PERRYVILLE — The status of the Perryville Battlefield Preservation Association and the leases of the buildings on Merchants Row were discussed Thursday night at the Perryville City Council meeting.
During an open forum section, where residents are invited to voice concerns to the council, Chris Fitzwater explained a situation that he and his wife had been having since selecting the location of their businesses, a bridal boutique and an art gallery, both of which are now closed.
“We began inquiring about renting in November ‘09,” Fitzwater said, speaking of the location for the bridal boutique, which was originally at 334 Buell St. However, it wasn’t until February 2011 that they were able to secure that location. Another set of the buildings on Merchants Row, at 333 Buell St., became available and he began the task of securing those, as well, so the boutique could relocate and he would be able to open the art gallery.
By this time, the leaseholders had changed, and renters were working through Main Street Perryville. They were only allowed month-to-month rental agreements. After securing the properties as a renter, Fitzwater says his wife eventually gave up because of “political actions” and closed her business.
He, however, chose to stay a bit longer. They originally were renting one set of buildings for $225 and the additional buildings for $100. When she officially moved out, the rent on the other building went up to $150.
At the beginning of August, Fitzwater gave his 30-day notice to vacate. However, at the end of August, he decided he would like to keep the property another month.
He was unaware the property already had been rented to someone else, which he discovered while talking to Vicki Goode, executive director of Main Street Perryville.
Fitzwater attempted to obtain the new renter’s information to discuss leaving certain things in the store for the new renter’s use; however, Goode explained she would have to get back to him with that information. She was experiencing family illness at the time.
“I waited a year and a half to get into the first property, but I had to be out ASAP,” Fitzwater said, explaining his frustration with the process. He was further irritated when he discovered that the new renter was to be a business owned by Goode’s husband.
Councilwoman Jennifer Bodner explained that this is not a City Council issue; however, as the owner of multiple rental properties, she said, “If you tell me you are out on Aug. 31, you’re out on Aug. 31.”
According to Bodner and other council members, many of the properties on Merchants Row are leased by the city to the PBPA.
That organization then leases properties to Main Street Perryville, which is where she believes these renters need to voice their complaints. The rental agreements between many of the business owners on Buell Street are through Main Street Perryville.
However, that could all change by Sept. 15, depending on what happens within the PBPA. That is the deadline that was set by the city, to push the PBPA to make a decision on what to do with the properties.
Many believe that the organization will disband, based on a letter sent to the city council on May 3, from Bruce Richardson, chairman of the PBPA. In that letter, Richardson explained that the PBPA had completed its mission, since it was formed to help the battlefield expand. When PBPA was formed, the battlefield included 99 acres and is now more than 750 acres. The battlefield now has its own organization to secure funds.
Unfortunately, nothing official has been determined yet, according to City Attorney Lynne Coleman, who says nothing can be done with the long-term lease that the city has held with the PBPA until, and if, the organization disbands.
“The only way out of that lease is if the PBPA disbands,” she said.
The council voted to put the discussion of the properties on the agenda for the Oct. 4 meeting, if the PBPA disbands, in an effort to get more people to attend the meeting.