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Fort Monroe housing plan splits City Hall and Monroe staff
By David Macaulay, email@example.com | 247-7838
In the week of Valentine's Day it's worth asking if a proposal by a developer to convert a historic structure at Fort Monroe into hundreds of apartments will place strains on the relationship between Hampton City Council and the Fort Monroe Authority.
My suggestion that the united front had been shattered by staunch opposition at last week's council meeting was refuted on Wednesday by FMA board chair Terrie Suit, Hampton Mayor Molly Ward and City Manager Mary Bunting.
It seems nobody is going to be calling on Dr. Phil any time soon.
However, with just seven months to go before the Army pulls out of historic Fort Monroe, a citadel that played a pivotal part of the Civil War, it has become the 800-pound gorilla in the room at any given meeting.
Fort Monroe dominated the City Council meeting, and the united front presented by the city and the Fort Monroe Authority was certainly tested in public. The city sent the FMA a letter and resolution of opposition against the housing proposal.
Developer HRI Properties outlined a plan to use Virginia Housing Development Authority's low income tax credit program to build up to 445 multi-family residences in a large office building on the parade ground within the moat and the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) complex in the historic village.
On Monday the authority said the city had seized on just one option and the latest proposal is for 192 properties within the moat, saving the TRADOC complex for job creation.
The issue highlighted a gap in rhetoric between council members such as Ross A. Kearney, who described the loss of more than 4,000 jobs at Monroe as an economic "tsunami" and the Fort Monroe Authority which is saying many of the jobs will remain in the region and the real loss is about 850 jobs.
There's also a difference of opinion on whether this proposal would be compatible with a National Park at Monroe. Fort Monroe Authority staff point to instances in which housing projects form part of national parks, while the city's brief suggested it would be incompatible.
Suit, who chairs the FMA board, said the project has yet to come before the board for a vote and the FMA itself has taken no stance on it.
The FMA's executive committee will consider the proposal on March 1 and a vote will be taken by the board at a later date, assuming the executive committee allows it to proceed.
Suit said it was premature to suggest the FMA had a position on this development.
She said the proposal has not affected the good working relationship between the city and the FMA. Both parties have worked closely on legislation presently in the General Assembly which would resolve how future services are financed at Monroe.
A gap between the city and the authority could widen on this issue but at least there will be plenty of talk to fill it. Fort Monroe is the topic of a town hall meeting organized by Councilwoman Angela Leary at the Phoebus Auction Gallery, 14 E. Mellen St., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday The guest speaker is Col. Anthony Reyes, garrison commander at Monroe.