We know everyone is concerned about what we are calling “The Lease Situation.” In the interest of keeping us all on the same page, here is a brief rundown of what we know and where we are.
Back in 2019, ACC realized there was inequity in the leases they hold on properties rented to non-profits. As a result, the Mayor and Commission formed a committee to address this inequity and streamline the overall county leasing process. In the Fall of 2020, after finishing this process and voting on it, ACC Central Services sent a letter to Nathan Altman, our current President, outlining the new policy and new leasing agreement. Valuing our fair-market rent at $48K/year, with a non-profit mark-down to $26K/year, the county offered us a “Community Benefit Application” that could potentially discount the rent to $4600/year. This new lease, with the true cost yet to be determined, was scheduled to begin in July of 2021.
After receiving this letter, the T&G 2021 Lease Committee was formed to address this situation, with Eric Wagoner (Chairman of the Board of Trustees), Rick Rose, Patrick Najjar, Adam Shirley, Bryn Adamson and Nathan Altman. The committee amassed our relevant documents, including old leases, the original Mathis agreement, and the many accolades the city has bestowed upon us. Armed with this documentation, Nathan, sent a response letter on behalf of the theater, asking that our original lease agreement of $1/year be continued.
Following the response letter, the Board of Directors spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to our Mayor and Commissioners that also asked for our current lease agreement of $1/year be continued. To date, over 50 letters/emails have gone out. Uniquely, of all the non-profits receiving the new leasing policy, we are the only organization to launch such a campaign.
So far, this effort has been remarkably effective. It brought to light that no explanation had been given to any of the non-profits as to why the new policy was written, that no exact standard as to how an organization’s “community benefit” would be judged was defined, and that the new agreement, as written, was potentially not even allowable when considering the language of our current lease.
Due to this effort, the new information that came to light because of it, and COVID, ACC has decided to hold all leases to $1/year until July of 2022. We have received this information from several sources at this point. One source, Commissioner Allison Wright, informed Bryn Adamson that the March agenda would be published on the third Tuesday of February, and would include a line item to postpone the new leasing policy (for all, not just us) until July 2022. Until then, all leases would remain at $1/year. To help navigate this ever-changing situation and potential lease negotiations, Town and Gown Players, Inc. has retained the services of Matt Roessing, Attorney at Law.
To everyone who took the time to write ACC on our behalf, we thank you. To anyone who would still like to send a letter, please feel free to do so. The more visible our support, the better. The more pressure we exert, the better. Going forward, we plan to further augment this letter and email initiative with a call campaign. Please be on the lookout for that announcement and a call script in the near future.
Again, thank you all for your time and effort—past, present, and future. It’s obvious, more than ever, how much we rely on our theater family to come together (even now when we literally cannot) to champion and advocate for the place we all hold dear.