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Museum seeks fee waiver
City Council members say they're willing to discuss request to help ease construction costs.

Date published: 6/11/2005

Fredericksburg City Council members say they're willing to consider a request from the U.S. National Slavery Museum to waive some or all of the fees associated with construction of the museum.

Museum Executive Director Vonita W. Foster sent a letter to City Manager Phillip Rodenberg in March "requesting a contribution from the city of Fredericksburg to defray the costs that will be incurred acquiring application fees, permits, licenses, etc."

Foster wrote of the museum's continuing efforts in "amassing support" for the project and called Fredericksburg "one of our primary partners" that will "benefit accordingly for years to come."

Rodenberg said this week that he had not yet decided what he would do regarding the request, and had no timetable for making that decision.

"I told Dr. Foster I received her letter and I could look into it," Rodenberg said.

The U.S. National Slavery Museum, the brainchild of former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, is to be built on 38 acres within the Celebrate Virginia South development in Fredericksburg. Plans call for a 250,000-square-foot structure overlooking the Rappahannock River just west of Interstate 95.

Clearing and erosion control have been completed at the site and a roadway and utilities are being installed, but Foster announced this week that the museum's opening date would be delayed by at least eight months, until at least October 2007.

T. Michael Naggs, the city's director of building and development services, estimated the museum's fees would run between $40,000 and $50,000, not including water and sewer fees.

He said water and sewer fees are never exempt. For the slavery museum, he estimated those fees would be somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000.

Museum officials have already paid $1,300 for an initial grading permit, Naggs' staff said.

Naggs said only one or two requests for exemptions are received each year, and even fewer are granted. The only exemptions he could think of were for Habitat for Humanity and Christmas in April.

"The fee waivers that the city manager has approved in the past are typically in the $500 to $1,000 range," Naggs said.

Of five council members interviewed this week, all said they are open to considering the request but want more information.

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