Mayor's baseball plan gets first public hearing

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A Richmond City Council committee got an earful Tuesday night during the first public hearing on the mayor's plan to bring baseball to Shockoe Bottom. Mayor Dwight Jones unveiled the large economic development proposal just over a week ago. Now, it must go through the governmental process.

This council committee meeting was only supposed to last an hour and a half but there were so many people standing up to speak both for and against baseball in Shockoe Bottom, as well as a lengthy presentation from the mayor's administration, that it went well over the allotted time. It left everyone in council chambers with a lot to think about.

"The moment everyone has been waiting for, the opportunity to comment on the baseball issue," Land Use Committee Chairman Jon Baliles announced Tuesday afternoon.

After years of talk, a plan for baseball in Shockoe Bottom, dubbed "the worst kept secret in Richmond," got a public hearing.

"A mixed bag," Baliles said of the feedback he's getting from constituents. "There's some for it, some against it. Everybody's got their reasons. I've never seen an issue in Richmond that brings out the opinions like baseball."

It was important for the mayor's proposal to bring the ballpark, apartments, a hotel and grocery store, parking and a slavery heritage site to start in the land use committee. The city would need some changes to zoning and property in order to make this happen.

A long line of people stood up in opposition to the proposal.

"We are deeply concerned about the lack of public process in the decision making of stadium location and redevelopment of Shockoe Bottom and The Boulevard," said the Partnership for Smarter Growth's Executive Director, Brianne Mullen.

The proposal includes a slavery and heritage site, however, Tuesday, a member of the Richmond NAACP gave committee members a resolution voicing its opposition.

Just as many people, if not more, gave lawmakers an earful on why this is good for Richmond.

"When you put all of this together I really feel like it can be the anchoring piece this city needs for everything, so I support it 110%," said one Richmond resident.

The committee did not act in support or opposition of the plan. This was just both the first opportunity for the public to weigh in, along with the first time we're really hearing the minute details of how the mayor plans to make this happen. Still, it's a long way from becoming a reality.

Next up, council's finance committee will also get a look at the plan and hold a public hearing this week.

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