The Patriots Point Development Authority voted Friday to terminate its lease with the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, ending a lease relationship in place since 2013 and closing a chapter in a years-long effort to build a Medal of Honor Museum in Mount Pleasant.
"It is with some regret that we have been placed with this decision," said Ray Chandler, chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority's board, before members voted Friday afternoon.
All board members voted to approve a resolution terminating the lease, except for Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie, also a Patriots Point Development Authority board member, who abstained.
Haynie said he wanted to make it clear that the termination of the lease was a "stewardship decision" made by the board, separate from the interactions between the foundation and the town of Mount Pleasant.
“Patriots Point has been an unrelenting ally of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation’s in every aspect of its endeavor, to include assisting and advancing the lease through the state of South Carolina,” Chandler said after the vote was taken.
The board has also requested that the foundation immediately return the funds it received from the state of South Carolina for the development of a museum at Patriots Point.
The termination of the lease follows the foundation's decision to search for other museum locations. In October, the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation board voted to start a national search for the "optimal location for the museum."
When a possible search was first announced the month before, foundation CEO Joe Daniels cited "headwinds" the group had faced in obtaining the necessary design approvals for the museum. In January, Mount Pleasant's Planning Commission unanimously rejected the museum's design based on its height.
The museum plans, which were designed by architect Moshe Safdie, originally called for a 140-foot structure, though later revised designs showed a maximum height of 99 feet.
Over the summer, the foundation organized three public meetings with community members to discuss and display design options, but a final design was not submitted to Town Council for approval.
Daniels has said that the group is considering larger potential markets for the museum, including San Diego, New York and Washington, D.C. The group is still exploring sites across the U.S., Daniels said Friday.
“If the time comes that the board votes to relocate outside of South Carolina, we will of course return the very generous $5 million that has been contributed by the state," Daniels said.
The lease agreement, which was initiated on July 1, 2013, gave the foundation use of land at Patriots Point for $1 a year. After a Nov. 30 deadline in the lease agreement was unfulfilled, the opportunity opened up for either the Patriots Point Development Authority or the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation to terminate their lease agreement.
In its resolution, the Patriots Point board also referenced the foundation's ability to raise the funds needed to build the museum, which is projected to cost about $100 million.
The document states that Patriots Point has "seen no indication that the foundation has in the past or will in the future develop the organization, employ the national professional fundraising consultants or engage the national board capable of raising the funds to build and operate the museum."
In response, Daniels said that the foundation believes its "deeply experienced team and its growing national board of directors" will see the project through. Earlier this week, the foundation announced the addition of three new board members, including a Medal of Honor recipient.
While the future of a land-based Medal of Honor Museum remains unknown, the museum on the aircraft carrier Yorktown which honors Medal of Honor recipients will stay, and the Medal of Honor Society, comprised of Medal of Honor recipients, will continue to have its headquarters at Patriots Point, Chandler said.
The resolution also leaves room to work with the foundation again if, after its search, the group wants to revisit the idea of building at Patriots Point. The board asks that the foundation raise “significant funds towards building the museum” before re-entering into negotiations with Patriots Point.
Haynie said that Councilman Tom O’Rourke and Councilwoman Kathy Landing will continue to act as liaisons between Mount Pleasant and Patriots Point to discuss next steps. Haynie said they are “not closing the door” on the possibility of seeing a Medal of Honor Museum built in Mount Pleasant.