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Kalahari – Letter of Intent approved
The City Council approved Kalahari’s letter of intent tonight on a 6-1 vote, with Debby Girvan alone in the minority. Below are some of the council comments that did not make the paper (in order of who spoke after Hashmel Turner made the motion to approve).
Matt Kelly –
"What we’re looking at is an issue of facing buildout in the next 20 years and … things are a little tight. If Fredericksburg wants to maintain itself as a historic city … it does need money. A lot of people said tonight it’s all about money. I’d like to translate that money into police and fire protection, picking up garbage, educating your children.
"Knowing that, and knowing that we have a limited amount of land left to develop, we need to make sure that what we put in place will sustain the city for years to come."
"We want to diversify our economy so that when one area might take a hit, we have an offset."
[on due diligence] "Every question I’ve called and asked about, they’ve answered. All you need to do sometimes is just pick up the phone and ask."
[on Fredericksburg's character] "East of 95, old town Fredericksburg, you protect with your life. West of 95 was annexed for one thing and one thing only, and that was to generate revenue to protect the east side of the city."
Marvin Dixon –
"We have a suitor, he seems to be a really good gentleman. He has a nice family, he doesn’t have many detractors. He wants to come here and invest $255 million in the Fredericksburg economy. … For some reason we don’t want $225 million spent here."
"We hear about low paying jobs. We have a 5 percent unemployment rate in the city of Fredericksburg right now. Folks, that’s 1,000 people. … I can’t understand a community that doesn’t embrace 800 new jobs and all the indirect jobs that associate with that.
"I don’t like everything in this letter of intent. I don’t like the 20-year term, the waiving of connection fees. … I don’t want to see us terminate a marriage with a thousand paper cuts."
"We have a man that’s got a great reputation, God bless him. He wants to spend his money, and what do I have to give him? Nothing yet. He’s asking us to waive some fees to hook up to some infrastructure systems that we didn’t build, they were built by the Silver Cos. The point at which we are asked to bring something to this marriage is after he’s already done the heavy lifting."
Debby Girvan –
"If the purpose of the vote tonight is to direct staff to continue to negotiate and conduct due diligence on this project, I don’t see why the letter of intent needs to be part of that vote. Because of the detail of this letter of intent and the implications, we would be sending a message to the Kalahari owner that the council agrees to the terms of the incentives. A vote on this is inappropriate at this time, there has not been enough due diligence."
"I don’t want to vote on terms of an incentive agreement that may or may not be good for the city. There is a lot more to assessing these kinds of incentive packages than just projecting what we think the revenues might be. Nowhere in this letter of intent is that $5.9 million projected revenue. A lot of people are spending that $3 million, and I think it’s been spent already."
"This is not a black and white issue about a waterpark or no waterpark. The issue here is whether this is a responsible vote tonight on this letter of intent and in my opinion it would be best to leave it until after the due diligence and some of these other details have been identified."
Kerry Devine –
"It’s not a done deal. We have all asked for information. The impact study is something that we have all requested from the beginning. We are not going to get that information if we end tonight. The letter of intent moves us forward."
"I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent on this. I know most council members have spent that much or more time on it. … We are still in the process of due diligence and again that comes with the information we’re still waiting to receive and evaluate. That doesn’t happen if we end it tonight. I think for people to say you haven’t done this and you haven’t done that, we’ve asked as many or more questions than we’re hearing."
"I find it interesting that the Kalahari name gets attacked as well. When the Silvers named Central Park, I never thought of the middle of New York City. I really struggle with people criticizing the name. Frankly, it’s a name, nothing more, nothing less, with an African theme. I think there’s a lot of nitpicking going on."
George Solley –
"We have come up with a reasonable deal which still has details that need to be worked out. We are lucky in that we years ago annexed an area which can be a significant part of our economic engine, and believe me, we do need an economic engine.
"We cannot isolate ourselves from that change [in the surrounding area]. We need to use elements of that change in order to protect those things about the city of Fredericksburg that we want to protect and preserve."
Hashmel Turner –
"We are excited about the fact that Celebrate Virginia is becoming a tourism campus. We’ve also said from time to time of our downtown Fredericksburg that it is a tourism destination. I can see how the west side and the east side become a bridge together. Instead of it being the west side and the east side, let’s think of it being one Fredericksburg."
"When there was a knock at the door there was Mr. Nelson. He came with an idea for Kalahari. He invited us to come to the table. We are trying to move along this time with this letter of intent. We are still at the table, we are discussing. … No signature has gone anywhere to say this is a done deal. This is another step in the right direction to revitalize downtown Fredericksburg."
Tom Tomzak –
"The citizens of 22401 have to make a distinction between the population expansion of the non-22401 mailing addresses. … I would be the first to encourage these people to go to their boards of supervisors and ask them to stop the population growth. That can’t be used to stop the economic development of the city of Fredericksburg."