Our opinion

An illegal deal the council couldn't refuse?

With hardly the blink of an eye, the City Council Tuesday forked over $160,000 in public funds in a conspiracy with the federal government to purchase only the swampy part of a housing development on the brink of going sour. (See: Graphic showing area purchasedThe developer is keeping the more valuable, high ground for construction of profitable expensive single-family homes.

As its part of the conspiratorial raid on public funds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) likewise kicked in $2.77M as its share.

One citizen's plea, in her own words, and  ignored

I am Andrea Kilmer and live at 801 Costa Grande Drive in Lagomar.

The ordinance proposed refers to a payment of $160,000 to Lotus Creek Associates for two reasons.  One, assurance that the transfer to Fish and Wildlife takes place and, two, as settlement of all claims that Lotus Creek MAY have against the City.

Fish and Wildlife actually closed on the purchase of the Lotus Creek property last week.  

In addition, in the most recent Ferrell lease lawsuit, Al Abiouness, the managing partner of Lotus Creek testified under oath that Lotus Creek had not asserted any claims against the City and had no intentions of doing so.

So given that the two reasons stated above are no longer germane based upon the above facts, I trust you would not frivolously give away this money to Lotus Creek Associates.

Per the City’s Five year Forecast released last month, the City is projecting a $9.2 million dollar deficit in the next fiscal year.  I would assume that this Council given, these projections and the current recession, would ask itself two questions before it spent any money.

  1. Is this expenditure necessary and in the best interest of the Citizens of the City?     Or
  2. Should we make this expenditure to receive net revenues in excess of the amount expended?

If you cannot answer yes to one of these questions, I would trust you would withhold funding.

I would like to remind you that the City assessments on this property remained at approximately $450,000 for many years and remained at that low value until it was   sold for approximately $2,800,000, the fair market value established by an independent appraiser.  This was a significant real estate tax savings to Lotus Creek at taxpayers’ expense given that all parties have discussed the higher value now for some time. Why should the City now throw in MORE boot to this transaction?   The City already acted as a real estate broker on this deal at no expense to the Lotus Creek Development.

As well, the ordinance extracts these funds from The Sandbridge Corridor Improvement Fund.  In the City’s recent Community Legislative Agenda 2002, the City states, “an area of great concern of Virginia Beach is transportation needs and funding.”  It also states, “that our transportation system is near gridlock conditions”.  How can we now divert funds allocated for such an important purpose?

One of the fundamentals a Scout learns, as part of their Scout Law is to be thrifty. I hope this Council sets a good example for these leaders of tomorrow that are here today, and does not approve the expenditure of these funds.

Keep in mind that if you WISH to divert these funds, you could purchase 2 computers for each of our 85 schools or at a minimum, utilize these monies to offset the upcoming budget shortfall.

It is inconceivable that this Council can in good conscience divert public funds allocated for specific purposes to the Lotus Creek Developers for reasons that Absolutely Do Not exist.

The action by both agencies represents the epitome of arrogance in buying property the developers could never have developed anyway.  $2.93M in public dollars were paid for property the city had assessed at less than $500,000.  By law, the city is required to assess property at its full market value. But in this case the city had a special 'appraiser' value the property (to inflate the value, obviously, to justify its proposed payment) at over $3M.

In addition, the company to which all the money was paid, was a tax scofflaw, refusing for more than 3 years to pay its real estate tax bill that had grown to more than $211,995.  The $160,000 given  Lotus Creek Associates will go a long way in the city paying itself taxes due the public treasury.

...the council's action ...is nothing less than a criminal act.

If anything, the council's action in giving away the public's money to a group which didn't even have a claim against the city, according to court testimony, apparently hadn't even asked for any money from the city, is nothing less than a criminal act. (Or the managing partner lied on the witness stand.)

City Manager James K. Spore, in a complex, convoluted, under-the-table deal that was twice ruled illegal by Virginia Beach Circuit Court Patricia West, originally wanted to give away the public's ownership of the right-of-way for the proposed Ferrell Parkway that has been in the planning for 20 years.

Spore, known for rewarding his high friends in low places, justified the giveaway because if he didn't, FWS Manager John Stasko would obstruct plans to build a new, safe, modern road to the city's southern beaches.

FWS's master plan, going back to the 1970s,  was to control all future development around the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  

FWS lied to the public originally when it sought public support to close the refuge beaches to vehicular traffic.  

FWS broke its word and violated its  public trust.

Once it got that authorization, FWS reneged on what access it would allow and has become more restrictive in blocking any public use.  FWS broke its word and it's public trust.

The whole deal involves a cast of political characters with conflicting interests with City Councilman Louis Jones and other city projects.  (See:  Chart showing web of characters and their conflicting relationships).

The only members opposing the deal was Reba McClanan, Margaret Eure, and Rosemary WilsonRest of the good ole boys, girls and Mayor Oberndorf (Nightmare Meyera*) with ties to those listed in the chart, swallowed hard, bit the bullet and anteed up.

*Until a opponents made an issue of the fact that if elected they would move council meetings from day to night, Oberndorf vigorously opposed such a change because the afternoon meetings inconvenienced citizens more and limited participation on controversial issues.  After the election, Oberndorf quickly adopted the night meeting concept as her own - thus the term Nightmayor Meyera.

See also:

City's bid process called 'sham' by judge
City to pay $3M for property only worth $607,194
Land Grab, Political Payoff, or Bureaucratic Blunder?
Chart showing web of characters
Chart of land assessments  
Tax bill turned over to lawyer for legal action
City pays $160,000 for swamp