Gartman resigns from development board

Published 6:50 pm Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A 10-year veteran of Suffolk’s Economic Development Authority and respected economic analyst resigned from the EDA today, citing frustration with the city’s approach to development and a recent deal in North Suffolk that was “handled abominably.”

“I’m tired of fighting the fight against warehouses,” said Dennis Gartman. “I’m just tired of fighting it.”

Gartman, who publishes “The Gartman Letter,” a daily financial trading commentary distributed to subscribers, said the city needs to work harder to bring in higher-paying jobs, instead of allowing more warehouses.

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“I find it ridiculous that we continue to aggressively look to sell what I perceive to be very valuable land to put warehouses that are going to crowd our streets with trucks and such,” Gartman said. “That’s bad economics. I’m tired of being the voice that says in each meeting ‘I don’t want to do this any more’ … and losing the votes.”

If Gartman had his way, Suffolk would go to New York and pursue lawyers, accountants, and other high-priced, white-collar jobs to locate in Suffolk, he said. Instead, the city continues to put in warehouses that take up large amounts of space and pay low wages.

“It’s time for me to stand down and be replaced by somebody who really wants to have more warehouses,” he said. “The south side of Suffolk is going to be one vast wasteland of warehouses with trucks taking stuff from the ports to those warehouses, and clogging up traffic along the way.”

The last straw for Gartman, however, was a deal brokered last month on the purchase of the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center. City officials announced that Old Dominion University would purchase the VMASC building from HRC VMASC, LLC. The deal means that Suffolk is losing tax revenue because ODU, as a state entity, is exempt from paying property taxes. The city will be compensated through the use of offices, meeting space and workshop support.

“I thought it was handled abominably,” Gartman said. “We’ve swapped tax revenues for in-kind payments. I couldn’t believe it. I was openly opposed to it.”

Gartman said that the city had a contract agreed upon with the developer, and the economy turned against the developer.

“I’m sorry, but letting the developer off without even a marginally decent return to the city … is just wrong,” he said.

Gartman acknowledged that 10 years is “probably long enough for anybody to serve,” but said he largely is stepping down because of his frustration over the city’s land-use strategies.

“We go sideways on land instead of going up in the air, and I’m tired of it.”