Impasse between tribe, Suffolk stalls Nansemond attraction 5-8-07

SUFFOLK, Va. (AP) - The commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the
founding of Jamestown was to include a replica of an early Nansemond
Indian village from the 1600s, but the project never got off the
ground because of an impasse between the tribe and city officials.

The Nansemond Indians, one of eight tribes recognized by the state,
hoped to build the Mattanock Town tourist attraction to open in time
for Jamestown 2007, marking the anniversary of the first permanent
British colony in the United States. The proposed site would have
included the village, a museum and tribal center on city parkland
given to the tribe.

But with the anniversary events in full swing, the project remains stalled.

“I don't know who to blame,” said Thomas Hazelwood, Suffolk's
commissioner of revenue who was on a task force that studied the
project in 2002. “All of us were anxious to have something for this
year. Maybe it's just an idea whose time hasn't come.”

Tribal leaders wanted the city to give them 99 acres of land on the
Nansemond River, a request that quickly became the center of the
dispute. A good portion of the land, part of city-owned Lone Star
Lakes, is an elevated bluff with sweeping river views.

Unsure whether the project would work, the city told tribe officials
they could lease as much as 10 acres for the village, with an option
to buy that amount should the village succeed. Neither side budged
from its position.

“It was simply that the land they intended to build it on is
valuable waterfront property,” said archaeologist Randolph Turner,
director of the state Department of Historic Resources' office in
Portsmouth, who supports the project. “Anything like that is going
to take considerable negotiation.”

Chief Barry Bass declined to talk about the troubled history of Mattanock Town.

Discussions between the two sides faded out in 2005 and 2006, but
officially, the project is still alive.

The tribe in January gave the City Council a full-blown business plan
for Mattanock Town. It includes financial details about how the $8
million project, which the tribe plans to finance, would work. It
calls for the city to deed the tribe 99 acres in August. A grand
opening would be held in 2011.

City officials estimated that public road, sewer and water system
improvements needed to build Mattanock Town would cost about $9
million, an amount most City Council members said Suffolk couldn't
afford.

Bass said his tribe, which has about 300 people, is figuring out what
to do next. Tribal leaders are scheduled to appear before the City
Council in June.

“We have jumped through all their hoops and there is nothing we've
done that hasn't been professional,” said Dot Dalton, a non-Indian
honorary Nansemond member who has worked on the project. “This would
be the biggest tourist attraction in this whole area.”

Mayor Linda Johnson, who said she supports the concept, said the
village may have to be scaled back or built in phases on land leased,
not given, to the tribe.

“That doesn't mean the project needs to go away and die,” Johnson
said. “They have very strong feelings that this is their land, that
their souls are in that land, and I respect that.”
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