City Council rejects Governors Hall extension

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CAMBRIDGE — Governor’s Hall could be facing closure at the beginning of next year, following a City Council decision Monday.
Commissioners voted 3-2 to reject a proposed extension to July 1, 2015 for booking events in the riverside venue on the Sailwinds Park property. The Sailwinds Management Board has been told not to book events at the hall after Jan. 2, 2015.
The site has been proposed for extensive development by Jerome J. Parks Companies of Annapolis, possibly including a hotel.
Commissioners voting against the extension were Donald Sydnor (Ward 2), Gage Thomas (Ward 4), and Robert Hanson (Ward 5).
Commissioners supporting the extension were Jackie Vickers (Ward 1) and Frank Cooke (Ward 3).
In a sometimes-contentious exchange before a packed meeting room in the county office building, President of the Sailwinds Board of Directors Bruce Reed told Mayor Victoria Stanley and the council his group has been shut out of arrangements with the developer, saying, “There are ongoing discussions almost weekly. We know nothing.”
Earlier in the planning process, Mr. Reed said, “We attended and participated for hours and hours of meetings on what to do with the Sailwinds property,” being told at the time that Sailwinds would be safe. “Right now, I’m a little angry – with myself, to be clear – because I believed that.”
“I spoke with you and [Sailwinds Management Board Executive Secretary Jerry] Burroughs about the project,” Commissioner Donald Sydnor (Ward 2) said. “I stated that Governor’s Hall would not be at Sailwinds Park.”
“All we would like is more consideration,” Mr. Reed said.
Mr. Burroughs said, “How many more studies are going to be done at Sailwinds before you make a decision?”
Underground and underwater examinations are being conducted to determine the feasibility of more construction on the site.
Public Works Director Oden Wheeler said, “We anticipate having that work done and the final results back by Dec. 31.”
While preliminary work on possible development continues, members of the management board and supporters of the Governor’s Hall as a community venue worry that its contributions to the local economy will be lost if it can’t continue to hold events.
Commissioner Frank Cooke (Ward 3) said, “This is an economic engine that we are considering turning off.”
Commissioner Sydnor said, “We are looking to continue Governor’s Hall when we should be looking at a new venue.”
This statement was met with calls of “Why?” from the audience.
Mr. Reed said at the beginning of the process, it was made clear to him that a public venue would be part of the development agreement. “I thought you listened. I was wrong,” he said.
Once revenue stops coming in, “We are out of business,” Mr. Reed said. “We’ve been asking for help, not money.”
Commissioner Cooke made the motion to allow the management board to book events until July 1, 2015.
Commissioner Sydnor said, “I think it would be prudent to wait and ask Parks.”
Commissioner Thomas said, “I’m not going to vote for the motion…We can’t do it without talking to our partners.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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