Statement on HB1514
Proposed Potomac Yard Arena and Entertainment District
I represent the District where the arena would be built and I will be voting no on the bill before us to create the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority and Financing Fund.
I represent constituents who are adamantly opposed to the arena, I represent constituents who support the arena, and I represent constituents who aren’t sure.
Having previously served on City Council, I know the serious economic challenges that we face as a community, especially because Alexandria has to fund so much of its local services itself. I understand that this could be an unprecedented economic development opportunity to diversify our tax-base, which currently falls disproportionately on our residents and why our local Council wants to be able to evaluate this proposal. However, there are many questions about the finances of the deal that have yet to be addressed by the Administration.
The arena would also have a significant impact on transportation in our community. There are still a lot of concerns and unanswered questions that were not addressed by the Governor’s transportation study. Besides the effects of the proposal on Route 1 and our surrounding roads, and the critical investments that metro needs regardless of this proposal - both of which cannot be overstated - it is unclear what the Commonwealth is actually committing to in terms of transportation funds.
Our community cares about workers. We want to know that workers across the entertainment district, during construction and operation, would have good-paying jobs through Project Labor and Labor Peace Agreements. That is currently unclear and the Administration has made no such commitments.
Our community also cares a lot about housing and this project could create a lot of affordable housing. The development would catalyze and create affordable housing units, and provide dedicated local funding through our local meals tax and property tax, as well as dedicated state funding for the Housing Trust Fund. However, there needs to be stronger efforts to ensure that existing residents in Arlandria are not displaced in the near-future, before those effects might be realized.
I also have questions about the environmental sustainability of the proposal and whether it is doing everything possible to exemplify the best environmental practices.
If the issues I’ve referenced were to somehow be resolved and this Authority moves forward, I think one area where everyone in Alexandria could agree is that Alexandria’s representation on the Authority needs to be increased. This was already an issue with the original bill, which gave Alexandria only one-third of the members. The substitute adds members appointed by the General Assembly, which dilutes Alexandria’s representation on this Authority to only one-fifth of the members and that is unacceptable for a project that would so dramatically affect our community.
Given the significant impact the proposed entertainment district would have on my community, I can’t in good faith vote for this without more information on the financing of the project, a more sustained commitment to WMATA funding, clearly funded transportation improvements that mitigate its effects, protections for workers, and appropriate representation by Alexandrians on the Authority.