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Slavery museum pulls fee request page 2
Slavery museum yanks its request for construction-fee waiver, to surprise of some Fredericksburg City Council members

Date published: 7/15/2005

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"There was never any issue about not sharing information or a reluctance to share information with the council," Girvan said.

Fortune and Kelly, however, said that was one conclusion they could draw from the action.

Fortune said another could be that the museum was withdrawing its plans from Fredericksburg entirely or that museum officials were "taken aback" or "miffed" by the council's actions.

Councilman Hashmel Turner, who had wanted to make a motion Tuesday night to approve the waiver, said he does not see yesterday's action signaling the museum's withdrawal from plans to build in Fredericksburg.

"Oh, no. No, no, no, no," Turner said. "If that came up, it would knock my socks off.

"I think too much has been invested and too much progress has been made."

Mayor Tom Tomzak, the other city official to vote against delaying action on the waiver, was out of the country yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The slavery museum is to be built on 38 acres within the Celebrate Virginia South tourism development, located just west of Interstate 95.

The 250,000-square-foot structure was designed by Chien Chung Pei of Pei Partnerships of New York. It is to open in 2007.

Clearing and erosion control have been completed at the site overlooking the Rappahannock River.

In March 2002, a previous City Council voted to provide $1 million to the museum for infrastructure within Celebrate Virginia South. That money is being repaid through a special tax district set up within the Silver Cos.' development.

The waiver would have been the first money from city officials not requiring repayment.

The council is still scheduled to consider a height-variance request from the museum on July 26.

The museum wants to exceed the 90-foot limit allowed in that part of the city in order to include a full-scale replica slave ship as the museum's centerpiece.

The ship would stand about 118 feet tall, making the peak of the museum about 150 feet in height. The variance is for about 29 feet because it is figured on the average height in excess of the limit, city Planning and Community Development Director Ray Ocel has said.

In previous interviews, council members have expressed support for waiving all or part of the construction-permit fees and even making a contribution beyond that.

"If they renew their request down the road, I have no doubt the council would consider it," Kelly said.

Rodenberg said nothing precludes slavery museum officials from resubmitting their request.

Kelly said he doesn't know why Foster withdrew the request, but is concerned.

"I'm hoping this is not in response to the community's request for information," Kelly said. "I see this as a great project, and I just don't see why it has to be so much of a secret."

To reach PAMELA GOULD: 540/657-9101pgould@freelancestar.com


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