The long journey throughout the last 12 years from the first questions about the old Pavilion to the current decision to proceed with a headquarters hotel for a convention center has been an especially devious journey. The trek began in the late 1990s and has included a number of decision points all of which puts the Virginia Beach City Council in a position, by spending more citizens money, to build the headquarters hotel for the convention center.
A summary of the journey illustrates how devious the City Council of Virginia Beach has been over the years.
In the late 1990s, City Council established the Pavilion Steering Committee and charged the committee with the responsibility to recommend to city Council what to do about the old Pavilion. After many months of analysis and consultations, the committee reported their unanimous recommendation to council: expand the Pavilion. (Note that the committee’s first recommendation was an expansion of the Pavilion not a new convention center.)
Some weeks after the Pavilion Steering Committee recommendation, council discussed their options and Mayor Sessoms, Vice Mayor at that time, said he thought that we should build a new one and should hire a consultant and see what they say.
A consultant was hired and eventually presented a report to council in May 2000. In their report, the consultant specifically identified three “scenarios:” no-build, expand the Pavilion, and expand the Pavilion with an upgrade of the Doubletree Hotel.
The consultant’s report raised several important issues. The convention center should have a headquarters hotel adjacent to the center and convention class hotels should be nearby. Only the Doubletree hotel, according to the consultant, was an acceptable nearby convention class hotel. Also, the consultant stated, in the “Sources of funding” section in the report that the convention center should be “Paid completely (or mostly) by nonresidents,“ and that “those who benefit financially from the development would pay, in proportion to their benefit, to finance the center.”
Subsequent to discussions of the report, a spokesperson for Armada Hofler stated that they would not build a hotel by themselves because it would not be economically justifiable. The hotel would be dependent on seasonal convention attendees and is too far away from the oceanfront to get summer tourist business.
Further discussion of a hotel was temporarily set aside and council claimed that the hotel at 31st could function as a headquarters hotel for the convention center. Council was well aware that a headquarters hotel should be adjacent to the center, not many blocks away.
Now in 2011, council continues the subterfuge and citizens will pay even more. Our Virginia State government has contrived a new law allowing cities to fund 20% of costs for the hotel. Our State General Assembly now says it is OK to use public funds to help finance development costs of “tourist projects.” Armada Hoffler, the pre-selected favored developer of the headquarters hotel cannot secure the financing to build the hotel without city (taxpayers) money.
Further, council has identified, in addition to the Headquarters Hotel, projects requiring funding: redevelopment of the Dome Site, light rail, and other major projects. However, current debt per capita of $2,400 per capita, would restrict additional borrowing. What will council do? Council will increase per capita debt capacity to $2,800.
In summary, our Virginia Beach City Council has, since the late 1990’s, ignored their own specially appointed Pavilion Steering Committee for an expansion of the Pavilion, ignored the consultant report for a headquarters hotel, misrepresented the use of the hotel at 31 St., and worked with our state government to pass a law allowing council to use taxpayer money to help pay for a hotel because the builder cannot raise the funds. And, our Virginia Beach council will increase our debt per capita to borrow the money to pay for all of the above.
What will council do now? Our council will increase our real estate tax rate, increase fees, and raise the debt/capita limit. Then council will borrow, without a referendum, as much as they please and build the hotel and other projects.
Council will get their hotel, Armada Hofler will profit and the taxpayers of Virginia Beach will pay more.
That’s what council will do. A more important question is: What will you, citizens of Virginia Beach, do?