The Armory building is in the process of being sold to the National Sailing Hall of Fame (“NSHOF”) which has been based in Annapolis for the last 13 years. Since 2008 the NSHOF has had the benefit of a 50 year lease for $1.00 per year on waterfront property owned by the State of Maryland with a condition that the organization would construct a clubhouse and museum on the property. The SHF has failed to keep its promises to the State and to date is unable to comply with the construction requirements. At its last review in February, 2017 the State Properties Commission in Maryland made it clear that if the NSHOF does not meet compliance at the time of the next review they could forfeit the lease.
Coincidently around the same time discussions commenced between the City of Newport and the NSHOF regarding the potential purchase or lease of the Armory property on Thames Street. Apparently no one in the City administration reviewed the history of this organization and the red flags that were flying. A simple on-line search on the Capitol Gazette would reveal the problems and the comments from public officials and reporters including, “There’s a sucker born every minute”, referring to the City of Newport. This is the group that Newport’s administration is fervently moving to sell the property to and returned to the tax rolls. This sale, or any sale of the property for that matter, is not in the best interest of the city.
In 2003 and 2010 prior administrations adopted the Newport Comprehensive Waterfront Plan which is filed with the Coastal Resources Management Council as mandated by law. That Plan states the Armory should be retained by the City in perpetuity, never to be sold. And in the foreword of the Plan it states, “It appears that the city has taken its priceless harbor and waterfront for granted and perhaps lost sight of the basic fact that Newport’s harbor and shoreline is the fundamental economic engine that drives our local economy
The potential sale of the condominium would result in an annual tax payment to the city of approximately $16,500.00. The tenant occupying the area pays in excess of three times that amount to the City each year as rent for the space. The sale will result in a net loss of revenue to the City of $37,500 annually. Armory Antiques has occupied the street level floor of the building since 1995 and the business provides an income to approximately 150 families, many of them senior citizens. We are a retail business which is open year round and with over one hundred thousand annual visitors, many who return year after year and we are a catalyst to the downtown retail area. The sale of the property would force our business to close permanently resulting in a large economic void on Thames Street.
This Letter To The Editor was submitted by Debra Vivace of Newport. The views and opinions expressed within are not necessarily reflecting those of What’sUpNewp’s ownership, contributors, or advertisers. Have a view or opinion that you’d like to share? Email it to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.