Terribly Confused

by Bob O'Connor, President
Citizens Action Coalition Inc. (CACI)

Our Terribly Confused Virginia Beach City Council is, after the consultant’s report on Tuesday August 5th, even more confused.  The report, Convention Center/Beach District Market Analysis, was presented as the “Old Beach” Master Plan

There are several points of confusion:

The first concerns where to place a convention center headquarters hotel – two consultants, two different recommendations.  On Tuesday, the consultant stated that eventually the convention center would attract and support a new hotel that should be built at the oceanfront. The hotel should be on the oceanfront because the convention attendees would want to stay near the boardwalk and other amenities.  Also, a hotel near the convention center would not get enough business during the summer months.  A councilperson replied that the convention center needs a hotel on day one of the opening of the convention center, not eventually.  The consultant then responded that the funding sources are “walking away from hotels.” 

The previous consultant’s report stated definitively that the convention center should have a headquarters hotel nearby. It stated that those who plan convention meetings “require a large nearby hotel to serve as the event’s headquarters.” 

Confusion One: Council must decide when (now or eventually) a hotel is needed and where (near the convention center or at the oceanfront) and, of course, how to fund a hotel. Because the private sector is not convinced of the economic justification for building a hotel, would council dare to suggest that taxpayers subsidize it?    

During the same meeting on Tuesday, the consultant (also) made an issue of the need for Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRDA).  HRDA, rejected by the voters, would speed up the process to condemn and assemble land for larger projects.

Confusion Two: Council must decide how to get HRDA or find alternatives. 

Of course there is the lingering question about the theater. Council is considering incorporating an arts academy wing to the theater to include the school board in hopes of winning public support for more funding for the theater.

Confusion Three: How to fund the theater? 

The confusion stems from council’s determination to rush the convention center.  The rush mentality directly contradicts council’s statement that the convention center, 19th St. corridor, bus system and a hotel should be completed at about the same time. 

Before driving taxpayers further into debt our Terribly Confused City Council should clear away all this confusion:  when/where to build a headquarters hotel and how to pay for it; how to assemble land parcels for projects; and how to fund the theater. 

And one final question – what’s the rush?