Two Virginia Beach city council members want committee to review bids of Oceanfront pier project

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - City Council members John Moss and Bob Dyer want a committee to review bids of the 15th Street pier project at the Oceanfront, citing ethical concerns about the project.

Talks have been underway for the past few years to construct a new pier slightly north of the existing pier. The project would be complete with a 200-foot high sky wheel, a surfing museum, and retail space.

The city would contribute more than $20 million for the project to include taking down the old pier and constructing a new pier that's at least 880-feet, according to a presentation about project from the city manager.

The city received two bids for the project. One is from the Virginia Beach Development Authority, who is representing several families who own property around the pier. In addition, developer Bruce Thompson and his company Gold Key PR are working with those families. A second bid came from Wool Service Supply and Logistics.

Moss and Dyer say city staffers have been interacting with VBDA, so committee is needed to assess the bids in an effort to "avoid even the appearance of favoritism." The committee would be made up of people appointed by city council members, in addition economists from Old Dominion University would assist the committee, according to the resolution.

Mayor Will Sessoms said he opposes their resolution. "The city attorney guides us on how to do these types of projects," he said. "I have been assured that this process is the proper process to go through."

A vote is expected on Tuesday evening during the city council meeting. Other council members have also now asked for another public input session regarding all of the projects being discussed at the Oceanfront, including the pier, the dome site, construction of a sports center, and potential parking ideas. A deputy city manager will present the proposed terms of the project during Tuesday's informal session.

Tensions regarding the proposal have boiled over at recent city council meetings and on social media. Mayor Will Sessoms accused a speaker of lying at the January 16 meeting. Sessoms later responded to calls for an apology, calling his statements "out of character."