City Council Meeting 12-12-23

City Council Meeting

December 12, 2023


III. Consent Agenda passed without discussion, 7/0

  1. Public Hearing

IV.9 Consideration of Conditional Use Permit for operation of childcare/enrichment facility at 805 15th Street.

Operated by Diamond Hill Baptist Church in association with LYN-CAG, Headstart.

Rev Owen Cardwell presented figures indicating the need for at least 2000 spots.  Planning Commission recommended approval Oct.25.  

Larry Taylor praised the solution and Rev. Cardwell for his leadership.

Misjuns stated it was “a small step in the right direction.”

Helgeson said it was a good use of property to solve a problem.

Approved 7/0


  1. 10 Consideration to rezone parcel on 602 Taylor Street to operate an auto sales lot.

Planning Commission recommended denial Oct.25.  Rezoning is not compatible with existing uses, regardless of grandfathered business operating nearby. Neighbor/business objected, stating his property had applied for historical designation and he didn’t want a used car lot across the street.  Other neighbors had voiced objections over the years of community surveys.  Petitioner referred to graduation from LU as a credential. 

The application was denied 7/0


  1. 11 Public Comment

Cherie Kemper advocated for the City to build a Teen Social Lounge, specifically for people between 13 and 19, as a place to socialize, use computers for gaming and homework, and be off the streets.  She said existing community centers are for younger people. Praise the curfew for keeping teens off the streets.

Vicente Gonzalez commented that it was “inappropriate” to open the meeting with a prayer.  He then criticized members of the LCS Board and Council for spreading misinformation about the It Gets Better project recently rejected by the LCS Board.  He named individuals (particularly Misjuns and Leticia Lowrey)  and quoted their remarks.  

He made an impassioned speech about how LU associations, accusing LU of cover-ups of sexual assaults and rapes.  He stated that Christian DePaul’s (LSC Board member) comments (that people who whined and cried thought they could get what they wanted) were “despicable” and that activism is not ‘whining and crying’ as DePaul indicated.  He then shifted to Misjuns, stating that his letter to the city attorney was “terrifying” and that Misjuns’s proposed ordinance to ban sexual performance is a violation of 1st Amendment expression, upheld by courts who recently struck down almost identical ordinances in TN and FLA.

Kelsey Molseed spoke critically of Misjuns’s behavior and  language as “devisive and harmful”.  She asked, “Haven’t you been attacking peoples’ families for years?” apparently in reference to a previous comment from Misjuns.  She said people are “appalled” by his comments and that people, including herself, had been forewarned to be afraid of retribution. She asked Council to expel Misjuns.

Ed McCann [added to agenda by consent by L Taylor at start of meeting] spoke in favor of allowing the Kiwanis Club to build a playground on the Riverfront Park, in conjunction with other planned improvements, including an Amphitheater as an anchor. Kiwanis would fully fund the construction of the playground as “a gift to the community.”  McCann noted that the playground would be fully accessible (ADA compliant).  He stated that Downtown is the cultural hub of Central Virginia and that much planning had gone into improvements. He referenced 900 responses incorporated into the Downtown 2024 Plan.

[He was indirectly praising VISION! And he should know, as former Executive Director of Lynchburg Housing and Redevelopment Authority]


VI General Business

Consideration of amending CIP FY2024 to appropriate $3 million in unused general Fund Unassigned Fund Balance for Riverfront Park improvements.

Discussion of this business was concluded after more than an hour of Council comments.

Dolan and Wilder praised the ongoing development of Downtown and investment in tourism, cultural opportunities, and future employment for our younger population.

Wilder added that attracting regional visitors and job creation might help offset revenues lost by last year’s Real Estate tax reduction.  He also noted that these improvements do not require the City to borrow any money.

He said this project would improve the quality of life for people living downtown which is “the Mecca of any city.”  He praised 20 years of progress, despite those who had consistently voted against these improvements [referring to Helgeson]. He noted that adding these improvements would enhance activities already occurring (sporting events, earlier praised by most of Council; visitors to trails and museums and other artistic events). He noted that there have been substantial tax revenue increases to the city because of 20 years of investment.

Helgeson hates this project. He offered an alternative motion to deny the funds. He repeatedly [nothing new there!] referred to it as “a nicety, not a necessity” and criticizing the increased costs.  He repeatedly referred to spending $8 million, rather than addressing the $3 million actually proposed in this resolution, [obviously trying to confuse uninformed observers and score cheap political points through misdirection.]

He referred to the recent Council retreat and said that “the majority (of Council) said we need to look out for our taxpayers.”  He wants to reduce the city car tax by an amount equal to the $8 million he kept referring to. He used faulty equivalency to repeat that the Council could lower the car tax if they did not spend the money on an amphitheater.  “Now is not the time.” [Never has been for him!]

[He has NO VISION! Missed the point that there would be no need for Kiwanis to build a playground without the amphitheater as a focal point.] 

Misjuns said he had “received a great slew of emails today” objecting to spending on an amphitheater.  People want tax relief. He then presented information that Charlottesville’s Ping Pavillion generates only $272,000 in revenue, so this would not be a good investment for Lynchburg.  He praised the Kiwanis playground as “important to our downtown community.”

He wants to free up $8 million to pay off existing debt, by decreasing debt service by $800,000. He wants his “legacy” to be eliminating the car tax. “Why continue to pay after you buy the car?”

[No Vision, No concept of investment in future.]

Donna Witt (CFO) clarified that there would be no benefit to debt service spending for the next several years as bond issues have already been set. So, any of this $8 or $3 million could not be used to reduce that spending.  She also noted that these Riverfront Park improvements do not incur any additional debt as these funds are all one-time expenditures from Unallocated Fund Balance.

She also noted that any changes to taxes must be proposed, discussed and completed as part of the budget process, not in consideration of allocating these funds. Faraldi had been trying to make this point for some time. Faraldi also reminded Council that $1.4 million was already developed for tax relief in the upcoming budget sessions.

Dolan stated that the 38 emails [not a ‘slew’] received by Misjuns had actually all been solicited by him, using a closed mailing list! She called his presentation disingenuous and misleading to the public.

Taylor stated that the developer of multiple properties in downtown and across the Rivermont Bridge wanted places for his residents to go and enjoy entertainment.  He also brought out that using the figures from the Ping Pavilion was not complete, as Charlottesville also has another major entertainment arena (John Paul Jones arena) that tempers the dam for Ping, so the numbers used by Misjuns and Helgeson are not an accurate comparison for Lynchburg.

Helgeson just repeated, lower tax burden, don’t borrow.

Faraldi said Helgeson and Misjuns were “manipulating the facts” and their idea “doesn’t achieve the end” of reducing the car (or any other) tax which must be done in budget sessions. 

[he was sniping – sniping – sniping in a very unbecoming manner]

Vote was held to deny the funds and failed 5/2 with Misjuns and Helgeson voting no.


The original motion to appropriate the funds was then considered.

Helgeson attempted to table further discussion until the next work session, but the motion was ruled out of order by the parliamentarian.

Misjuns tried to link money ‘saved’ by denying the appropriation to a benefit in the City’s line of credit.  Mrs Witt explained that that is not how the LoC works, that there is no direct benefit.  She said that it might create debit capacity only.

Misjuns stated, “I love giving citizens a voice” apparently referring to the emails he solicited.  “Don’t spend excess money now.” He then offered that Lynchburg already has an amphitheater and event venue at Liberty University – the Vines Center, and Liberty Stadium – “that didn’t cost the taxpayers a penny.”  [there were audible groans and laughter from the audience.]  Faraldi immediately challenged that statement, pointing out that the success of LU since the death of Fallwell, Sr was due almost solely to the use of federal and state tuition loans and grants, all funded by taxpayers, and Misjuns’s statement was bunk.

Faraldi continued to confirm Dolan’s earlier statement that the emails Misjuns had referred to were sent to a “curtailed list” asking people to object to spending money on an amphitheater, a misleading act.  He then referred to Senator Steve Newman’s admonition that using one-time excess funds for capital projects is entirely appropriate. “This is a fiscally responsible way to approach this project. … If you don’t like the project, vote against it” but don’t be misleading about how the money might impact future taxes.  “Manipulating of facts is not right. … people are being misled.”

Reed made several points before calling for the vote.

1 – a $0.22 tax cut was delivered. Other fees have been eliminated or reduced. In January, additional cuts are slated.  No one has lied about cutting taxes.

2 – emails sent by Misjuns are misleading.

3 – cannot get tax relief using this money in this manner, period [repeated pointedly]

4 – “Liberty is awesome because they invest, and look what happens! You grow!”


Vote conducted, resolution [to allocate $3 million] passed, 5/2 with Helgeson and Misjuns objecting.