I hope you and your family enjoyed a great holiday season together. I was able to spend Christmas with my family in Maryland. It was a ball seeing my brothers, sister, nieces, nephews and so many friends. I am grateful for the time together.
As you recall, I chaired the Hampton Blvd. Traffic Task Force in 2018/2019 where our aim is to improve the safety for pedestrians and drivers along Hampton Blvd. from Redgate Avenue straight into Naval Station Norfolk at Taussig Blvd. We have implemented many safety measures including allowing drivers to take a left only with a green arrow, reducing the school zone speed limit from 25 to 15mph, upgrading traffic signals, zero tolerance for speeding, adding pedestrian crosswalks with countdown signals and more. One safety solution that started in December is the red light camera at the intersection of Princess Anne Rd. and Hampton Blvd. The first 30 days are considered a grace period. But, be forewarned, after the grace period, drivers will receive tickets for running the red light. I cross Hampton Blvd when I run and I see drivers running the red more than imaginable. So, I am looking forward to this hopefully waking up some drivers and making it safer for all. Other solutions are still forthcoming such as upgrading the signal at Azalea Court and Hampton Blvd. Please know this Hampton Blvd safety issue is front and center on my radar.
The resort/spa/casino project continues to move forward. As per the terms of our September vote, Norfolk and our partners, the Pamunkey Tribe, continue to advance the project with modifications. The two parties now have agreed to only pursue the commercial casino gaming path vs. the tribal casino approach. As a result, the Pamunkey Tribe still will be able to purchase the land (@13 acres for nearly $10M at fair market value) but the land will not go into trust and it will not become sovereign land. The Pamunkey Tribe is allowed to exercise the option to purchase agreement only after they have final approval to operate a commercial casino, which will be based on the legislative actions taken by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020. The General Assembly must pass legislation to allow for commercial gaming in Virginia. Initial legislation was passed last year but there is a reenactment clause that requires the legislation to be passed again in 2020. After the General Assembly passes this legislation a local referendum would go on the ballot in November 2020 where the Norfolk voters would ultimately decide if they want commercial gaming in the city. With the commercial path, the Pamunkey Tribe would pay all of the taxes, such as real estate, bed, food, beverage, etc….just like any other economic development project. These taxes will generate a new revenue stream for Norfolk, diversify our economy, create job growth, enhance tourism, increase hotel/convention capacity, serve as a catalyst for other waterfront development AND all the while, Norfolk still doesn’t pay for site infrastructure costs and all of the resilience/flooding requirements will continue to be met. I will share more on this topic as things progress in Richmond in the coming weeks.
I appreciate the great businesses who choose Norfolk as their home. I ate at two new restaurants in Ward 2 – 350 Grace and the restaurant at the new Glass Light Hotel – over the holiday and both were spectacular. I am meeting with a small business owner who wants to share her business plan with me and plans to open in the Freemason area in the near future. And, I am thankful for the businesses who choose to remain in Norfolk after many years of serving our community. Norfolk is a thriving city.
I continue to hold office hours on the third Thursday of every month. Feel free to reach out to me to schedule a time. Also, I welcome your feedback and thoughts at any time. You can call, email, text or talk to me while I am running or walking my dog around town!
My best to you and your family for a healthy and happy 2020.