The Richmond City Council on Monday delayed a vote on a rezoning request from a South Richmond developer whom the federal government accuses of being a mastermind in a multimillion-dollar bond fraud scheme involving his now-defunct mortgage company.
Submitting the request was Church Hill Ventures, the development firm tied to Michael Hild. He pleaded not guilty in September to five criminal charges related to his alleged role in a $140 million bond scheme through his mortgage firm, Chesterfield County-based Live Well Financial.
The rezoning request covered 17 properties Hild and his wife, Laura Dyer Hild, own in the Swansboro neighborhood, including parcels the federal government wants to seize if Michael Hild is convicted at a trial next year. The Hilds applied for the rezoning in April, months before Hild was charged.
The council was poised to approve the rezoning on its consent agenda, a group of items deemed noncontroversial, before a neighboring property owner spoke against it during a public hearing.
“We were given no notice other than signs on the street,” said Mia Mimms, president of Mimms Funeral Home, which is surrounded by properties the Hilds want to rezone and build a mixed-used development on.
After Mimms spoke, Councilman Parker Agelasto, who represents the area, requested a delay to allow businesses and residents to weigh in.
Hild is the founder and former CEO of Live Well Financial, which closed abruptly May 3 and laid off 103 employees. Federal prosecutors say Hild fraudulently inflated the value of the mortgage company’s portfolio in order to persuade securities dealers and a financial institution to lend more money to his company, according to court filings. He faces 115 years in prison and a $5 million fine if convicted. His trial is set for October 2020.
Hild obtained at least $20 million from the scheme, according to the court filings, which state he used “crime proceeds” from it to buy at least 29 properties in South Richmond for about $4 million. The government wants to seize the properties, as well as eight businesses the Hilds own, the court filings state.
Among the properties identified for potential seizure in court filings is the former Siegel’s grocery store site. The Hilds bought the store in 2017 for about $636,000. The old grocery store, located between Hull and Bainbridge streets, was one of 17 properties the Hilds listed in the rezoning application submitted to the city in April.
The Hilds plan a mixed-use development on the properties, with the grocery store renovated as a “retail market and food and beverage-oriented ‘maker space,’” according to the application. They are seeking to rezone some of the properties from an industrial to a mixed-use business designation, and others from industrial to a transit-oriented nodal district designation, allowing for dense development.
A vote on the request is now slated for Nov. 12.
Also Monday, the council signed off on keeping the city’s hypothermia shelter in Shockoe Valley for the upcoming winter.
The shelter operates at night between October and mid-April when temperatures are forecast to dip below 40 degrees. More than 700 people spent at least one night in the shelter last winter, its first at the Annie E. Giles Community Center on Oliver Hill Way across from the city jail.
Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration moved the shelter from downtown last year, calling the community center a “temporary solution” at the time. His administration has not secured a permanent home for the shelter.
Council members did not discuss the shelter Monday before approving its location.