More than two years of talks and nine months of negotiations regarding the Art & History Museums – Maitland’s cultural partnership and lease with the city of Maitland came to a rolling 51-year conclusion at the City Council meeting on Monday.
Hours of back-and-forth between City Council members, A&H directors and the public culminated in a 3-2 vote to extend A&H’s 51-year evergreen lease with the city of Maitland when its initial one-year trial period ends on Sept. 30.
The approved lease includes an amendment drafted after the Council’s last meeting, Aug. 27, adding an additional clause that A&H must commence construction on a new building or purchase an existing one in the Cultural Corridor to house a new gallery within the next three years. The amendment lays out that if by Sept. 30, 2015, A&H has not commenced construction or purchased an existing building costing at least $600,000, Council can terminate the lease.
“I want the organization to invest the money they have right here in our city,” Councilman Ivan Valdes said, as he worked to negotiate the amendment into what he deemed acceptable. He was the swing vote needed to extend or terminate the lease. Valdes asked for the amendment in order for A&H to put “more skin in the game” when it comes to growing and expanding in the near future.
In working out the wording of the lease amendment, City Attorney Cliff Shepard said he and A&H attorney Glenn Adams had to work out issues that came up regarding the lands on which this new art gallery facility would be built. If built on a lot designated as “heritage land,” which surrounds much of the Art Center facilities, a referendum would have to be put up to voters to approve the change of its use. If it was built on these lands without a referendum, he said, it is likely the city would be sued. To untangle the city from those legalities, the new amendment states A&H will be responsible for the costs of a referendum and the costs of the city’s legal fees if sued for that reason.
“At the end of the day, it’s muddled,” Shepard said. “We don’t know that we have a referendum issue, but we don’t know that we don’t.”
Councilman Phil Bonus and Councilwoman Linda Frosch continued to oppose the idea of re-upping the lease without further consideration and monitoring, but were outvoted with Valdes’ vote of approval. Negotiations regarding the lease were started in January when Bonus brought up concerns over A&H’s management of the Maitland Art Center, spurring talks that would span nearly nine months over whether the city was getting “bang for its buck” with the services A&H offers.
In 2012 A&H received $425,000 in funding from the city and it is estimated to receive $353,000 in the fiscal year of 2013 – a 17 percent reduction, Management Services Director Sharon Anselmo said.
Frosch continued to argue in favor of extending the lease’s trial period an additional year as proposed at the Council’s July 9 meeting, before committing to the 51-year lease, but was outvoted. The lease will now automatically renew for the next 51 years, unless the Council finds A&H in violation of the lease.
To learn more about new and ongoing programs hosted by Art & History Museums – Maitland, visit ArtandHistory.org
A&H directors and supporters argued that not having the lease would hinder them from seeking grant funding, delaying their new mission to become financially independent from the city within five years.
A&H’s Executive Director Andrea Bailey-Cox said the organization is ready and excited to reveal a revamped master plan with new funding and construction goals in the coming months.
“This is the heart and soul of our city. … I think they deserve the opportunity to get this done,” Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said.