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Ballpark E-mail Misunderstood, Robertson Says


City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson says she's misquoted and misunderstood in a recent flap about her involvement in negotiations regarding a downtown ballpark proposal for Shockoe Bottom.

Robertson, vice president of City Council, refutes recent suggestions that she's trying to play first chair in negotiations with the Shockoe project developer, Highwoods Properties. It started with a Jan. 27 e-mail exchange between her and a lawyer representing Highwoods.

“To move forward in making the right decision for the City and the Development, I will review the information received with Mayor [Dwight C.] Jones to determine feasibility, cost benefit analysis, financing and citizens support,” Robertson wrote. “We should be able to finalize this decision in the 6 month time period.”

Some observers interpreted the “we” to be Robertson and Jones, who are close allies. In other words, was Robertson suggesting that she and Jones would make the final decision on the project's feasibility?

“Wonder what the community and the rest of council thinks?” wrote a blogger identified as “Ron” on the Church Hill People's News blog last week.

Style obtained the e-mail exchange through a Freedom of Information Act request. In an attached explanation to the council's response, Robertson says her words were misunderstood in the initial e-mail exchange with attorney Bill Axselle, a lobbyist and lawyer with Williams Mullen working closely with the Shockoe ballpark development team.

Axselle's initial e-mail was an outline of the process for supporting legislation in the General Assembly that would allow the developers to divert sales taxes generated by the project toward the ballpark bonds.

“There appears to be some misunderstanding that I am suggesting I will with the [mayor] decide this project,” Robertson writes. “When I referred to ‘we’ I am referring to Council, the Mayor and the Citizen. Surely I am not foolish enough to even give thought to anything else”

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