VB Mayor Dyer: ‘Have an open mind’ about Dome Project

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A week before a vital vote concerning the possible redevelopment of the former “Dome Site,” Virginia Beach’s mayor encourages everyone to “keep an open mind.”

“It’s a non-binding term sheet,” said Mayor Bobby Dyer on Tuesday night, signaling that at this point he plans to vote “yes” next week on the deal’s term sheet. “You know we owe [Venture Reality], given the money they invested in it so far.”

Venture Reality is the lead partner in “The Dome Project,” also known as “The Wave” which centers around a $328 million proposal to bring a 3,500 seat outdoor music venue, surf park, restaurants, office space and residential units to a site spanning from 18th to 20th streets between Pacific and Arctic Avenues. 

For 36 years prior to 1994, this area was home to The Virginia Beach Dome.

A term sheet that was agreed upon on the last day of 2018 acts like a road map on the deal between the City and Venture Realty Group.

The city’s cost for the project would be roughly $96 million and would be used to construct the parking garages, entertainment venue and common spaces.

The city would pay of debt by using the Tourist Investment Program, which is made up of hotel, restaurant, amusement and cigarette taxes. 

READ: Dome Site Development Briefing Sheet

The project — which has been backed by musician and Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams, is expected to contribute $8.2 million annually in tax revenue and an expected $150 million in economic impact. 

“There is a lot of people who want that,” Dyer said. “There are a lot of businesses at the Oceanfront that, whether it be restaurants or hotels, think this is a good idea.”

The mayor joins the majority of council in planning to approve the term sheet next Tuesday.

Councilman John Moss however signaled he would vote no.

“Until we have a responsibly funded flood mitigation program we should not be using debt for anything else, but for flooding projects, and we don’t have that yet,” Moss said last week.

His often ally, Councilwoman Jessica Abbott, Kempsville, also signaled she was on the fence on how she would vote because of the debt issue.

“If it was funded with cash, I would probably vote for it as I think it will improve our communities’ quality of life,” Abbott said Tuesday. 

If the term sheet is approved next week, a development agreement would have to follow before any construction could begin.

Several council members signaled they would need to see a lot more details before committing to a final go-ahead. 

“I’m okay with the term sheet,” said Councilwoman Barbara Henley, Princess Anne. “However I would have to see a lot more information before supporting the project to the construction phase.” 

Beach District Councilman David Nygaard and Centerville District Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten also had a similar attitude. They both want to see language in the final agreement that requires increased participation of minority and woman owned businesses. 

“I’m in favor in a lot of the benefits this project could provide,” Nygaard said. “I hope to see small business and minority owned business represented.” 

“Following the disparity study I want to see the developer try to use more than the just 10 percent use minority subcontractors required,” Wooten said. “I want that language to change moving forward.”

What may encourage Mayor Dyer the most is what the project may do for the Oceanfront’s reputation.

“I would like the people of Centerville, Kempsville, Rose Hall, Bayside, everybody, I would like the people to have a destination at the beach that they would be proud and participate in,” Dyer said. “That it is their beach also.”

The public will be invited to comment before both the Development Authority and the City Council votes on accepting the term sheet on January 15.  

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