To Town Council: Don't Hang a "For Sale" Sign on Elmhurst School
Richard Wimpress, acting chair of the Glen Manor House Authority, asks Council to postpone selling this "valuable asset."
Recently, some members of the community came before you (the Town Council) to request that you consider a conservation easement on the Glen property. Some of us wanted to do this because we were afraid at some point in the future, a seated Town Council would consider selling this property to cover operating expenses.
The currently sitting Town Council was very adamant that they would not consider this because it would take away control of the valuable property from the town. The proponents of the conservation easement were assured that selling the property would "never" be considered.
Some minor adjustments of the town charter have been proposed making it mandatory for a majority of the town electors to approve the sale of anything over two acres. It was felt at the time that this is sufficient protection for the town's most valuable asset.
I do not think the council or others believed in their wildest dreams that the pressure to consider the sale of the Glen would start so soon.
The circumstances of the closing of Elmhurst School and its impact on the Glen Manor House were not anticipated at that time. Now, we are faced with the first salvo of the assault on this priceless gem.
Among the many assets of this property is its location.
Portsmouth over the years has preserved very little waterfront property for the enjoyment of its residents. This property has extensive frontage on the Sakonnet River.
The mission statement of the Glen Manor House Authority and supported by The Friends of the Glen Manor House is "to preserve, protect and maintain the Glen Manor House for the present and future generations of Portsmouth residents."
To that end, it provides the venue for events enjoyed by the whole community, such as the free summer lawn concert, the annual open house, the Holly Ball, and other events such as the Tea Party for the young ladies of all ages. It also provides a very favorable rate for Portsmouth resident weddings.
Yes, we are in the wedding business. That business has grown over the years and is a major reason the property has significant value. This business has enabled us to turn over to the town General Fund more than $1.5 million. In addition, we have reinvested our share of the profits of more than $1 million "to preserve, protect and maintain" the house and grounds. That is more than $2.5 million total.
And, we have never spent any money that we have not earned. We rarely report annual revenue of less than $350,000, even in down economies.
It is difficult for me to imagine that the residents of Portsmouth would vote to sell this property.
If we had put it to a vote of the more than 400 people that attended the free summer band concert last Thursday night (July 22), there would not have been many "yea" votes. If we asked the full house of people who come to enjoy free cookies and punch, and a visit from Santa Claus at the annual Christmas open house, I do not think you would get many "yea" votes.
But strange things happen and there are frequently unintended consequences. I suggest it is premature to offer to the voters a yes/no vote to sell this property without first looking at options that may be available.
The Glen Manor House Authority has named a subcommittee, announced to you in a letter that was placed on file recently, to work with others in the town to pursue options for how to best move forward in the utilization of this extremely important asset. I urge you to put this organization in place instead of putting a "for sale" sign on the property.
Richard Wimpress, acting chair of the Glen Manor House Authority