Mattanock Town hearing set

Published 9:48 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Powwow: Dancers at this year’s Nansemond Indian Tribe powwow perform at Lone Star Lakes Park. A vote on a proposal to give the tribe land at the park is set for tonight.

A public hearing on a proposed American Indian village in Chuckatuck headlines tonight’s City Council meeting.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers, 441 Market St. It will be preceded by a work session at 5 p.m.

The Nansemond Indian Tribe hopes to construct Mattanock Town on a parcel of land in Lone Star Lakes. To do so, they are requesting a transfer of the land from the city.

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“What the tribe is trying to do is give the city a major tourist attraction,” said Dot Dalton, an honorary member of the tribe and facilitator for the project. Getting the ancestral land back also would allow the tribe to “have a permanent place on the river like they had before,” she said.

The tribe would use the land for an authentic re-creation of an American Indian village — called Mattanock Town — along with powwow grounds, a museum and gift shop, a tribal center, nature trails and reburial grounds.

Dalton indicated the tribe plans to agree to all the city’s terms and conditions regarding the transfer and will have a surveyor inspect the land to determine its exact acreage. The city plans to retain about 10 acres of the parcel for park maintenance buildings.

The public hearing comes only five months after the dream for the village seemed dead.

In June, the tribe’s then-attorney notified the city of the withdrawal of the original request and made a renewed request for about 20 acres of land. City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn responded that the city could not recommend giving the land to the tribe for financial reasons.

“Given NITA’s assessment of the current economic climate and the lack of available funding to support the proposed concept of the Mattanock Town Project, the City is not in a position to recommend disposition of the property as requested in your letter of June 9,” she wrote.

However, the tribe wrote in an Aug. 3 letter to the city manager that it was rescinding the original letter and expressing continued interest in the project.

Negotiations on the project have been ongoing for at least four years.

“It’s too important to us and our people to let go,” said Nansemond Chief Barry Bass at a September City Council meeting where this month’s hearing was scheduled. “We’ve got to keep on.”

Dalton said the project would provide an important tourist attraction at no cost to taxpayers.

“We’re not asking for money. We’re not asking for them to finance it,” she said. “All we’re asking for is the deed.”

“To me, that’s a blessing.”

The meeting also will include public hearings on a lease at the Suffolk Executive Airport, a conditional use permit for the Children’s Center and an ordinance making the city’s Geographic Information System the official zoning district map.

Members also will discuss the legislative agenda, lease financing for various projects and an initial payment to replace the city’s software system.