Councilwoman Henley “blindsided” by Virginia Beach arena extension talk

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A rendering of the proposed Virginia Beach Oceanfront arena. (Courtesy of www.esgco.com)

A rendering of the proposed Virginia Beach Oceanfront arena, which Councilwoman Barbara Henley has not supported. (Courtesy of www.esgco.com)

At her town hall meeting in Virginia Beach Thursday evening, City Councilwoman Barbara Henley said she was “blindsided” by the apparent revival of the city’s Oceanfront arena project.

Henley’s regularly scheduled town hall came amid new interest in financing the arena, which she, councilmember John Moss and Vice Mayor Louis Jones voted down on Oct. 4. Their action left council one vote shy of the nine-vote supermajority necessary to approve the deal because it involved transferring city land to the Virginia Beach Development Authority. During his remarks at Henley’s meeting, City Manager Dave Hansen provided some insight into why council will now consider giving the developer 60 more days to finance the project.

“This extension doesn’t change the actual cap in duration to what we agreed to in our original development agreement,” said Hansen. “But by putting that in there, it forces them to perform, make a profit and not walk away. Because if they walk away, the council steps in and buys the arena for significantly reduced cost.”

At a city manager’s briefing Tuesday, Mayor Will Sessoms said council would consider at its Nov. 1 meeting whether to give the developer, Virginia Beach-based United States Management LLC, a 60-day reprieve to arrange financing. The current development agreement, approved by council on Dec. 15, 2015, expires on Nov. 8, 2016. With the deadline looming, the developers have asked for the 60-day extension, through Jan. 7, 2017.

Still, Hansen conceded that the developer’s earlier approach had raised concerns.

“Without equity in the deal it doesn’t hold your feet to the fire for performance,” he said.

Hansen also provided an update on the recovery from Hurricane Matthew. With more than 2,000 residences affected by flooding, the city estimates the storm caused more than $51 million in damages, he said.

At Waypoint Apartments, asbestos removal and remediation have complicated recovery efforts and the city is asking landlords with vacancies if they can offer housing to affected residents, Hansen said.

“There’s a legal side of things, but there’s also a moral, ethical, social side of things as well,” Hansen added. “I’m really proud of the organizations that have mobilized. It’s all hands on deck.”

Separately, Brian Solis, the city’s Transportation and Transit Planning Manager, spoke about the proposed extension of Norfolk’s Tide light rail to Town Center in Virginia Beach. Over a span of 20 years, the system would generate more than $165 million in new tax revenue for the city, he said.

Pohl can be reached at mariah@localvoicemedia.com

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