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Nansemond land transfer attempt fails by one vote

SUFFOLK, Va. - The Nansemond Indian Tribal Association had hoped it had secured a sixth vote from the Suffolk City Council to gain approval for a transfer of about 100 acres of land.

The land would have enabled the tribe to create a replica of its former Mattanock Town village that was seen by the English during the early 1600s. But the City Council voted Oct. 17 against transferring the land by a 5 - 2 vote. To transfer the land, the tribe needed six votes.

Council members Leroy Bennett and Charles Brown once again voted against the transfer, citing concerns about giving away city property as well as suggesting an alternate location of land to give the tribe.

Even though the transfer failed, the City Council approved holding a public hearing in January to offer the tribe a 40-year lease for the historic property, also known as the Lone Star Lakes property.

But with a lease, Chief Barry Bass said the tribe will lose grant money needed to create the $8 million project, since grant funds hinged on the tribe holding a deed to the property.

''It's going to harm us funding-wise because we need a deed,'' he said.

The City Council voted on the project during a monthly work session. During an August public hearing, the council approved of continuing negotiations with the tribe.

The Nansemonds have had continued support from a variety of groups and individuals, many of whom later voiced their support and surprise over Brown's opposition during a television talk show Mayor Linda Johnson held earlier in October. Johnson interviewed Bass and Brown about the project.

Assistant Chief Earl Bass said the tribe has been told the alternate location Brown has suggested, the Navy Radio Transmitter Facility - Driver, is unsuitable because it contained hazardous waste materials.

The Navy Radio Transmitter Facility closed in the 1990s, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy cleaned up the site, removing various contaminants. The site, however, remained under continuous monitoring as of 2003.

Even if the transmitter site land was available, the site has no trees and none of the resources available at the Lone Star Lakes property for creating a village, Earl Bass said: ''We visited the property years ago, and there's nothing there to create a village.''

The Nansemonds first asked the city in 2001 for 104 acres of land along the Nansemond River in central Suffolk where researchers say the tribe's original village, called Mattanock Town, existed. Capt. John Smith included the village on his map.

Mattanock Town, once constructed, would encompass more than the Nansemond Indian village. The Nansemonds plan to include a camping and picnic area, pow wow facilities, nature and hiking trails, reburial grounds and a tribal center.