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After Medal of Honor museum debacle, Patriots Point has new rules for nonprofits

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Patriots Point has established new financial requirements and other rules for nonprofit groups that want to lease any of its land. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

With one museum plan scrapped and another bobbing on the horizon, Patriots Point has established new ground rules for nonprofit groups that want to lease its land. 

"We think we need to be cautious," Wayne Adams, vice chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority board said after the rules were approved unanimously Friday. 

The change was informed, in large part, by the state agency's experience with the foundation that's raising money to build a National Medal of Honor Museum.

The roughly $100 million project was to be built on a waterfront parcel on state-owned Patriots Point. But the deal, which was in the planning stages for more than six years, unraveled in late 2018 after the nonprofit group that was leading the effort announced it was looking at alternative locations around the country. 

Patriots Point terminated its $1-a-year land lease in December. 

Under the new rules adopted Friday, organizations will be expected to have at least $1 million in cash and an "independently vetted and verified" business plan before entering into a real estate agreement with Patriots Point. 

Then, before breaking ground, the nonprofit would need to have at least 75 percent of construction costs in cash, plus proof that the organization is financially capable of completing the work and funding at least three years of operations. 

The resolution also gives the development authority oversight on master plans and business designs. Any zoning changes would have to be approved within two years from when the State Fiscal Accountability Authority OKs a lease.  

Another requirement calls for a "schedule for regular communication" with Mount Pleasant planning staffers and elected officials. The nonprofit would be expected to file reports with Patriots Point about its communications with the town at least quarterly. That was lacking with the previous Medal of Honor organizers, Adams said.

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"They really didn't communicate with the town before they started going through the process of trying to get approvals," he said. 

The rules were adopted as a new group seeks to build a museum highlighting the Medal of Honor at Patriots Point with a mix of private and public funds. The nonprofit behind what will likely be named the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center is presenting its plans aboard the Yorktown aircraft carrier Monday night. 

This latest effort is being led by Thomas McQueeney, who recently resigned from the Patriots Point Development Authority, and retired Maj. Gen. James Livingston, a Mount Pleasant resident and Medal of Honor recipient. Livingston also was a key leader of the first museum proposal before leaving that foundation's board of directors in early 2017.

McQueeney has said that building the estimated $45 million project at Patriots Point, particularly on the same waterfront parcel as the first proposed museum, would be "ideal," but his group has no formal relationship with the development authority at this time. 

The new rules will apply to his organization, as well as any other nonprofit that wants to lease land at the state-owned visitor attraction. The agency is responsible for 450 acres of real estate and other property in Mount Pleasant. 

Adams said the goal is to ensure organizations know what their expectations are well in advance.  

"We wanted a guide to follow," he said. 

The foundation that proposed the first Medal of Honor museum at Patriots Point is still moving forward with its plans. CEO Joe Daniels recently announced that the national search had been narrowed to two cities: Denver and Arlington, Texas. A final decision will likely be made in September.

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

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