County denies tax break

Published 12:32 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Group claims Virginia tribal status

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

An application for a property tax exemption for the Rushmere Community Development Corporation was denied by the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors due in part to what county staff called “factually questionable” information contained in the request.

RCDC, which applied under the name of the Mathomank Village Tribe, did not have proper permitting to pursue activities it proposed for the property, according to County Administrator Randy Keaton at the Aug. 17 meeting.

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In its application, the non-profit listed plans to create an educational and training facility at the site, which is not allowed under the current rural agricultural conservation (RAC) zoning status of the land, and would require a conditional use permit, according to the staff’s recommendation to the Board.

RCDC president Rosa Turner said in a phone interview that the issue of permits was “irrelevant” to the application. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The property in question is located at 4820 Old Stage Highway, which was donated this year to the organization by Turner herself.

A conditional use permit for the property was last issued in 2002 for a daycare facility at 4814 Old Stage Hwy, according to the application.

According to county policy, in order for an organization to acquire tax-exempt property status, it must prove that a minimum of 50 percent of its services are rendered in Isle of Wight County, which Board members said RCDC failed to demonstrate in the application.

Turner said that she had not been informed of this policy by the time of the public hearing for her organization’s request, but said after the meeting that she was expecting a letter from Isle of Wight County Department of Social Services, verifying that a majority of its services are rendered in Isle of Wight, according to Turner.

“Anything that was withheld, I’m sorry, I can’t provide you with anything that I didn’t receive and our attorney didn’t receive,” Turner told the Board.

Though she plans to submit the verification to the county, Turner said her organization will not reapply for the property tax exemption from the county.

“We’re through talking,” she said in a recent phone interview.

During the meeting, Board members questioned the status of the Mathomank Village Tribe as a federally recognized tribe.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said that the application needed to be evaluated on merit and compliance.

“I was trying to find out if the tribe was actually a tribe and I couldn’t really find that out,” said Jefferson, who made the motion to deny the request. “I didn’t really see that anywhere, where it was actually a tribe.”

The application states that the Mathomank Village Tribe will also use the land for activities allowed “under the Federally Recognized Tribally-owned property” such as Pow wows, and states that the property is “sovereign territory.”

The tribe does not appear listed in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) list of federally recognized American Indian tribes, nor is it officially recognized by the state of Virginia.

The Mathomank Village Tribe is also absent from the “petitions in process” page of the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Affairs website.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe is currently the only federally recognized tribe in Virginia, according to BIA’s website.

Turner said at the public hearing that the only piece lacking in its application to become federally recognized as a tribe is for land approval.

Since the denial of the application, however, Turner said that she has learned that the organization does not have to wait for the county to sign off on the land before applying to become a federally recognized tribe, and said that she anticipates completing the group’s petition this month.

Turner, along with many members of the group, claims to be a descendent of the Mathomank, a neighboring tribe of the Warraskoyack, who first inhabited what is now Isle of Wight County and are more commonly believed to have been wiped out by early European settlers.

“We are disappointed in the Board’s decision,” said Turner. “We won’t argue, but we will exercise our right to vote in the next election.”  {/mprestriction}