Fredericksburg City Beat

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Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or

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Response to Girvan’s Kalahari memo

A city resident who has been consulting for the Silver Cos. on public relations for the Kalahari deal takes issue with Debby Girvan’s memo asking questions about the performance agreement.

Tom Byrnes sent a Freedom of Information request to Girvan and City Manager Phillip Rodenberg yesterday via e-mail. He was looking for the list of e-mail addresses to which Girvan sent the memo.

Byrnes said he wants those e-mail addresses "to provide recipients of her email with more factual information about incentives." He said he is not requesting this on behalf of the Silver Cos., but on behalf of himself, since his business often deals with economic development prospects and incentives.

For years, Byrnes has come to City Council meetings and touted the value of incentives for business development. Here’s what he had to say about Girvan’s memo (which you can see here):

Debby:  I can appreciate your campaign efforts to establish differences between you and Mayor Tomzak, but I believe the concerns you relayed to your undisclosed recipients about Kalahari were misleading.  For example, your confusion about the legality of a 20-year incentive was packaged in such a way that citizens could possibly be misled into erroneously believing it is illegal to enter into a 20-year incentive deal in VA, which you should know is not true (and as was re-explained again last night).   The fact a tourism zone is currently limited to 10-years means nothing more than that; there is no such law in VA that says an incentive package must be confined to or administered via one incentive program.

I was disappointed to learn you’ve been waiting nearly three months for "a report listing examples of comparable incentive packages with detailed descriptions, preferably in the state of Virginia but if not available, elsewhere in the country" when you can turn on your computer and get this information in minutes.  Why did you include the "if not available" in VA when a comparable 20-year incentive package was passed by your regional colleagues, during your term and with detailed descriptions reported numerous times in the FLS (and available free from Spotsylvania County)?  Halfway through your wait, nearly six weeks ago, the FLS reported this, yet again:  "For 20 years from the time the renovated mall is 70 percent occupied, the county is to return to the mall’s owner half of the new annual local sales tax revenue generated by the expansions to the mall."  It appeared in a report listing examples of comparable incentive packages with detailed descriptions, entitled "Incentive packages become routine."  Regardless, it only takes a few minutes to look this kind of information up online, and it is something I believe most council members did.  I believe you led your undisclosed recipients into believing incorrectly the incentives offered by Fredericksburg are somehow unusual.  I’d like an opportunity to remind them otherwise.  Incentive programs are important to my business, and public perception of incentive programs is important to the reality of whether or not they are offered by the city.  I believe you are negatively affecting this public perception, and denying your undisclosed recipients of true facts from other cited sources.  I am using the FOIA request with fair intentions to give those you emailed more information. I am happy to withdraw this request from the City Manager if you want to forward the requested communication details to me directly.   Thank you. -Tom


  • mydar

    From Mr Byrnes’ 10/02 Free Lance Star Op/ed– “Also, bids for construction of a historically appropriate and strategically placed downtown parking deck should be sought now. This facility would get the attention of parties interested in building a downtown hotel and/or attracting major draws that thrive in other historical downtowns, such as the Banana Republics in both Alexandria and Annapolis.” How very prescient. Does he represent Banana Republic too?

  • vinylrules

    Yes, gosh you’re smart! Banana Republic pays me $25,000 a
    month to find them a gold mine in downtown Fredericksburg. Apparently, they are convinced shoppers will flood a downtown
    Fredericksburg store between stops at Beck’s Antiques and
    So’s Your Mom Tattoo Parlor. -Tom

  • Urkiddingright

    Old town Alexandria and Georgetown have done a fine job of mixing unique specialty shops and mainstream stores such as J Crew and Banna Republic. Sorry but the Collectors Dens and other junk shops just won’t attract high end shoppers or the variety that we need. The FLS has done a poor job in explaining these incentives which don’t require up front cash money. The Headline for Capital Ale was misleading. They didn’t give them 100k. BTW Bass pro sho shops get 23 million cash and 75% of all new taxes.

  • URkiddingright

    The real issue we should be discussing is the fact that the POLITICIAN Debbie Girvan is again misleading city residents in an attempt to show concern or CREATING concern from residents so as to give them a leader. Kind of like planting a bomb and then then finding it, getting the credit etc. She asks questions to make statements, not for real answers because if she had been looking , they were right under her snooty nose. And Tom if your getting 25k a month, I would like to request you buy me lunch sometime

  • mydar

    Having lived in Georgetown for 5 years in the mid 90′s I witnessed the unique local charm of that historic neighborhood decimated by the creeping cancer of franchises. The historic Key Theater is a now Gap. The Biograph is a CVS. The bookstores, boutiques and other privately owned small businesses run by my friends and neighbors with a real vested interest in the neighborhood were replaced by faceless corporate revenue extractors. Georgetown now looks like every other strip mall in this country.