The Leesburg Town Council has pumped the brakes on plans to negotiate a new lease with Loudoun Museum, instead asking Town Manager Kaj Dentler to reach out to its board of trustees for a conversation on the museum’s plans.
The council first spoke about the lease on the three town-owned buildings the museum occupies downtown Monday night. At the time there was enthusiasm for re-entering into a formal lease agreement with a Memorandum of Agreement between the town and the museum, and possibly the Loudoun County government, along with performance standards. The museum has been closed throughout the summer following the termination of its executive director and the resignations of its remaining staff.
During Tuesday night’s business meeting, however, the council decided to hold off on negotiating a new lease, instead voted unanimously to enter into a conversation with the board of trustees.
Prior to the vote, council members debated whether to include performance standards in any new lease or MOA. Dentler advocated their inclusion, saying he has heard numerous times over his 20-year-plus career with the town that the museum was not meeting the council’s or public’s expectations.
“If we simply approve a lease … and there are no performance standards, no expectations, this conversation will continue for another five, 10, 15, 20 years,” he said.
In particular, council members have expressed requirements such as longer operating hours. The previous lease agreement, not renewed since 2002, stipulated operating hours of 46 hours weekly, but in reality the museum was generally open only around 14 hours per week and mostly just on weekends.
Councilman Joshua Thiel pointed to the town’s significant investment in the museum over the years, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements to the buildings, with more needed, and only charging $1 per year rent. The town staff has estimated the rental value of the three properties at $77,000 annually.
“We’ve been getting taken advantage of,” Thiel said.