Norfolk Residents Plan Petition Drive to Stop $700m Casino Resort Project

  • 4,000 signatures required to change City Council decision
  • A successful petition would result in a referendum on the matter
  • Pamunkey Indian Tribe plans to develop $700m casino in Norfolk's downtown waterfront
Petition word cloud concept.
Norfolk residents have announced plans for a petition drive following the City Council voting in favor of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe’s $700m casino resort. [Image: Shutterstock]

Petition drive to stop casino

A group of citizens in Norfolk, Virginia, have started a petition drive to repeal a casino decision made by the City Council involving a $700m gaming resort.

Norfolk City Council approved a land deal that gives the green light for a resort casino to be developed at the downtown waterfront by the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.

Citizens are concerned that the decision was made hastily. They have said that they were unable to obtain information regarding the terms of the project and potential effects of the development.

green light for a resort casino to be developed at the downtown waterfront

The council meeting

The public became aware of the casino plans back in December 2018. However, the terms of the land deal did not go public until two weeks before the City Council vote took place this week. The City Council meeting featured 40 speakers discussing the casino deal. Council members also spoke on the matter.

Half of the public speakers who attended the meeting asked for a postponed vote. These individuals stated that unanswered questions remained regarding the project plans. Those in attendance also suggested that more time should have been taken to inform the public of the plans.

Councilwoman Andria McClellan moved to delay the vote on the matter. She has expressed concern over the pace of the project. However, her motion was denied by a 7-1 vote. The deal was approved by the same margin, 7-1, with Ms. McClellan being the only individual against.

Filing a Petition

During the meeting, several individuals told the Council that approval of the vote would result in a petition drive. Max Shapiro, Jackie Glass and Ashley Barnett are spearheading the process.

These individuals met with the Circuit Court Clerk the very next day to discuss the petition drive. Ms. Glass said:

For me, it’s not about pushing back, but its about due diligence.”

Mayor Kenny Alexander disagrees with Ms. Glass. He stated that if the referendum process moves forward, he would respect it. However, he believes that it would be “disingenuous” to say that the process was rushed.

According to the mayor, meetings with lawyers and staff members took place regarding the project. The City Council began working on the development in early 2018.

Norfolk’s city code allows residents to file a petition to repeal or amend an ordinance that the City Council passes. Regarding the recent casino development decision, a petition would require 4,000 signatures. These signatures can only be taken from Norfolk voters within 30 days of the adopted ordinance.

If the petition garners enough signatures, the chief Circuit Court judge of the city will then set up a referendum vote. This vote would take place anywhere between 30 and 60 days later.