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Relief Pitch

Mayor hedges against failure in ballpark paperwork.

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As uncertainty swirls around Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones’ ballpark proposal, his administration has built a workaround into the plan -- just in case he can’t line up quite enough support from City Council.

Written into letters of intent between the city and developers released this week is a hedge: The documents leave up in the air whether the city will sell the Shockoe Bottom land it owns in the project’s footprint or whether it merely will be leased to developers.

Selling is the administration’s preference, but authorization for a sale would require support from seven of nine City Council members. If the land is leased, then only six council members will ultimately need to sign on. The city property makes up about a quarter of the development’s proposed footprint.

“It depends on what the council is likely to approve and support.” Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall tells Style.

It looks unlikely the mayor will be able to meet the seven-vote threshold.

Three council members have said they won’t vote for Jones’ plan: Parker Agelasto, Reva Trammell and, the latest, Chris Hilbert.

Hilbert, who represents North Side, says he told Jones in a meeting two weeks ago that he’s not on board. He says he supports restarting the process by opening the project to public bids from interested developers.

“I think we need to find a third way,” he tells Style. “We need to restore the public’s confidence in the system, and apparently folks are telling me that they’re dissatisfied. And I have had concerns about the plan that's out there on the table.”

Two more council members have signaled they have serious doubts about Jones’ proposal to redevelop Shockoe Bottom around a new baseball stadium. Jon Baliles voted to move forward with the plan in February, but this month he spearheaded an effort to strip funding for the project from next year’s budget. Council restored that funding this week in a compromise.

But Baliles says he still has doubts about the project. “I didn’t see anything that will help me make up my mind,” he said Monday after receiving the latest update and documents from the administration.

Likewise, Samuels, who voted against moving forward with the plan in February, wasn’t particularly moved. “We did not see a final plan tonight,” Samuels said.

Marshall says the administration would like City Council to vote on the proposal at its next meeting May 27, and failing that, during their June 9 meeting.

Does that timeline sound reasonable?

Samuels responded with an exaggerated exhale: “Ooof. I don’t know if I knew about that request for a timeframe.”

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