Chief says resolve to build Mattanock Town strengthened

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Standing on the waterfront where his forefathers once trod, Nansemond Indian Chief Barry W. Bass on Monday rejected the city’s latest offer to lease the tribe 8 to 10 acres to build a working Indian village and museum.

Last year, the tribe requested 104 acres of city-owned land – only 48 which are usable – in Lone Star Lakes Park to build Mattanock Town, its proposed $6 million museum, tribal cultural center and working village replica.

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City leaders have refused to turn the entire parcel to the tribe, saying it would not be proper stewardship of public property.

Progress on the project has been stymied since December, when tribal and city leaders butted heads on whether the tribe’s business plan would be shared with a task force appointed to study the project.

Things came to a head on June 4 when the Suffolk City Council adopted a resolution

giving the tribe 30 days to decide if it would accept the city’s &uot;best and final&uot; offer to lease the property on Cedar Creek.

The proposal would allow the tribe to lease the property at a minimal price. Then, so long as Mattanock Town had met performance guidelines, the tribe would be allowed to purchase the property.

Under the city’s proposal, the tribe and the city would share joint infrastructure costs, such as roads and water and sewer lines. Also, the property would remain open to the public and accommodate the city’s future plans to build a marina on the Nansemond River.

&uot;Today, we are formally rejecting the city’s … offer,&uot; Bass said. &uot;This marks the third time we are directly communicating to the city manager that a land lease is not acceptable.&uot;

The tribe could co-exist – even prosper – with the city’s planned marina next door, said Dot Dalton, a tribal spokeswoman. But the city’s proposal to make a paved parking lot on adjacent property doesn’t sit well with the Nansemond.

Constructing Mattanock Town on land that is &uot;owned and controlled by the city, fringed with a marina and asphalt-paved parking lots is a conflict of business interests,&uot; Bass added. &uot;The Nansemond tribe’s interest in owning the land is to preserve and protect it.&uot;

The tribe’s refusal to share its business plan with the task force last year continues to be a sore sport for both the city and tribe. The task force had not met since December, when the city first introduced its ideas for sharing some infrastructures expenses and facilities.

&uot;With the business plan, it’s all about location, location, location,&uot; Dalton said. &uot;We can’t write the business plan until. We can’t share our private money situation until we know what we are doing and where we are doing it

&uot;It’s not that we are trying to hide information. We want to give it but we can’t finalize a business plan until we have a location.&uot;

Other organizations, including the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fiore Department and Action Inc., that have received funding or property from the city have not had to present business plans, said Bea Rogers, a former council representative.

The tribe’s refusal of the city offer has done nothing to stifle its determination to make Mattanock Town a reality.

&uot;Rejecting this resolution has strengthened our resolve, rallied our constituents, and brought our tribal neighbors to action,&uot; said Bass. &uot;…We will now move ahead to explore other ways to get the land from the City of Suffolk.

&uot;And if not this land, then other land along the Nansemond River. And if not in Suffolk, then in Chesapeake or Virginia Beach.&uot;

Bass refused to elaborate on what other avenues the tribe would look into to acquire the property.