- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2007

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 started 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 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 set to start today, 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. Much of the land, part of city-owned Lone Star Lakes, is an elevated bluff with sweeping river views.

Not sure whether the project would work, the city told tribe officials that 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 stalled in 2005 and 2006, but the project is officially still alive.

The tribe in January gave the City Council a 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 the requisite public road, sewer and water-system improvements would cost about $9 million, an amount that most City Council members said Suffolk could not afford.

Chief Bass said his tribe, which has about 300 members, is deciding 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,” she 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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