Norfolk wants to use potential casino revenue to improve city schools

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The fight over the proposed Norfolk resort casino is heating up. 

City council members passed a resolution at a special meeting on Tuesday that’ll use potential revenue from the casino development to fund improvements at Norfolk Public Schools. 

That money would come from the sale of land to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe for the project, but the timing of it all is once again raising questions. 

This comes just a week after City Council voted 7-1 to sell just over 13 acres of land next to Harbor Park to the tribe for $750,000 per acre.

Some people are not happy about the resolution and city councilwoman Andria McClellan is one of them. 

She feels the city is rushing into a lifelong deal. However, other city leaders said this is a chance to show citizens they’re listening to their concerns. 

$10 million, that’s how much money will be split between Booker T. Washington and Maury High Schools “if and when” revenue comes in from the sale of land to the Pamunkey tribe.  

Councilman Tommy Smiiel introduced the resolution after listening to citizens’ concerns. He said it’s also in response to a petition that hopes to overturn council’s vote that approved the pending transaction.  

“This gives us an opportunity to get that out there that we are committed about this in making sure schools get money,” Smigiel said. “Then, whether or not the citizens at the end of the day still want to sign the petition, more power to them. That is the democratic process.” 

Councilwoman McClellan was once again the lone member to vote against the resolution.  

“This meeting was called at midnight last night,” she said. “We didn’t have time to ask questions. We just got this handed to us an hour before the meeting.” 

She said she’s disappointed with how council is handling the project.  

“What is the rush? We spend more time talking about grocery stores and bike lanes than we do about creating a sovereign nation in Norfolk that will be forever and ever,” McClellan said. 

Only a few citizens spoke in opposition of the plan during the special meeting. 

Lisa Suhay is behind the petition and has a child at Maury High School.  

“I think that the reality of what they gave the public schools tonight is really nothing,” Suhay said. 

Smigiel said more money can be designated once the casino is operating, but Suhay isn’t entirely convinced. 

The exact number of signatures so far on the petition hasn’t been tallied, but we’re told around 200 people signed in the first two days. 

If enough people sign the petition, the future of the casino could be left in the public’s hands at the ballot box. 

The deadline to collect 4,000 signatures is October 23.

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