The Board of Selectman unanimously approved a proposed lease renewal Thursday for the Greenwich Arts Council for another 10 years with the right of renewal at a price of $1 per year. The future of Greenwich's $1 leases to community organizations had been in question for several months.
A significant amount of the discussion surrounding the proposed new lease policy centered around the large number of $1 leases the town has entered into. The public/private partnerships function in that the town gives unused or underused property or buildings in return for a private organization investing time and money providing things of value for residents and to enhance Greenwich's quality of life. These public/private partnerships include four boat and yacht clubs, the Garden Education Center, Greenwich Arts Council, American Legion, Teen Center, Byram Shubert Library, Hill House, Greenwich Adult Day Care, Abilis, Bruce Museum, McKinney Terrace and Town Hall Annex.
In September 2013, after months of discussion and controversy, a policy that was intended to provide new guidelines for town leases was voted down by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), obligating the RTM to continue to adhere to the current lease policy, which requires a case-by-case method of approving leases and renewals for town-owned properties.
During Thursday's Board of Selectman Meeting, representatives from the Greenwich Arts Council attended with the hope for the Board to reconsider and approve the organization's proposed lease renewal, which dates back to 1980.
According to Paul-Master Karnik, Executive Director of the Greenwich Arts Council who attended the meeting with Laura Cunningham and Mike Harris, the many programs that function through the Greenwich Arts Council attract and bring a broad audience to the town which ultimately helps the town's economy. Karnik cited the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra and the upcoming festival "Focus on French Cinema" as two of many unique and valuable programs that are able to function under the lease agreement of the Greenwich Arts Council.
First Selectman Peter Tesei stated that the Greenwich Arts Council fulfills the mission of Robert M. Bruce and his sister Sarah E. Bruce who donated the Old Town Hall to be used for community programs (The Greenwich Arts Council occupies the third floor of the building).
Selectman Drew Marzullo added that the town "needs to support non-profit organizations, not discourage them."
Photo credit: The Greenwich Arts Council