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Unanswered questions linger over slavery museum
Questions surround the Fredericksburg City Council's proposal to recoup a $1 million contribution to the National Slavery Museum.

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Date published: 3/14/2002

Fredericksburg City Attorney Jim Pates calls a proposal to recoup a $1 million loan to the National Slavery Museum "creative."

But some residents who spoke at a City Council public hearing Tuesday night think the plan to create a tax district in the Celebrate Virginia tourism development--where the museum would be built--leaves too many questions unanswered.

And council members who voted to delay action on the tax district said yesterday they have plenty of questions of their own.

The district would require the museum and other property owners on 411 acres in Celebrate Virginia to repay the city's $1 million through a real-estate tax levy.

Councilman Joe Wilson said he's wondering whether restrictions could at some point invalidate the Silver Cos.' donation of 38 acres in its development for the museum.

"I wanted to make sure the land transfer had been made and that we were in good shape on that so the investment would be protected. I just didn't want any surprises," Wilson said yesterday.

Several speakers Tuesday night questioned the wording of the Silver Cos.' deed of gift, which was recorded in Fredericksburg Circuit Court last month.

The deed refers to a Real-Estate Gift Transfer Agreement imposing certain restrictions. But that agreement was not filed with the deed and has not been made public.

The deed states that the Silver Cos. "has the right to unilaterally modify or release" the gift agreement at any time without the approval of the museum, which is headed by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

Councilman Richard Garnett said that troubles him, and he wants to see a copy of the gift agreement before the council takes a final vote on the tax district.

"Some of the speakers last night were sayingit would be very easy for them [the Silver Cos.] to move in and take the land back. I need to hear about that," he said yesterday.

Pates said he has not seen the agreement between the Silver Cos. and the museum.

Silver Cos. attorney Paul Elkin could not be reached for comment yesterday on the details of the agreement and whether it includes a provision in the event the museum is not built on the tract.

But he did promise Tuesday night to provide the council with more details before its next meeting March 26.

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