Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Things Look Bleak for Landmark Theatre: UPDATED



The Sun-Sentinel has more details of the proposed deed alteration for the Hollywood Playhouse, including this quote:
"The property can never support itself solely as a community theater," Richard Bergman, attorney for TransCapital Bank, said. "[The deed restriction] prevented our client from using the property at its highest and best use."
The only problem with this statement is that Mr. Bergman is completely wrong; I won't go so far as to call him a liar, although it's tempting.

There is no reason that  a community theatre could not flourish on the site; the Playhouse did exactly that for decades.  Lake Worth Playhouse and Delray Beach Playhouse are both going strong.

Hollywood Playhouse really ran into problems only when it attempted to leave its community status behind to become a professional theatre company.  Running a professional company is expensive, with all those people needing to be paid.  But community theatre has only a fraction of those costs; after all, they don't pay the performers.  Most community theatres have minimal paid staff, relying on volunteers for the bulk of the labor.

And the Playhouse only sold the property when one of its board members - coincidentally a developer  - offered to purchase the property from them, re-develop it to include new facilities they could lease at a low price, and add residential component to cover costs for the project.

Interestingly, the deed restriction did not make it onto that copy of the deed, and a year or so later the board - including said developer - voted to close down.  Was there hanky-panky involved in that oversight?  Was it part of a plot to steal the property at a fraction of its value?  

Fortunately, another board member discovered that the deed was flawed, and got it fixed, otherwise the Playhouse would be long gone.  Since no one could find any record of any legal action that would have been necessary to remove the deed restriction, the deed was corrected, the Playhouse remained, and a certain developer ground his greedy teeth and smiled, claiming he was glad that the record was set straight.

Of course, none of that matters if the city votes to remove the restriction; one of the few venues suitable for community theatre productions available in Broward County will be erased, and the citizens of South Florida will be robbed of the legacy that was intended for them.Via Facebook, from Rene Barrett:

To Friends of Hollywood Playhouse:

We have taken the time to speak to Mayoral Candidate Cliff Germano, to City Commissioners and with the Chairman of TransCapital Bank. The bottom line is this: If the Hollywood City Commission approves the agreement document as written, a purchaser of that property has the flexibility to tear down that building. Non-exclusive use means that they can build anything on that property, as long as there is a community room for public use.

“WHEREAS, the Declaration will provide for the following:
  1. In addition to any lawful use of the Property, the Property will retain its law non-conforming use as a place of public gathering;
  2. The Property may be used on a non-exclusive basis as a Community theater;”

Notice that it says “may” be used as a community theater. In short, the City is ceding all use of that property to the buyer. The City has retained the right to access that community room five times per year for five years and then gives up all future rights to that property.

If you want the Hollywood Playhouse building to survive, and for Hollywood to continue to have a “Little Theatre”, now is the time to show up at the city commission meeting Wednesday at 1:00 PM and speak up, or write to the City Commissioners:

bfurr@hollywoodfl.org; hosheehan@hollywoodfl.org; passeff@hollywoodfl.org; rblattner@hollywoodfl.org; frusso@hollywoodfl.org; lsherwood@hollywoodfl.org; pbober@hollywoodfl.org

Four Commissioners have spoken in favor of keeping the City involved with the Hollywood Playhouse. They are Beam Furr, Patty Asseff, Fran Russo and Linda Sherwood. These Commissioners have been unable to commit to an alternative plan and have failed to move the Commission to authorize anyone to develop a plan to save the theater.

As a result, your trust has been violated by a minority of this Commission in back-room dealing This deal is not just a violation of the public trust in an attempt to divest the city of a resource, this is a violation of the Sunshine Laws (IMHO). At the last Commission meeting on July 18, 2012, Mayor Bober asserted that there is litigation and therefore the City Commission is not answerable to the public for its policies and negotiations regarding this property. This proposed agreement is the product of negotiation, not litigation. It also appears that this proposal is a product of Hollywood’s City Attorney and NOT TransCapital, pursuant to my conversation with the chairman. That statement by Mayor Bober was a public statement of disregard for the spirit and letter of the Sunshine Law.
Cc: Mayor & City Commissioners
We can only hope that the City will do the right thing, and not reward the skullduggery of the last decade or so.

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