October 11, 2008

Official is Sued Over Lack of Improvements


By Harry Minium

The Virginian-Pilot


Fifty-four East Ocean View residents have sued Councilman W. Randy Wright, claiming he has not done enough to improve their neighborhood.

In an Oct. 3 filing, the group asks a judge to order Wright to implement a plan to improve the neighborhood that they say the city has ignored.

The plaintiffs are led by Sean Regan, who said he moved to East Ocean View in 2003 because of city marketing that promised to clean up blighted housing and improve infrastructure.

"We want the plan we were promised," he said.

The lawsuit was also signed by William Kerry, who heads the Bay Oaks Park Committee, which clashed with Wright over whether 22 vacant acres in Ocean View should become a park. Kerry referred questions to Regan.

Wright, who lives in East Ocean View and has represented the area for 16 years, declined comment other than to say he has not been served with papers and that the lawsuit "is beyond frivolous."

Mayor Paul Fraim, an attorney, said the lawsuit appeared to be "a political attack against Randy Wright."

Fraim said Wright has helped funnel more than $100 million in city funds to Ocean View over the last decade.

The city tore down 1,600 blighted housing units to create the upscale East Beach community, acquired hundreds of decaying homes and more than a dozen hotels , undertook a massive beach replenishment effort, and built a new Ocean View library.

Councilman Barclay C. Winn, who also represents East Ocean View, called the lawsuit "ludicrous."

"Nobody has done more for Ocean View than Randy Wright," Winn said.

Regan's lawsuit says a document on the city's Web site calls for a comprehensive plan to be carried out in East Ocean View by 2003, which has not been done. Regan acknowledged that Wright did not propose the plan, but as councilman and head of the Ocean View Task Force, it was his job to see it through, Regan said.

Regan and many others in East Ocean View live on streets with utilities installed by Princess Anne County, which the city annexed nearly 50 years ago.

"Aside from East Beach, the area has been neglected," Regan said. "Portions of Pretty Lake Avenue in East Beach are beautiful. When you cross to the other side of Ocean View , it's like something out of the last century.

"The streets are crumbling and the utilities aren't working."

Wright brought that same message to the City Council repeatedly in recent years. He urged more city funding for infrastructure and property acquisition, but many of his requests were denied.

As a result of his prodding, the area's Pleasant Avenue corridor was named part of Project Focus, an anti-crime effort that includes increased police patrols and code enforcement and will include a rental inspection program, surveillance cameras and the acquisition of some blighted property.

Regan's family has close ties with Wright. Regan's father-in- law, Rich Hardison, is pastor of Tabernacle Church. Hardison helped begin Wright's career in civic activism when he asked him to become head of the Roosevelt Area Civic League, from which he launched his political career. The two remain close friends.

Harry Minium, (757) 446-2371, [email protected]

the argument

Led by Sean Regan, the plantiffs contend that Wright has not followed through on his promise to clean up housing and improve infrastructure. Regan said Wright has neglected everywhere but East Beach. in his defense

Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim defended Wright, saying the councilman has funneled millions into the area. Another councilman, Barclay C. Winn, called the lawsuit "ludicrous." THE LAWSUIT

The residents of Ocean View are asking a judge to order Councilman W. Randy Wright, right, to implement a neighborhood inmprovement plan.

Originally published by BY HARRY MINIUM.

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