Smithfield OKs 30-year lease of Windsor Castle Park

Published 1:36 pm Wednesday, January 11, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Smithfield Town Council voted unanimously last week to enter into a commercial lease agreement with Historic Windsor Castle Restoration, a limited liability company formed by Windsor Castle Park Foundation and Smithfield Foods to oversee the rehabilitation of Windsor Castle Farm and be eligible for historic tax credits from the state.

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The lease is for 30 years, and the LLC will pay a rent of $100 annually to the town. The agreement will not be for the entire park, but for the 46.18 acres including the manor house and outbuildings, which had once been owned by Smithfield founder Arthur Smith IV as early as 1750, and are slated for restoration.

The lease, officially approved by the council Jan. 3, also states that the LLC, or “Tenant” of the property, shall “complete the rehabilitation of the Property on or before Dec. 31, 2019,” though that date is subject to extension, if necessary. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

A draft of the lease was first proposed to the town at a Nov. 1 public hearing and then tabled by Town Council to its December meeting, and then deferred again.

A notable addition to the document since then regarding the “purpose” of the lease is that the town, referred to as “Landlord,” “specifically reserves the right to coordinate and manage events upon the premises during the term of this lease.”

At a press conference held the night before the Town Council meeting, Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Amy Musick said that she will continue to manage the popular public park.

“I’ll still have management of the property under my title as Parks and Recreation Director,” said Musick. “Nobody’s ever told me to stop renting the site for events, so I’m assuming management will continue on through this LLC process.”

Because Town Council already held a public hearing about the proposed lease agreement with Historic Windsor Castle Restoration back in November, it was not legally required to hold another, even if significant changes to the lease were made since the initial public hearing, according to Town Attorney Bill Riddick.

Riddick had said during a Town Council committee meeting Nov. 29 that the lease between the two entities would be ready to sign and approve by February.

Asked why the date had been moved up to the Tuesday, Jan. 3 Town Council meeting, Riddick said that Sue Ivy, president of Windsor Castle Park Foundation and the non-voting manager of Historic Windsor Castle Restoration, had signed the lease earlier that evening.

Prior to the vote on the lease, Council member Dr. Milton Cook, who is also a member of the Foundation and the LLC, gave a detailed presentation about the restoration project, and said the LLC has an asbestos abatement contractor coming to look at the manor house, caretaker’s house and farm office, which all suffer from moisture issues, and that the lease needed to be agreed upon soon.

While a copy of the lease was not available in the agenda packet posted online for the Town Council meeting, Riddick said the item fell under the “old business” category, which stated “Update on Windsor Castle Restoration Project.”

While the lease was approved, Riddick said it could still be subject to change.

A few weeks ago, Historic Windsor Castle Restoration announced that Smithfield VA Events, a private corporation run by Town Council member Randy Pack that is pending nonprofit status, would donate funds to pay for the construction of two new barns and the renovation of the interior of the caretaker’s house on the property, in exchange for storage and office space in the facilities.

Both Cook and Pack had said at the time that the arrangement did not require Town Council approval, as both entities are private organizations. However, the lease states that the LLC “will not assign this lease, or sublet or permit any other person to occupy part or all of the Premises, without the Landlord’s prior written consent,” the Landlord, in this case, being the town.

Riddick has said that the town will retain complete control over the public property, and that the only reason it is leasing it to Historic Windsor Castle Restoration is so that the LLC can be eligible for state historic tax credits. The 30-year term of the lease was the legal advice of outside tax counsel who helped to put the lease together, according to Riddick. Once the rehabilitation work is completed, the LLC will dissolve.  {/mprestriction}