Archived Story

City Council issues ultimatum on Mattanock Town

Published 11:42pm Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The City Council on Wednesday issued a deadline less than six months from now for the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association to sign a development agreement for the tribe’s proposed Mattanock Town project.

More than two years have passed since the council voted to transfer land in the city’s Lone Star Lakes Park to the tribe, whose ancestral village was located on or near the land in the early 1600s before the tribe was run off by European settlers.

The tribal association plans a tourist attraction there with an authentic replica of an Indian village, a museum and gift shop, tribal center, nature trails and more.

But the tribe has refused to sign the agreement, which it says represents a long-term lease, rather than an outright transfer. The tribe is concerned some unusual stipulations in the agreement would prevent it from obtaining financing for the project.

Fed up with the delay, City Council voted unanimously to issue a June 30 deadline for the tribe to sign the agreement.

“I’m terribly shocked,” said Dot Dalton, a project liaison for the tribe. “I never expected this.”

The proposed agreement includes stipulations that the tribe’s plans would have to be approved by the city in advance, outside of the regular permit processes that apply. Any changes would have to be approved by the city, and the tribe would have to make the facilities available for city functions without charge.

The agreement also includes a clause stating that the property will revert to the city if construction of the project is not completed — not commenced, but completed — within five years from the transfer.

Dalton said the tribe has no problem with the “reverter clause” but objects to other issues, such as the city’s refusal to transfer ownership of portions of the Nansemond River, on which the property sits.

Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said the city has done other deals with reverter clauses, such as for the old Obici Hospital site and the Fairgrounds redevelopment. To date, nothing has been built at the old Obici site — though not because of the reverter clause, Roberts said — and only three houses in the Fairgrounds development have been completed.

Roberts said the development agreement is substantially unchanged from what the tribe agreed to in 2007 and 2010, the major tenets of which were discussed in public meetings. But Dalton says the tribe never saw the agreement before the November 2010 vote to approve the transfer, and the tribe’s lawyers have advised them not to sign it as is.

Roberts added that if the agreement is not signed by June 30, the agreement is off the table. He did not yet know if that would prevent it from ever being discussed again.

Some City Council members on Wednesday expressed support for the project but said it needs to move forward.

“I’m in favor of the project, but I will say this: There’s got to be a little trust on both sides,” Councilman Charles Parr said. “I think a lot of times, people can’t get the past out of their heads.”

Some council representatives seemed to suggest a meeting including Mayor Linda T. Johnson and other city representatives, as well as tribal leadership and representatives, would be helpful.

Johnson seemed amenable to the suggestion.

“Everybody knows I support the project,” she said. “I think we really want to see it happen; we just need to make sure it does happen.”

Dalton said the tribe “would be glad to meet with the mayor and have our legal representation there.”

  • dollyb12

    Why does it have to get to the point where it becomes an ultimatum? Why hasn’t there been a discussion between the two parties before now? It’s time for Suffolk to act like city folk if they want to build a city. The days of cowboys and Indians are over in case you haven’t noticed.

    Suggest Removal

  • vandread4ever

    It’s as the old saying goes, “If you give a man an inch, he’ll take a mile.” Put up or shut up people.

    Suggest Removal

  • Donald

    Well Done City Council.

    NITA, you have had 2 years to start that which you claimed for years to want, had planned, desired, and yet you have done nothing. The requirements are not there to trick you out of the land as soon as you get things done. They are there to make sure that you follow though. If this is what you really want – Mattanock Town, the restoration of your ancestral lands, an additional step in Official Recognition as a Tribe, – Put Up or Shut Up. Get moving and seize this opportunity before its gone.

    Understand that I am NOT A FAN of the CITY COUNCIL but I will step up and let it be know when I think that they are correct in their actions because I have definitely let it be known when I think them to be wrong. On that note…I do have some concerns about the following comment, “Some council representatives seemed to suggest a meeting including Mayor Linda T. Johnson and other city representatives, as well as tribal leadership and representatives, would be helpful.” Mayor, Council, and City Staff…. I would think that something of this IMPORTANCE and SIGNIFICANCE ANCE would have ALREADY included FACE-to-FACE Meetings in order to get this worked out!!!

    Suggest Removal

    • MrJiggyFly

      donarob . . . your last paragraph speaks volumes of empathy that council has towards this project. I understand the concerns of the city but some of their restrictions are counterproductive to the moving the project forward. I’m not sure what the big deal is about the waterfront. It’s not good waterfront and I would think it would be a very important piece of the village. The stipulation about hosting city functions without charging need more explanation. Are they really referring to field trips from the school system? Or are they talking about City government functions? If so, I find that stipulation a bit childish. This project should have been completed years ago unfortunately several council members let their personal agendas cloud their judgement.

      Suggest Removal

    • am


      You cannot do anything to land that has not been deeded to you. That is the ultimatum: CC wants the Nansemonds to sign the land agreement as council has agreed upon, and not what was reportedly agreed upon by both sides a couple of years ago. It is no secret that Suffolk would like to build a marina on that property and by disallowing the Nansemonds to have the water rights/area, they are holding that peoperty for development (quite possible as a “water parking lot” for citizens wanting to visit the Mattanock Town. That way CC gets slip rental and docking fee $$.

      Suggest Removal

  • NP

    This would all have been done years ago if the city would have presented a true transfer instead of a short term lease. Sure, Nansemond’s you can have the land as long as you meet our specific conditions, or we take it back. That is not a transfer! It’s a lease. Council, you should be ashamed! You are two faced!

    Suggest Removal

  • Candy

    Ah so the native Americans are still getting screwed. The city council should be ashamed of themselves. i’m ashamed of them, and will remember EVERY name come next election time.

    Suggest Removal

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