Richmond’s priorities above the very real concerns of my neighbors, some whose families have lived on Oregon Hill for multiple generations. I was shocked recently when someone who I regarded as a progressive friend suggested that if Oregon Hill residents did not like Venture Richmond’s proposal, we should all move away from our 150-year-old neighborhood and live in Short Pump suburbs. Imagine. Oregon Hill has been very tolerant and appreciative of the Folk Festival over the years and this is how we are thanked. I suspect I will lose more longtime neighbors if Venture Richmond’s plan happens. Even those with great tolerance for crowds and noise have their limits. My grief is magnified by the aspect that something I love so much, the Folk Festival, is being used to do harm to something I love even more, my neighborhood and home. I wish my friends on the Folk Festival Committee understood that.

    Sorry, I have to quit now, my blood pressure is creeping up and I have to try to get some sleep before work.


    Scott Burger

  11. Charles on said:

    The fans of folk music, I have to believe, are generally sensitive to harming environmental and historic resources. It is basically a very poor plan to damage George Washington’s 225 year old canal in order to aim the city’s loudest outdoor stage at the Va. War Memorial and the Oregon Hill neighborhood. Venture Richmond already operates the Brown’s Island venue, and there is no reason that the large Folk Festival stage cannot be put on Brown’s Island without negatively impacting any landmarks. This is not about the folk festival; the proposed amphitheater would be available for lease without any limit on the number of events annually as a money-maker for Venture Richmond. If you have time, please read my 60 page report on the project posted here:

  12. I’m an Oregon Hill (specifically Overlook which would be impacted the most) homeowner and fully endorse this new venue with reasonable restrictions (for example, no use after 10PM on week days and 11PM on weekends). Downtown desperately needs to take advantage of public spaces and someday fully utilize the canal. This canal currently looks like a weed infested ditch.

  13. Jeff E. on said:

    This slight grade change would cause negligible “damage” to the canal bed. I see no good reason that this should be raising the ire of some people and holding up park improvements. This really isn’t even an amphitheater if I red this correctly. The canal has sat as a vacant ditch for so long and now suddenly those who love complaining about the Canal Walk “boondoggle”/”white elephant” (favorite words of the naysayers) want to preserve this unused area so that in the future it can become another “white elephant” and meanwhile sit unused? I honestly can’t understand the logic.

  14. schlep on said:

    So the Folk festival loses the Altria Stage only? And still has Brown’s island and the area for smaller stages leading up the hill? I don’t see how this would mean “No Folk Festival”. SMALLER Folk Festival, maybe

  15. Go to the Charlottesville pavilion and see how totally great an outdoor theatre , set in an urban setting, can really work well … What do we have Innsbrook? Powhatan Live? The race track ? All very substandard by comparison … Bring it on !!

  16. Been to Charlottesville pavilion a good number of times, it’s very nice, what makes it great is being next to the downtown mall. For those unfamiliar the area is like Carytown with streets blocked off to motor vehicles . This wouldn’t be at all similar.

  17. Liberty666 on said:

    It spruces up the environs for the people who live under the Lee bridge

  18. Maximum Bob on said:

    Ok, so…

    One of the festival’s stages is owned by NewMarket Corp. NewMarket gave Venture Richmond permission to use this stage, but then the two organizations “decided” that the festival had to move. And then NewMarket donated land so that the folk festival could move…adjacent to where it is now. The new location is right where it has been for eight years minus one stage…but plus land that has to be developed by a bunch of superslick developers led by Jack Barry.

    So you can’t have a folk festival unless you allow the development of a loud open-air concert hall. That’s what you’re saying? Then the folk festival can be held pretty much right where it has been for years. It would just now include the superslick developers and be a wee bit less of a “folk” festival. But the good news is that this “plan” is endorsed by the City’s Department of Planning and Development Review, which might be the city’s most flagrantly corrupt organization and who never met a wealthy developer they didn’t love.

    Josh: You need to talk to people who live near projects that have been greenlit by the Planning and Zoning departments. They’ll smirk and write your restrictions down, and then wink and nod at their slick developer friends. When it opens, they’ll do whatever they want ’til 2:00am, and the noise will continue until about 3:00am. You’ll go to zoning all pissed off and wave around the restrictions that were written in, and they’ll laugh and laugh and laugh. As far as I know, they’ve never enforced any SUP.

    Josh, it’s too late after approval – their friends do whatever they want after that, and it’s too late for anyone to do anything about it. They laugh and tell you you can appeal to other people in Zoning, and it’s all the same people who told you what you wanted to hear in the first place.

  19. downtown-watch on said:

    As long as the canal can be eventually filled I have no problem with this. But seriously Venture Richmond, do you really have to threaten to take away the whole Folk Festival? Isn’t it really a little too early for brinksmanship here ya’ll? This isn’t game-theory, its about making sure you do it right- My 2¢

  20. @scott burger

    Nothing like a thousand words where one or two would do.

  21. ??? This is one of the greatest spots downtown for all Richmonders – an amplitheater/park is a perfect use of this space. Its important to stay vigilant about protecting the canal bed (as the fiasco with the collapsed wall showed), but it sounds like these concerns have been addressed. Concerns about too many people coming downtown are rediculous – thats the whole point! Build it, please! (if you want peace and quite move to the suburbs)

  22. anonymous on said:

    There is a whole other question that no one seems to what to address- how many publicly subsidized venues does Richmond need? At what point do we say enough is enough, there should should be room for venues as private businesses that do not have to compete with the latest whims of government and we need to concentrate on important endeavors like parks, streets, mass transit, and schools. Why should Venture Richmond, not a truly public organization, get to establish this permanent venue for making money? I think the public is once again being bamboozled.

    If Venture Richmond cares about promoting downtown living, then why doesn’t it spend its budget more on things that actually helps more residents instead of just festivals drawing more tourists?

  23. Thomas on said:

    I would rather they restore the canal and make it an extenstion of the canal walk and make it pretty all the way up till Maymont. Unless this amphitheater can give us U2 or The Rolling Stones, it’s not really something i think is worthy of pumping so much investment into rather than making the canal a beautiful tourist attraction as well as bike/pedestrian connector from Maymont to Belle Isle/the river.

  24. Scott,

    Among the benefits Venture Richmond brings are jobs, increased tax revenue, TOURISTS who spend money in downtown businesses, stay in downtown hotels, eat in downtown restaurants, more residents who want to live in a City with all the festivals Venture Richmond sponsors and amenities for those already living here. Richmond would be a poorer place without them.

  25. I’m open to the idea that this might be built without terrible consequences for the canal and for Oregon Hill. At the same time, it’s just a bit hard to fully buy Venture Richmond’s claim that this has to happen or the whole festival is off. I have yet to be convinced that there is no alternative — having the festival with one fewer stage, using land next to Mead Westvaco, maybe using Kanahwa Plaza? Maybe these and other alternatives are not viable, but I have yet to see a real discussion.

  26. Liberty666 on said:

    A museum about bums would be better for the commune.

  27. Just move it to belle island.

  28. Scott Burger on said:

    Under the Va. Freedom of Information Act, he requested on Aug. 26, 2013, “Any lease agreements or draft lease agreements regarding the use of City of Richmond property by Venture Richmond for an amphitheater.” His FOIA request was copied to the City Attorney. The use of City property for Venture Richmond’s proposed amphitheater is an item on the agenda of the Sept. 16, 2013 meeting of the Richmond City Planning Commission.

    On Sept. 9, 2013, he received a response from a City employee on behalf of city administrator Byron Marshall, that “the City is not in possession of any records responsive to your requests nor is the City aware of the existence of any records responsive to your request.”

    After receiving this response from the city administration that the lease did not exist, and after he notified all of the City Planning Commissioners that the lease did not exist, he actually received the lease agreement that someone else had independently received from the city attorney. Here is a link to the lease agreement, which the administration denied existed until two business days before the Planning Commission hearing:

    Among other things, this lease agreement is significant because it states that Venture Richmond must maintain the existing city parking for the public except for limited circumstance related to use of the property for an event like the Folk Festival. But Venture Richmond is proposing unlimited use of the proposed amphitheater which would be leased with no limit on the number of events annually.

  29. downtown-watch on said:

    Looking back on this article, I really don’t like the headline- A corporate group threatening the folk festival over the amphitheater? Just make it smaller, more spread out- that’s a legitimate option. This is pure extortion by Venture Richmond- “give us what we want- or else!”

  30. Scott Burger on said:

    I understand Venture Richmond is to present at Forest Hill Neighborhood Meeting this Tuesday night.

    If you do go, you might consider asking who should be held accountable for the illegal destruction of the historic Kanawha Canal wall.

    Venture Richmond’s Jack Berry stated on WRIR’s Open Source radio program that the police and Commonwealth’s Attorney never interviewed him for their investigation, even though Venture Richmond had the land at that point.

  31. Intolerable Acts on said:

    Venture Richmond is seeking both the exemption of its taxes and exemption of laws designed to protect the rights of residents. The residents of Oregon Hill have the right to the private use and quiet enjoyment of their homes. These are basic property rights of any resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia and are rights supported by the Supreme Court. The mayor’s administration and the Planning Committee have a duty to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth. They HAVE NO RIGHT to take the property rights of the people of Oregon Hill and give them to business interests.

    Venture Richmond is now the marketing arm of the Mayor’s administration. Once a non-profit that helped organize festivals and volunteer efforts, they are now a political entity using their influence and money to actively push for the commercialization of public places. George Washington would roll over in his grave if he knew what would eventually happen to his legacy.

    If this corrupt plan is approved, it will directly hundreds of property owners and threaten the viability of local showplaces. Instead of seeing local musicians playing at the Camel, you’ll be getting musical acts approved by marketing executives. All the benefits will go to whoever the mayor and his CEO supporters decide, and all the costs will be bourn people of Richmond who had this forced onto them.

  32. George Washington would care less and hopefully have better things to worry about. The residents of Oregon Hill will be just fine as will other nearby neighbors who live downtown and along the river.

    God, you’d think the sky was falling.

  33. Donna on said:

    Paul, I like the way you think.

  34. Scott Burger on said:

    The vote of the Planning Commission was very troubling: with two dissenting votes the Planning Commission rubber stamped a new plan received only on Friday. At the previous session, the Planning Commission voted to require Venture Richmond to amend its lease to add language that Venture Richmond would repair all damage to the canal when the canal is rewatered. But even though Jack Berry announced that he would not amended the lease because he did not agree with the lease language proposed by the city attorney, the Planning Commission approved the plan yesterday with no safeguards.

    The new Venture Richmond plan for the amphitheater was sent out on Friday and at least one Planning Commission member stated that he did not even have time to look at it. And certainly the public was not given adequate notice. Venture Richmond misrepresented that the new plan did not impact the canal north of the Tredegar Wall (when in reality it lowered the tow path from 84.5 feet to 83 feet). It was apparent that no Planning Commission member was given adequate time to check this misrepresentation.

    Neither the Planning Commission nor the city staff even asked Venture Richmond if it planned to withdraw from the Section 106 review by the Va. Dept. of Historic Resources since the new plan removed contact with the wetlands, which triggered the state and federal reviews. The review by the Va. Dept. of Historic Resources was repeatedly promised by Venture Richmond at past Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission meetings.

    We were told by staff that although the Venture Richmond lease was not advertised for bids as required by state code for all leases of over five years, the City had decided to retroactively changed the date of the term of the lease and would not put the lease up for bids! Our complaint that Venture Richmond had failed to pay the real estate tax on the Tredegar Green property as required by the lease was met with a similar response: the City attorney determined that the property had never been “assessed” so Venture Richmond was not required to pay the taxes!

    What we have here is deliberate circumvention of the City’s Master Plan and important public processes by a powerful political/corporate special interest group that has no regard for citizens’ concerns or basic integrity. Venture Richmond continues to hold the Folk Festival hostage when it is clear that this about much more than the Folk Festival. It is disgusting and shameful.

  35. Thomas on said:

    Blah blah blah, just make sure the canal is refilled with water and restored to Maymont and I’m perfectly happy with this proposal (unlike some people).

  36. Scott Burger on said:

    Ms. Lou Brown Ali, Chief of Staff,

    The Honorable Mr. Baliles and Honorable City Council
    City of Richmond
    900 E. Broad St., Suite 200
    Richmond, VA 23219 USA

    Re: Tredegar Green Canal Alterations

    Dear Mr. Baliles and Members of Council,

    Please overrule the Planning Commission’s decision to allow alterations to George Washington’s historic canal at Tredegar Green:

    1 Tredegar Green lies west of historic Tredegar Iron Works.
    2 Tredegar Green is partly public land and partly private land.
    3 The city’s Master Plan designates Tredegar Green as public space.
    4 An historic canal conceived by George Washington crosses Tredegar Green.

    5 The canal berm at Tredegar Green is the most impressive canal feature.
    6 The berm is up to 21 feet wide and rises 14 feet above ground.

    7 The Planning Commission approved alterations to the canal berm.
    8 Specifically, the Commission approved filling city land at the berm.
    9 The fill on city land facilitates greater alterations on adjacent private land.
    10 The berm on private land will be lowered, reduced to 12 feet in width and filled.
    11 The canal berm at Tredegar Green will essentially disappear.

    12 Approval was based on the altered berm on the site being historically authentic.
    13 Historical authenticity was based on opinions about the berm on the site.
    14 The record does not support the opinions.

    15 The berm is being altered to improve safety, maintenance and visibility.
    16 There are reasonable alternative solutions for safety and maintenance.
    17 The approved altered berm reduces overall visibility.
    18 An alternative plan dismissed by the Commission provided increased visibility.

    19 The Commissions decision lacks factual and practical foundation.
    20 An important historic asset will be lost and very little will be gained.
    21 The Commission’s decision is clearly wrong and should be overruled.

    Thank you,

    C. Wayne Taylor
    1st District voter

    Copy: City Clerk, Better Government Richmond, News media, Interested parties

    Code of Virginia. §15.2-2232. Legal status of plan.
    B. The commission shall communicate its findings to the governing body, indicating its approval or disapproval with written reasons therefor. The governing body may overrule the action of the commission by a vote of a majority of its membership.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with an asterisk (*).

Or report an error instead