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With Taxpayer Help, Norfolk Business Will Move Out of Navy Flight Path

Norfolk Naval Shipyard

A few months after the city's controversial approval of a new banquet hall under a Navy flight path, the business will be moving -- with some help from taxpayers.

The Norfolk Economic Development Authority has agreed to pay $24,000 to get Krista and Kenneth Hines out of their lease in Ocean View for the business Elegant Occasions by Krista.

That money will go to the couple's landlord, but Mayor Paul Fraim said the city is open to paying the Hineses a "fair" amount to compensate them for their expenses.

The new location for Elegant Occasions hasn't been determined, but city development staff members have suggested dozens of possible sites, said Peter Chapman, a deputy city manager who is also interim director of the Economic Development Authority.

Krista Hines didn't return calls Thursday.

The opening of her banquet hall near the north end of Granby Street drew opposition from the Navy, which said it violated the city's promise to stop intensified development in designated crash-risk zones.

City Council members who voted to approve the business said they believed Hines had been treated unfairly. Hines told the council that no one from the city notified her of the crash-risk zone issue until months after she had applied to open her business and started buying furniture, curtains and equipment.

After that February vote of approval, a top state official warned that the business could threaten the future of Norfolk Naval Station's Chambers Field.

That led to a scramble to find a new location for Elegant Occasions.

Under an agreement approved in early May by its Board of Directors, the Norfolk Economic Development Authority will pay $24,000 to Hines' landlord, a company owned by Michael and Iesha Shipp of Norfolk. Michael Shipp declined to comment.

Chapman said the money will come from discretionary funds. He said the payment fits with the authority's mission, part of which is to encourage small-business development.

Last fall, Hines applied to open Elegant Occasions in a building that used to house a bike shop and a take-out restaurant. She has said the city didn't tell her there was a problem until the end of December.

"I think the city is somewhat complicit in this," Fraim said Thursday. "Our staff actually encouraged this location originally before we understood that it was in the (crash-risk zone)."

The building Hines first chose, 9605 Granby St., is more than a mile and a half from the east end of the runway at Chambers Field, formerly known as Norfolk Naval Air Station.

But it's under a takeoff path, which puts it in an "accident potential zone" under a 2005 land-use study. The deputy commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic has estimated there's a 3 percent chance the next plane that crashes on certain takeoff or landing patterns will strike the ground near that site.

Hines planned to have up to 80 people at a time in the 3,400-square-foot space for events, including birthday and graduation parties. The city considers such gatherings "assemblies" and the business a more intense use than the former tenants.

As part of a 2013 long-range plan, Norfolk agreed not to approve any "increase in intensity of incompatible uses" in crash-risk zones. That means existing homes and businesses can stay, but a new development can proceed only if it's similar to what was on the site before.

Some of the council members who voted to approve Elegant Occasions said Hines' comments had helped convince them.

"If we drop the ball, the citizens shouldn't be the ones who pay the price," Vice Mayor Angelia Williams Graves said before the February vote.

The vote was 6-2, with Fraim and Councilman Barclay Winn voting no. They said approval would set a bad precedent. City staff and the Planning Commission also opposed the approval.

Some council members who voted yes said they relied on the Norfolk Naval Station commander's statement that he would still have "the utmost respect" for the City Council if it approved the banquet hall over Navy objections.

The commander, Capt. Doug Beaver, did not warn the council a yes vote would strain the city's ties with the Navy. Councilman Andy Protogyrou has said that fact was key to his deciding to vote yes.

But weeks later, John C. Harvey Jr., Virginia's secretary of veterans and defense affairs, wrote a letter to the mayor warning the approval could be read as a signal that Norfolk doesn't fully support the Navy.

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