RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Monday night the Richmond City Council gave a stamp of approval to the Washington Redskins, Mayor Dwight Jones and Bon Secours Richmond Health System to bring the Redskins training camp to Richmond.
The vote was 6 -2, with council members Chris HIlbert and Bruce Tyler voting against the deal. The proposal wasn’t without its critics. About 75 citizens showed up; in opposition and in support.
“My name is Melvin Jones, and I'm in opposition of this project,” said resident, Melvin Jones.
Another resident said, “I’m asking that you postpone the decision”.
What bothered residents most was that they were not involved in the negotiations regarding what happens to the 95 year-old Westhampton school building on Patterson Avenue and Libbie Avenue. It sits on 6.5 acres of land.
As part of the Washington Redskins deal, the city will “lease” four acres of the property to Bon Secours Richmond Health System for $5,000 per year for 60 years.
“You can`t even rent a house in that neighborhood for $5,000 a year,” said resident Chris Dorsey.
What’s more, city watchdog Paul Goldman argues that under a “lease”, proceeds only go to the city. Had the property been sold, the proceeds would have gone to Richmond Public Schools.
“If you look at what around on what somebody might put down on the property, they might be willing to pay $10 million to $20 million dollars for [the entire] property,” Goldman said.
Richmond City Council President, Kathy Graziano said Goldman makes an excellent point.
“But, I’ve been in conversations with some of my fellow council people and with the Mayor, and I think that in budgeting the next three or four years we can make up some of that difference [for Richmond Public Schools],” she said.
Councilman Hilbert agreed with Goldman. He said he would have preferred that the Westhampton school property been sold rather than leased so that Richmond Public Schools could have benefited from the sale.
Councilman Tyler said he wishes the community had more input into the process. During the meeting he motioned that the Westhampton school part of the deal be removed, but he didn’t get enough votes.
Graziano assured residents during the meeting that once the process goes forward they will have a say on what happens to the property in terms of what the Bon Secours Medical building will look like, parking, etc.
A spokesperson from the Mayor’s office said during their presentation to the Richmond City Council, that they would do their best in maintaining the 95-year-old façade of the building.
There were a dozen citizens who spoke in favor of the Washington Redskins deal. They included a football fan and a spokesperson for VCU Sports Backers stadium.