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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Read the plan and then vote YES! on June 6 to save the General Stanton Inn

Full disclosure about the rationale, costs, benefits and future potential of Charlestown’s iconic landmark
By Will Collette


On June 6, Charlestown voters should plan to go to vote on the town’s annual budget and on a referendum placed on the ballot through citizens’ petition to authorize Charlestown to purchase the General Stanton Inn, the heart of our historic district.

While there seems to be broad consensus in town that the Inn MUST be saved, there are questions about this particular choice – that of town purchase and ownership – and the costs to taxpayers for the acquisition and operation of the facility.

Rather than give you my analysis, you can read the plan drawn up by the non-profit group that launched the petition drive, the Friends of the General Stanton Inn.

Their plan covers the reasons why the Inn is important, why the town should buy it, what it will cost, what it will provide Charlestown and how the Inn might be used in the future.

Here’s the plan:


Friends of the General Stanton Inn, Inc. (FOGSI)
Our Plan for Acquisition and Operation of the
General Stanton Inn Property and Adjacent Parcel
                                                                                                                                                           
I.      Introduction:
Why We Want to Preserve and Re-Purpose
The General Stanton Inn Properties

The General Stanton Inn’s buildings and surrounding property have unique historical significance as the home of General Joseph Stanton who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution and held numerous local, state and national offices. Besides being owned by the Stanton family for over 200 years, the Inn is believed to have been visited by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others who shaped America during its earliest years.  According to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, it is  ”…one of the most interesting and important historic structures in Charlestown…” (Historic and Architectural Resources of Charlestown, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report (1981) at 46-47).

Highly-visible, centrally located and historically significant, the Inn Property can serve Charlestown in many different ways and for many generations to come. Its proposed short-term transformation to a museum and venue for community events can be a stepping stone to a deeper integration into the Charlestown community and its historical roots. Beyond its potential anchoring of a village center, the Inn Property’s prominence and central location make it a potential future site for the Town’s utilization.  We believe Charlestown’s acquisition and preservation of the General Stanton Inn will provide it and its citizens with a truly unique asset that can play an integral role in the Town’s future.

II.   Summary of Our Plan

Upon Charlestown Taxpayer approval of the Town’s acquisition of the General Stanton Inn property and adjacent unimproved parcel of land (the “Properties”), the immediate focus will be on preparations for a closing on the purchase sometime in October, 2016. Those preparations include not only normal tasks associated with the purchase of real estate but also negotiating, drafting and finalizing a formal agreement between the Town and FOGSI under which FOGSI will assume responsibility for the management and operation of the Properties. It is anticipated that such a formal agreement will be in place prior to an October closing for the Town’s purchase of the Properties.

Once closing takes place and pursuant to the formal agreement with the Town, FOGSI will promptly assume responsibility for management of the Properties. As proposed, FOGSI’s immediate goals will then be to:
        Stabilize and control the operational costs for the Properties;
       Achieve a positive and ongoing operational cash flow within 12 months;
       Discontinue operation of the Inn as a bed/breakfast/inn;
       Formalize the operation of the flea market and streamline its management and administration;
       Continue the rental of the residence that is located on the main property;
       Finalize plans to establish a museum using the original Stanton Inn facilities , the “Indian Room” and “George Washington’s Cabinet Room” as the museum’s central focus; and
       Launch a formal process to articulate and execute a long-term plan for the operation and preservation of the Properties as a venue for community events and for their integration into the evolving Charlestown village center.

II.     Financial Aspects of Acquisition and Operation of the Properties

A.     Acquisition of the Properties
The Properties will be purchased by using the major portion of the funds that are the subject of the Referendum vote. The remaining balance will be available as Maintenance/Capital fund as follows:

                        Referendum Proceeds                                                $1,750,000
Purchase Price for the Properties                              ($1,488,000)
Remaining–Maintenance/Capital fund                      $   262,000
                        
Operation of the Properties

Based on information that has been made available to and reviewed by FOGSI, we have prepared an estimate of near-term operating revenue and expenses. Immediate, short-term revenue from operation of the Properties is anticipated to be generated from two sources: operation of the Flea Market and continuing rental of the residential property located adjacent to the main Inn building.

Stabilized and controlled recurring costs necessary to maintain the Properties and operate the Flea Market are projected to be $32,289 annually. Those costs should be funded out of revenues as follows:

Revenue                                                                    
            Flea Market Operations                     $23,400
            Residential Rental                               $12,000
Total Annual Revenue                                              $  35,400
Operating Expenses                                                  
            Flea Market                                        ($  3,500)
            General (Includes rental unit)            ($28,789)
            Total Annual Operating Expenses                            ($ 32,289)

Net Revenue                                                                          $     3,111.

III.  The FOGSI Management Team

We have assembled a motivated and talented Management Team that will work with the Town and, through that collaboration ,will be responsible for shaping and implementing immediate, short-term and long-term plans for operation, preservation and maintenance of the Properties. This includes, in the near-term, the proposed establishment of a museum using the original Stanton Inn facilities, “Indian Room” and “George Washington’s Cabinet Room.” Moving forward, FOGSI will remain a community organization that will seek grassroots input from the public and will welcome talented, committed people to join its ranks and work toward the realization of these collaborative plans.

Our current Management Team consists of ~25 talented and committed people. Those with particular expertise and experience important to this effort include
Architect                                 Engineer                      Accounting Professor/Trust Officer (ret.)
Writers/Editors                       Historians                    College History Professor
Landscape Designer                RI Attorney                  Real Estate Professionals
Former Town Manager          Trust Officer (ret)       Former Town Council Member (NY)

IV.  Conclusions


The Town’s acquisition of the Properties provides it with an opportunity to preserve a unique historic building and insure that it will be available to serve the citizens of Charlestown for years to come. Preserving and re-purposing these unique, centrally located and historically significant Properties not only link Charlestown’s current and future citizens to its historic beginnings, they provide an asset that can become an integral part of the Town and its evolving village center.  We believe this is a rare opportunity that, properly managed, can and will provide enduring strategic, educational, economic and cultural benefits to Charlestown.