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City council votes 5-2 for $1 million loan for slavery museum
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Date published: 3/26/2002
By the same 5-2 vote, the council also approved a contract requiring the museum to provide planning and promotional services for the Celebrate Virginia tourism development in exchange for the $1 million.
Vice Mayor Gordon Shelton and Councilmen Ambrose Bailey, Richard Garnett, Harold Bannister and Joe Wilson voted for all three proposals. Mayor Bill Beck and Councilman Scott Howson voted against all three.
Garnett led the council in delaying a vote on the tax district and the contract two weeks ago, saying he wanted more questions answered. He said last night the responses he received were sufficient.
"Don't tell me this council hasn't given this matter due consideration over a seven-month period of time, and still you want us to wait," Garnett told the crowd gathered for a public hearing.
Wilson said he voted for the loan, tax district and contract because the city is guaranteed to get its money back even if the museum is never built.
"I have concerns as to whether or not that museum will ever be built," he said. "But I'd hate to not support it and see it somewhere else, then say to my grandchildren, ?Well, we'd have had that if we'd been smart enough to move on it.?"
Howson said he was skeptical about the project and the city?s involvement.
"I have a feeling that something is going on here that is not being written down," he said.
The council had informally agreed to provide the $1 million to the museum in August after a meeting with former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is spearheading the project. The Silver Cos. has given the museum 38 acres in Celebrate Virginia, a proposed development that calls for stores, hotels and museums along the Rappahannock River.
The council voted last night to create a special tax district that would allow the city to levy additional real-estate taxes on property owners in 411 acres of Celebrate Virginia until the loan is repaid. In addition, it approved a contract requiring the museum to promote Celebrate Virginia and provide transportation and environmental studies for the entire development in exchange for the $1 million.