NITA answers your 20 questions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2003

1. Q: What is NITA?

A: NITA stands for the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association, a non-profit corporation comprised of people who are genealogically descended from the historic Nansemond Indians. The Nansemond Tribe received official state recognition in 1984. They are the only surviving Native-American tribe in Hampton Roads.

2. Q: What is Mattanock Town?

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A: The Nansemond Indian Tribe proposes that the City of Suffolk deed a portion of Lone Star Lakes Park on which Mattanock Town (named for their ancestors’ village) will be constructed. The development includes an authentic, dispersed, Native-American village, powwow grounds, museum, tribal center and nature/environmental facility that will preserve, perpetuate and share the Native-American culture and history with the community. The authentic replica will create Suffolk’s largest tourist attraction, while preserving and conserving the natural resources and beauty of the land.

3. Q: What is the historical significance and assessed value of the Lone Star Lakes property?

A: Prior to the arrival of the English settlers in 1607, the Nansemond Indian Tribe lived along what is now the Nansemond River Watershed on approximately 138,000 acres with hunting grounds of 109,000 acres including the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. History shows that the Nansemond Indians were forced from their dwelling places and hunting grounds by English settlers. For general perspective purposes only, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and a local real estate appraiser estimate the current assessed value of the Nansemond dwelling places and hunting grounds to be $6.5 billion.

As the only surviving Native-American tribe in the Hampton Roads area, the state-recognized NITA requests the deed to a relatively miniscule portion of their ancestors’ dwelling place. They have requested a portion of their birthplace including 99 of the 104 acres of Tax Map 10 Parcel 46 of Lone Star Lakes Park for Mattanock Town.

The current assessed value of the entire 104-acre parcel is $355,000 (market comparison not available). Since the city requires 5 of the 104 acres for the future Waterfront Marina development, and the majority of the remaining parcel is wetlands, the 99 acres requested by NITA has an estimated assessed value of $255,000.

4. Q: Is it true that the NITA wants the Lone Star Lakes land for casino gambling?

A: Absolutely not. NITA proposed property deed restrictions, terms, conditions and contingencies to prohibit casino gambling and the sale or transfer of the property to a third party.

5. Q: The city offered NITA an opportunity to lease 8-10 acres of property for Mattanock Town. Why are the Nansemond refusing this offer?

A: The 8-10 acres are insufficient for the project design, which requires 99 acres for historic authenticity. Authenticity is essential to create the uniqueness required for a viable, self-sustaining educational facility and tourist destination. NITA plans to invest $6 million to construct Mattanock Town. Risking their investment in capital improvements on short-termed leased property with no guarantee of ownership is not a sound business decision for NITA or any not-for-profit organization. Additionally, changes in city elected officials may adversely affect NITA’s investment over the multi-year phased development.

NITA has demonstrated that mutually acceptable performance standards and the development schedule can be addressed through their proposed property deed restrictions, terms and contingencies (as previously submitted to the city).

6. Q: Why is land ownership so important to the Nansemond Indian Tribe?

A: Land ownership by the Nansemond Indian Tribe is their single most important priority. A property deed to the 99 acres requested:

— Reconnects NITA with ancestral land.

— Enables and facilitates grants, corporate, foundation and individual fundraising efforts.

— Provides sufficient acreage for an authentic Native-American dispersed village to create a unique cultural heritage and tourist destination, which enhances market potential for tourist attraction.

— Perpetuates the history and culture of the Nansemonds for their descendents, local residents and tourists.

— Protects NITA’s $6 million capital improvement investment.

To create a better understanding of the Nansemond Indian Tribe’s spiritual attachment to land, following are excerpts from &uot;A Personal Note from Chief Barry Bass:&uot;

&uot;Native American culture and spirituality involve a sincere environmental respect and reverence for land, with the belief that gifts from the Creator emerge from and are returned to the earth. Because they feel the land &uot;owns&uot; them Native-Americans are spiritually drawn and connected to the land of their ancestors. For example, at Lone Star Lakes overlooking Dumpling Island (the Nansemond Tribal ceremonial place), I can feel the presence of my ancestors in my heart. Standing there gives me peace and a unity of spirit like nowhere else.

&uot;For the Nansemond, there is a spiritual connection to the land at Lone Star Lakes Park. My ancestors actually lived, hunted, fished, married, gave birth, raised families, carried out daily activities, advanced in leadership rank, grew old, and eventually died in, on, around and across that specific piece of land. While most American citizens can trace their country of origin, I only have to stand anywhere on Lone Star Lakes Park to be &uot;home.&uot; Consequently, today’s Nansemond Tribal Members descendents naturally feel spiritually drawn and attached to the land of our ancestors-our family tree.&uot;

7. Q: How will Mattanock Town be funded?

A: NITA will construct Mattanock Town through a $6 million fundraising campaign including grants, corporate, foundation and individual financial gifts and endowments. Mattanock Town will operate as a solvent professional business with general operating expenditures funded through various revenues sources such as fees and charge for entrance, programs, rentals, services, merchandise and grants.

NITA plans to establish a not-for-profit foundation and operate Mattanock Town through a self-sustaining enterprise fund with itemized fee schedule, accounting revenues and expenditures, and annual independent audit (Certified Public Accountant).

A percentage of each admission fee will be designated for a &uot;sinking fund&uot; for capital maintenance and future improvements (in accordance with national standards of generally accepted accounting principles).

8. Q: Why does NITA want the city to fund the main entrance road improvements including water, sewer and paving?

A: For initial phases of Mattanock Town, NITA can operate with the existing entrance at Pembroke Lane. To leverage and maximize the effectiveness of city and NITA funding sources, a review of their respective roles and responsibilities reveals that:

— The city operates public works and utility departments with professional staff and funding sources for road and utility construction.

— The city will need infrastructure improvements for main access road and utilities when the city marina is constructed at Lone Star Lakes. Therefore, NITA proposes that the city maintain ownership of the road with permanent easements for utilities.

— NITA has access to Native American and environmental grant funding to design and develop Mattanock Town museum, tribal center, powwow grounds, nature trails and exhibits.

— Individual and corporate fundraising campaigns yield more effective results when contributions are solicited for Native-American owned facilities and exhibits.

9. Q: How did NITA determine that 99 acres was necessary for Mattanock Town?

A: A team of tribal members and consultants including anthropologists, archaeologists, business professors, architect, environmentalists and parks and recreation professionals determined the project design and corresponding acreage necessary. Historic authenticity for the dispersed village was based on research and publications by the project anthropologists, with detailed calculations for buildings, exhibits, nature trails and the dispersed village provided by NITA’s architect. This information was itemized by section and development phase and provided to the City. (Note: University professors supporting the project through dedicated efforts represent Old Dominion University, Regent University and The College of William and Mary.)

10. Q: How many acres will remain at Lone Star Lakes after the 99 acres are deeded to NITA?

A: After the 99 acres are deeded to NITA, approximately 1,000 acres of Lone Star Lakes Park will remain. Of the 99 acres requested by NITA, only 44 acres are buildable.

The remainder of the land is wetlands, which will be conserved, preserved and used by the Nansemond for environmental/nature education, trail overlooks and exhibits (in compliance with all environmental laws).

11. Q: Wouldn’t giving NITA 99 acres at Lone Star Lakes Park destroy the park’s natural beauty with asphalt concrete?

A: No. Preservation and conservation of the park’s natural resources is an essential goal for Mattanock Town. The Nansemonds revere the land and nature. Exhibits, trails, powwow grounds and nature interpretation areas will be constructed with natural materials that will complement the park’s natural beauty. Environmental design principles, which emphasize conservation, preservation and minimal environmental impact, have been used. Preserving the natural park setting including native flora and fauna (plants and wildlife) is necessary to create the authenticity of the Native-American dispersed village. Building structures are limited to a museum, tribal center and nature interpretation center for wildlife appreciation and education. Rather than asphalt parking lots, the nature of Mattanock Town emphasizes the use of more natural materials. A Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) variance will be requested since asphalt parking lots and curbing is typically required by the city’s UDO.

12. Q: Would the Nansemond Indian Tribe use any part of the 99 acres for tribal member residences?

A: No. Mattanock Town has been designed and will be developed as a Native-American cultural, heritage and environmental education facility and park that will be open to the general public regardless of age, race, religion, creed, national origin, sex, ethnicity or ability.

13. Q: Are the city’s proposed marina and NITA’s Mattanock Town compatible projects for the land at Lone Star Lakes?

A: Yes. The City of Suffolk could retain ownership of 5 of the 104 acres of Tax Map 10 Parcel 46 to be subdivided for the future construction of the city’s marina.

Both projects complement each other.

14. Q: Wouldn’t giving land to the Nansemond encourage other not-for-profit organizations to ask for land from the city?

A: No. The NITA is not requesting the deed transfer of 99 acres of Lone Star Lakes Park as a &uot;free gift.&uot; They have proposed the deed transfer in exchange for their $6 million investment with deed restrictions, terms, conditions and contingencies, which protect the city’s interest as well as the NITA $6 million capital investment. As proposed by NITA, the city’s $255,000 land investment (assessed value of the requested 99 acres) and approximate $1.2 million investment for future road access, water and sewer improvements (that are required for the city’s proposed marina), results in a project investment of approximately $1.5 million. As designed, the NITA capital investment exceeds $6 million. The city’s return on its capital investment is approximately 300 percent, a significant return in today’s financial market.

15. Q: Why hasn’t NITA received federal recognition? Does this prohibit them from receiving grants?

A: NITA received state recognition in 1984, however, federal recognition is pending. The Bureau of Indian Affairs requires federal recognition for grant awards, which are typically awarded for Native Americans residing on reservations. Since NITA members will not use the requested 99 acres as a reservation, they would not qualify for BIA grants. Federal recognition is not required for NITA to receive grants from a variety of state, federal, corporate and foundation grant sources.

16. Q: Why hasn’t NITA revealed the contents of the business plan?

A: An effective business plan for Mattanock Town requires deed transfer to finalize the scope of the project. Individual plans will be developed for each development phase (ex: museum, gift shop and tribal center). Coordinated by Regent University, a feasibility study and a management plan have been completed. Preliminary revenue and expenditure projections for all operations are addressed in NITA’s proposed deed restrictions, terms, conditions, and contingencies section of NITA’s response to the city’s proposal.

17. Q: How can the city be assured that the property deeded to the Nansemond will be well maintained, operated professionally, gambling will be prohibited, no selling or transferring of the deed to a third party and that the lands natural resources are protected?

A: This can be accomplished easily by including each requirement or standard as a deed restriction, term, condition or contingency as proposed previously by the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association. Also included is a reversionary clause stating if NITA disbands in subsequent years or decides not to proceed with operations of Mattanock Town, the property ownership and all improvements will revert back to the City of Suffolk immediately.

18. Q: What benefits will the city of Suffolk receive after the deed transfer of the 99 acres to NITA?

A: By implementing NITA’s proposed &uot;win-win&uot; solutions for the deed transfer of 99 acres, the city can enjoy the local and tourist benefits of a unique Native-American tourist destination while achieving on awe-inspiring 300 percent return on its investment (NITA provides $6 million investment), with subsequent benefits of annual sales and entertainment/amusement tax revenues and &uot;spin-off&uot; economic development and impact revenues generated by Mattanock Town. The city can receive a significant return on investment, achieve a measurable economic impact and develop a unique, cultural and historically significant, Native-American tourist destination, while establishing a template for other communities across the United States to follow.

19. Q: What is the timeline for the completion of Mattanock Town?

A: Mattanock Town consists of seven developmental phases as follows:

— Phase 1 Water and sewer installation, parking lots, Exhibits 1, 2, 3, nature trails – June 2004

— Phase 2 Clear powwow grounds, Tackahoe Pond, berms and trails – December 2004

— Phase 3 Exhibits 4, 5, Reburial area, powwow facility, nature outlooks and trails – June 2004

— Phase 4 Construct caretaker’s residence – June 2005

— Phase 5 Construct museum – December 2006

— Phase 6 Construction of Tribal Center – December 2007

— Phase 7

Demolish/Renovate – June 2008

20. Q: What can I do to support the Nansemond Indian Tribe’s request for the deed transfer of 99 acres of Lone Star Lakes Park?

A: Act quickly within the next two days!

Call and write your City Council Representative

— Sleepy Hole Borough-Linda Johnson – 2748 Windjammer Rd. Suffolk, Va. 23435 (757) 484-7866

— Chuckatuck Borough-E. Dana Dickens – 9212 Wigncil St. Suffolk, Va. 23433 (757) 238-2910

— Cypress Borough-Charles Brown – 1342 Devonshire Ct. Suffolk, VA. 23434 (757) 934-0940

— Whaleyville Borough-Curtis Milteer

– 1680 Airport Rd. Suffolk, VA. 23434

(757) 934-0630

— Holy Neck Borough-Calvin Jones – 321 Northbrooke Ave. Suffolk, Va. 23434

(757) 539-7264

— Suffolk Borough-Bobby Ralph – 104 Northgate Lane Suffolk, VA. 23434 (757) 539-0970

— Nansemond Borough-Leroy Bennett – 2004 Nansemond Parkway Suffolk, Va. 23434 (757) 538-8144

— E-mail your City Council Representative:

— 3. Send copies of correspondence to: Nansemond Indian Tribe PO Box 2515 Suffolk, Va. 23432

— 4. Spread the word: Distribute flyers and call friends

— 5. Refer to the NITA Web site:

— 6. Call Dot Dalton for any questions or additional information (757) 255-2134.

— 7. Attend the Nansemond Indian Annual Powwow at Lone Star Lakes Park Aug. 16-17.