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Some museum data turned over by city
Fredericksburg city manager provides some documents from U.S. National Slavery Museum.

Date published: 12/22/2005

By PAMELA GOULD and EMILY BATTLE

After weeks of contention about whether the U.S. National Slavery Museum should turn over studies paid for with $1 million in Fredericksburg taxes, the museum's director referred City Manager Phillip Rodenberg to documents already in city files.

However, apart from a June traffic study describing entrance requirements to the museum site, the information Executive Director Vonita W. Foster referred to was mostly site plans, grading plans and erosion and sediment control plans.

Those plans, filed earlier this year with the city's Building and Development Services Department, were provided as part of the museum's site-plan approval process, or its application for a special-use permit for the building's height. The city awarded the special-use permit in August.

According to the terms of a March 2002 agreement signed by museum founder L. Douglas Wilder, the museum agreed to provide governmental services to benefit the Celebrate Virginia tax district in exchange for the $1 million.

The money is being repaid through a tax on businesses in the tourism development that sits on the shore of the Rappahannock River.

The museum is to be built on 38 acres within the Celebrate Virginia development. Wilder said this summer that it should open in October 2007.

The city money cannot be spent on building the museum itself.

Some members of City Council have said they should have access to studies paid for with tax dollars.

The Free Lance-Star submitted a state Freedom of Information Act request with the city on Dec. 5, seeking to obtain the studies.

Yesterday was the deadline for the city to reply to the FOIA request after Rodenberg took an extension to the normal five-day response deadline.

Museum officials said last week they would not turn over studies conducted with the $1 million.

Spokesman Michael J. Smith said the museum considered the studies proprietary and did not want them available to the Smithsonian Institution, which is building the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

That statement contradicts earlier statements from museum officials that the two projects are not competitive.

In her reply Tuesday to Rodenberg, Foster provided a six-point list of steps taken toward developing preliminary plans for a public loop road and public parking in Celebrate Virginia.

She also provided a nine-point list of steps taken for environmental and cultural assessments.


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