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Museum vote may come on Tuesday

By Alex Bridges - abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A final vote by City Council on the fate of the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum could come Tuesday.

Council has forwarded to its regular meeting a resolution indicating its support of the museum's efforts to build a new facility. The resolution stopped short of stating the new museum should go on a 3.5 acre parcel owned by the city in Jim Barnett Park, as planned for nearly six years.

Opponents of the proposed museum locating on the site have argued the park is no place for such a building. Supporters say the current museum has outgrown its home on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall downtown.

The museum has raised millions of dollars toward the project, including money spent on services by Reader & Swartz Architects. Critics recently began blasting the museum for letting both the lease on the land and the conditional-use permit expire.

The resolution notes the city leased the land to the museum in 2004 and extended it in 2006. The lease allowed for the property to revert back to the city should the construction of the museum project not commence by a certain date.

"Whereas, the time period for commencement has passed and the lease had terminated and all rights in said premises have reverted to the City of Winchester," the resolution states, and "... whereas, Common Council recognized that efforts have been made by Discovery Museum supporters to raise funds in furtherance of the Discovery Museum ... it is the belief of Common Council that the Discovery Museum will be of benefit to the citizens of the City of Winchester ... it is the hope of Common Council that the Discovery Museum project will be successful in their efforts."

With the expiration of the original lease, the city must start the process again. According to the resolution, the Virginia Franchise Act requires the lease of the property be procured by adopting an ordinance and starting a bidding process for the land. A public hearing also will be needed, the resolution says.

The resolution comes up Tuesday for a vote.

Also on the agenda, council will hold public hearings on:

• An ordinance to conditionally rezone property at 414 N. Loudoun St. from high-density residential to central business with historic overlay. The Winchester Rescue Mission has requested the rezoning to be able to use a two-story building on the site as a woodworking shop for the shelter's residents.

• A request for a conditional-use permit for non-residential parking in the front yard of 825 Whittier Ave. and 812 Amherst St. Scott Rosenfeld is seeking the permit as part of a plan to build a medical office on the rear of historic property near the site.


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