BCMC: Brown County Music Center (Maple Leaf): For the Record

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong” –  economist Thomas Sowell.

The Maple Leaf Music Venue and Performing Arts Center (now called the Brown County Music Center (BCMC) is to be a Brown County, IN government-owned and managed venue.  It is a 12.5 million dollar facility that is funded by revenue from the Brown County Innkeepers Tax.

The intent of the documentation (this post) is to keep track of the evolution and impact of the project over time and compare the expected results with the actual.

More Current Events

Dec 21, 2022. A huge opportunity’: Funds awarded to support new radio systems for local fire departments will help fund new radio systems, BCD, by Corbin Palmer. Topics: Save Your Seat Program and BCMC Admin Agreement (see below) on money transferred to the Foundation

2021 Audited Financial ReportsBlue and Company, LLC.

    • Summary – Members of the Board : Brown County Maple Leaf Management Group ML
    • Financial Statements and Supplementary Information: Brown County Maple Leaf Management Group FS
      • In 2021, the venue received  55% of its revenue from the federal government through the Shuttered Venue Operations Grant. They received  $2,126,846 in 2021 and likely another 601,837 in 2022.  They also received a low interest loan (paycheck protection program) of $89,177 that may be forgiven.
      • In 2021, the county also provided a 238K subsidy – some of which was for rent.

Music Center Financial Reports – 2019, 2020, 2021

Misc: “Save your Seat” (established 2019) is a program where you pay $600  a year for a particular seat in the venue. You still have to pay the ticket price for the show but “SYS “ gives you first right of refusal. If you choose to not buy the tickets for a particular show, the seat goes back into the general sales pool.  The $600.00 payment is done through a pass-through account at the BC Community Foundation and patrons may be (?) claiming a tax deduction. (Ref: Kevin Ault, email, Facebook).   BC Chatter FB Music Center Seats and Donations

Apr 20, 2022. First Amendment to Administrative Agreement
BCMC First Amendment to Administration Agreement

Feb 15, 2022Cancellation confirmation: Brown County Music Center continues to look towards busy season despite losing Willie Nelson show By  Suzannah Couch

    • Last year, an amendment to the music center’s administration agreement was approved to change how the $1 million capital improvement fund could be spent. Originally that fund was to be set aside for major building repairs and had to be at $1 million before profit from the music center could be split between the county and the Brown County Community Foundation.
    • The administration agreement states that once the capital improvement fund was at $1 million, remaining profits would be split 25/75 between the county and BCCF with the foundation receiving 75 percent. No money has been given to the county or the foundation yet under that agreement, which is separate from the payments made to the county in lieu of property taxes.
    • The amendment now allows the music center to also spend the $1 million capital improvement fund on operating losses from show cancellations or the venue having to close its doors again, like what happened when the pandemic first started here.
    • BCMC Administration Agreement 05.16.2018
      • Amendment: Pending RFI
    • Federal taxpayer subsidy: $2.737 million. County taxpayers funded a $239K subsidy some of which included rent.
    • $54,000 payment for propoerty taxes?

Dec 8, 2021. Commissioner Meeting.   

    • o. The BCMC received $2,737,682 in grant money via federal taxpayers. This allowed them to get caught up with the mortgage payments (principal payments delayed during Covid).
    • o. They also made an annual payment in lieu of property taxes of $54,000 that will be deposited in the Rainy-Day Fund.
    • o. The BCMC “project” received an award (trophy) from a builder association.
    • o. Commissioners approved changes to the Administrative Agreement that required that $1 million be set aside for capital improvements. In addition to infrastructure, this fund can now be used to cover operating costs and reimbursements from advanced ticket sales.
    • o. BCMC Board projects future profits that could be around $200,000 – 75% of this will be given to the Community Foundation (that had no proverbial skin in the game) and 25% to the county.
    • o. Revenue from the innkeepers’ tax has exceeded 1 million – a record. (I believe the majority of this tax is collected from tourist rentals which were popular during Covid.)
    • o. The belief is that the BCMC will be profitable far into the future. Commissioners expressed pride in their decision-making and overcoming the “naysayers.”
I always chuckle when I hear the “dreaded” Brown County “N” word – “naysayer.” In this context, appears a naysayer was anyone that asked a question to include an explanation as to why the commissioner and council refused to have any public meetings allowing for citizen input on this project.
    • Commissioners and council also chose not to contract for an independent and objective feasibility study that would have assessed the risks to the taxpayers to include how the revenue from the innkeepers’ tax was to be managed.
    • The leaders of this project including innkeepers benefitted indirectly from this project (more heads in beds) with no risk. In the past, the CVB received the majority of the innkeepers’ revenue and expected the continuation of funding.
    • Further, overseeing and managing a music venue is not a core government function – thus the need to get educated on government responsibilities and related risks on behalf of the citizens.
    • The only commissioner and council meetings were to approve the project at which they listened to and did not address questions from the public. Note that the county did provide a subsidy to the BCMC for at least $239K – some of which was to cover rental payments for county meetings – no itemized detail was provided.
    • Overall regarding the project, good to hear the optimism and expectations that they are still committed to the pledge not to ask for a taxpayer bailout if this venue is not successful in the long term. Overall, do the ends (expected results) justify the means (a fast-tracked process that avoided public input)?

Nov 26, 2021. 2022_11_23 Admin Agreement 1st Amendment signed

Aug 25. 2021BCMC Management and Oversight – Tim Clark, Indep Voters

Aug 12, 2021. Music center, Playhouse get nearly $2M in relief funding By  –

  • Brown County Democrat
  • Brown County Matters
    • The Tourism Industry including the CVB agreed that the priority for the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax would be the Music Center (Maple Leaf). They also acknowledged the worst-case being an economic crash but their plans did not include a mitigation strategy. They also pledged that no taxpayer money would be used to subsidize this venue.

Facebook Post of the article

Apr 13, 2021. Amazing facility’: Senator visits Brown County Music Center to learn about pandemic pivot  By

    • “It is for tourists, by tourists, Biddle said.”
    • o. Commissioners and council (all but one a member of the Republican Party), voted to approve this venue. They chose not to conduct an independent and objective assessment to support their decision on behalf of the taxpayers.
    • o. The “privately-owned “ Little Oprey burned down in 2009. The “private sector” declined to re-build a venue.
    • o. The state is funded primarily by income tax and “sales tax.” Tourism generates revenue from sales tax which is why the state subsidizes the tourism industry through an innkeepers tax. With Covid, federal taxpayers are now supporting subsidies.
    • o. Revenue from the innkeepers’ tax is used to promote more tourism. In the case of Brown County, the revenue from the tax was used as collateral to build a “government-owned” $12.5 million dollar venue “and” to continue to market tourism.
    • o. The county is funded by income and property tax. County taxpayers fund the infrastructure costs that support the tourism industry in Brown County. Nashville has had the lowest increase in property tax assessments in the county. Regarding “rent,” no detail was provided in the invoice (MOU) for the $239K that identified specifically what was provided, when, and for whom.
    • o. Brown County Matters was started by the Admins as a result of the elected and appointed office “fast-tracking” this project without performing their due diligence and addressing citizens’ questions and concerns.

Feb 4, 2021. BCM Announcement of the Council Meeting on Feb 15.

  • On the Music Center website under FAQs, it has been reinforced that: “The project has been funded through a loan secured with the State Bank of Lizton, using the Innkeepers Tax as collateral. Should things come to the very worst the community will not suffer the weight of the loan, the property will be in the hands of the bank.”
  • Revenue – Innkeepers Tax (Auditors Office).
    • 2017: $829,687.66
    •  2018: $865,890.34
    • 2019: $891,179.53
    •  2020: 821,438.58
  •  Interest only monthly payment: $37,000 per month, $444,000 due on 2021.
  • Treasurer – Andrea Bond: “All innkeepers tax is paid to the Treasurer’s office. We receive payments from individual innkeepers and from the state on behalf of innkeepers that use online rental companies for example Air BnB. The state and individual innkeepers send these payments to use on a monthly basis. We keep record of those payments in a spreadsheet. The amount that is paid by each individual innkeeper is not public record. When we received the payment it is then receipted in and the Auditor’s office puts it into the fund. I hope that explanation was helpful, if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact me.”

Feb 21, 2020CARES Act money flows to music center; venue planning for shows By

  • BCM Facebook Post of the article:  Good summary. The issues have been discussed on Matters. Music Center profitability for 2021 is based on the assumption that we will be returning back to normal – pre-Covid. If further subsidies are needed, will it be coming from the taxpayers, the available revenue from the innkeepers tax, other?
  • Ault said the innkeepers tax has been used to pay the mortgage payments on the music center mortgage. The venue will be required to pay interest only until the end of 2021, which is about $37,000 a month.

Feb 17, 2021. Letter: BCD. GUEST OPINION: What’s been happening with your county’s finances by Kevin Fleming.

  • Includes the details regarding the lack of transparency and oversight of Commissioner Biddle’s actions regarding the $239,000 “Rent” payment to the BCMC.  Commissioner Biddle also serves on the Music Center’s management group.

Jan 26, 2021. BCM FB Post: Maple Leaf (Music Center) Mgmt Group Meeting.  2:30. Zoom.

  • o. With the $239K subsidy from the county taxpayers to rent space for government meetings, the Music Center will be showing a “profit” of around $76K for 2020. (On rent, no detail as to the specific charges (who, what, when, length of meeting, et.al).
  • o. On projected revenue and profit for 2021, the “assumption” is that things will be back to normal – no restrictions on seating capacity. Another “assumption” is that there will be few requests for refunds of advance ticket sales due to Covid related fears. (Requests for refunds can be made within 30 days of a scheduled show.)
  • o. Revenue from the Innkeepers Tax. Revenue was over 900K this year – about half (?) of which went to the mortgage interest. Not clear how much if any went to operating expenses. The balance of the revenue went to the CVB to market tourism. I have not heard any discussion on re-looking the need for the CVB –given the Music Center, appears now to be a redundant function. Why can’t the Music Center staff handle the marketing?
  • o. Discussion included supporting legislation to increase the county innkeepers tax from 5%. A good idea.
  • o. On the economy, is there a higher risk of an economic downturn in 2021. The So what? How much taxpayer funding will elected officials be prepared to provide in subsidies to the Music Center and Tourism Industry? Will taxpayers and other business groups expect a subsidy as well?
  • o. Regarding support for the venue, elected officials and the Tourism Industry represented by the CVC/CVB acknowledged the risks and made a commitment to the county taxpayers that tax dollars would NOT be needed or would be used to subsidize the Music Center – that the revenue from the innkeepers tax would be sufficient. Was this commitment honored in 2020? Will it be honored in 2021? Is there a new (documented?) policy? Are further county “loans” going to be an option?
  • o. Financial Reports. Blue and Company is the CPA firm providing the audited reports. They are also used by the CVB. Not aware of any links to the financial reports.
  • o. Attendees: Maple Leaf Management Group: Barry Herring, Kevin Ault, Jim Schultz, Bruce Gould (VB rep), Dianna Biddle (Commissioner Rep), Darren Byrd (Council Rep). Music Center Employees: Christian Webb (Director), Andi Hanlon, Jeff Overton (Comptroller). Bank Rep – Greg Zusan.

Jan 23, 2021. Music Center and Bernie Sanders. F Evdentsacebook Post.  Irony – Sanders labeled a Democrat/Progressive/Socialist in sync with a taxpayer subsidy for a project supported and endorsed by the local Republican Party.

  • A little ironic. Music Center just received $239K of taxpayer money for “rent” – no specific detail was requested by elected officials as to what was provided, to whom, how often, and for how long. The funds used were from the reimbursement to the county for the extra expenses associated with Covid. Acting President of the Commissioners, Diana Biddle, developed the contracts (Memorandums of Understandings) without a vote by the other commissioners claiming an “emergency” situation. The council was only notified of these contracts at their Dec meeting and passed with no debate at their Jan meeting. Council did listen to citizens’ concerns regarding the payment, Music Center finances, likely future subsidies, and lack of oversight by the council.

Jan 19, 2021County Council approved 239K subsidy using CARES funds.

Jan 13, 2021.  Financial picture changes for Brown County Music Center By Suzannah Couch .

Jan 5, 2021 First round of CARES Act funding transfers approved by Suzannah Couch. The Brown County Council approved moving more than $50,000 in CARES Act funding on Dec. 28 to help cover payroll costs related to responding…

Jan 5, 2021Music center receiving part of CARES Act funding  by Suzannah Couch – Money for the Brown County Music Center from the CARES Act comes at a time when it is needed the most. In December, management group…

  • In December, management group board members said repeatedly in public meetings that the venue is “hemorrhaging” money. No shows can take place due to COVID-19 restrictions, and income possibilities remain limited.
  • “… the Brown County Music Center is set to receive $239,000 of the $494,000 per a memorandum of understanding between the county and the music center.”
  • BCM Facebook Post

The name was changed to Brown County Music Center (BCMC) in March 2019.

  • Website: Brown County Music Center – Marketing Perspective
  • History of the Project – Key Dates: Fast Track Process – Project was approved by Commissioners and Council without public meetings to address citizens concerns with the type, size, location and scope of this project or to discuss other investment options.
  • Tourism: Facts, Assumptions, Myths. The economic benefits of tourism in Nashville and Brown County have historically been overstated. The county is funded by income and property tax.

Background Information. The complete business plan for this government-owned and managed venue appears to be a work in process. Current efforts (July 2018) identified a need for a strategic plan.

Nov 5, 2020BCM Facebook Post – Loans and Subsidies

 Oct 22, 2020. BCM – Music Center – Taxpayer Subsidy – $239K

 July 13, 2020. Council Meeting. Music Center will be used for government meetings.

Jun 18, 2020.  BCMC – FAQs. 

  • BCMC FAQs 20200618
  • “How is the project funded? The project has been funded through a loan secured with the State Bank of Lizton, using the Innkeepers Tax as collateral. Should things come to the very worst the community will not suffer the weight of the loan, the property will be in the hands of the bank.

July 2, 2020BUSINESS BRIEFS: Home Helpers moving; music center staff’s pay cuts

June 4, 2020. Music center trying to budget amid virus uncertainty Suzannah Couch – Concerts all over the country that were scheduled for this year are continuing to find new homes in next year’s calendar, as restrictions remain…

Jun 2, 2020.  BCD. Music center trying to budget amid virus uncertainty By Suzannah Couch
  • The biggest challenge in rescheduling is figuring out how to convert 2020 shows to a new date or multiple dates — especially when those shows were sold out, as patrons won’t be able to be as close together as they were before COVID.
  • The music venue also received a $150,000 loan from Brown County’s motor vehicle highway fund. That money will be used to pay interest-only mortgage payments on the building for April, May, June and July, said county commissioner and management group member Diana Biddle on May 26.

April 28, 2020. I non-concur with Sherrie Mitchell regarding the debt.

Apr 22, 2020. Democrat. County approves additional funding for music center By Suzannah Couch
  • Last week, the Brown County Council approved a resolution that will transfer up to $150,000 from the county’s motor vehicle highway fund to a special line in the county’s general fund. That money will be used to pay interest-only mortgage payments on the 2,000-seat venue for the next three months.
  • Herring said the funding from the county will help the venue get through the next three months. “It’s our hope that the venue will be at least somewhat operational during and beyond that point, but we will have to take a ‘wait and see’ approach at that time,” he said.

Apr 22, 2020. Democrat. Came to a screeching halt’: Local entertainment venues try to navigate pandemic  By Suzannah Couch

  • Effect on private-sector venues.
  • Three other entertainment venues also are dealing with silence and emptiness, all while paying to keep the lights on … The Brown County Playhouse, Bill Monroe’s Music Park, Mike’s Dance Barn

Apr 22, 2020.  Indep Voters, Music Center’s Sustainability and Future By Tim J. Clark

Apr 21, 2029. BCM Facebook Post. Councilman Darren Byrd, who is also a member of the Maple Leaf (Musci Center) Management Committee.

  •  “This (150K) was an emergency loan to make the interest-only payments. It wasn’t done because of an obligation; just to mitigate a disaster. As with any mortgage, default
  • County taxpayers not legally obligated to pay the mortgage?
  • The Nashville Town Council approved an adjusted bill at their March 5 meeting. The total amount is now $6,195. It was originally $12,695. As a compromise, a $6,500 charge for extra contract labor to get the music center connected to town utilities was removed from the bill, which cut it nearly in half.

Mar 13, 2020. FB – Brown County Matters.  Impact of the COVID-19 Virus.  The worst-case scenario was discussed prior to the county council approving this project.

  • The worse case was discussed at the council meeting prior to their quick approval of the project e.g., the risk being an economic crash that would reduce the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax. Dave Critser (President of the council at the time) stated that if this happened, they would default and turn it over to the bank and start collecting property tax. The council stated that the taxpayers would not bail out the project. Sherrie Mitchell then called the bank and talked to the President. – he reinforced the effect of a default on our credit rating and I believe this may have led to a tweak in the agreement. I asked an attorney from Barnes and Thornburg if the council’s commitment to “no bailout” could be put in writing – he said no.
  • Brown County Music Center – Initial Cancellations

Mar 3, 2020. Democrat.  Music center and innkeepers tax updates shared with public By Suzannah Couch

  • The CVB has been operating on a line of credit since October due to not receiving innkeepers tax from the CVC. … “We’ve been on our line of credit since October. We’re paying interest when there’s money sitting in the innkeepers tax fund, and we’re not getting it. I’m trying to somehow get a handle on, how do we know when and how much we’re going to be getting?” 
  • At the Feb. 13 meeting, CVC member Derek Clifford asked if having Schultz, Kevin Ault and Barry Herring all on the CVC would create a problem if the board has to vote on music center issues. Schultz, Ault and Herring also serve on the music center’s management group.
  • “It does make sense then that there’s two entities that draw from the CVC money, and you’ve got the majority of a board also is on the board of one of those entities, but not the other,” CVB Board President Debbie Bartes added.
  • Clifford said that since the music center is a county-owned facility, it makes sense to have some people who are invested to be on the CVC and the management group, “to make sure that business succeeds so that it doesn’t tie into the true county funds and we’re able to uphold to the taxpayers of the county that we don’t use true taxpayer income or money to pay for it,” he said.

Feb 29, 2020.  The Republic.  A new Brown County trend: Concert center finds instant profitability, gives art colony economic lift  by Staff Reports

Feb 27, 2020. BCD. Town, music center reps wish to compromise on bill by Sara Clifford.  A series of communication missteps finally led to a roundtable meeting this morning between representativesof the Brown County Music Center and the Town… No decisions were made about the music center’s unpaid town utility bill of $12,695, as neither group had a quorum present.

Feb 11, 2020.  BCD Music center to upgrade sound system as more national acts are booked By Suzannah Couch

  • The music center has been renting sound equipment from Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville. But Ruoff will soon have shows starting back up soon, and Webb said they need their equipment back at the end of March.
  • An initial downpayment of $50,000 will be required to engage with Spectrum. The management group approved taking that money out of the venue’s operating fund.  .. . “Some of this has been a learning curve along the way. 

Jan 21, 2020.  BCD. Music center hires new executive director: Management group says venue on track to exceed ticket sale goals.  By Suzannah Couch.

  •  At the music venue’s Jan. 14 management group meeting, it was announced that former BCMC Executive Director Dana Beth Evans had resigned in early December. The management group had not met since November.
  • Evans submitted her resignation letter the week of Dec. 13. She had been executive director since Novemb3333er 2018. The 2,000-seat music venue opened in August last year with a sold-out Vince Gill show.   ….  No reason for why she was leaving was given in Evans’ letter of resignation. It stated, “I resign,” management group Co-President Kevin Ault said.
Oct 23, 2019.  Commissioner Meeting.   “For the Record”, the county is being reimbursed for expenses associated with the Music Center (metal detectors and possibly defibrillators). Per the commissioners (Biddle, Pittman, Anderson), there are no other expenses (including legal) that are being paid for by the county. Commissioners reiterated their verbal commitment that county tax dollars will not be used for Music Center expenses.

Oct 17, 2019. BCD.  COUNTY NEWS: Music center metal detector question;  Staff Reports

  • Resident Tim Clark questioned the Brown County Commissioners at their Sept. 19 meeting about who would ultimately pay the $8,000 it cost to get metal detectors for the Brown County Music Center.
  • Clark said that county officials had pledged early on that tax dollars would not be used to cover expenses related to the music center. “I’m holding you accountable, and if you’re going to change that policy, then announce it,” he said. …  I don’t think it’s actually changing policy. The sheriff is charged with the security for that building,” Biddle answered.

Sep 13, 2019. BCD. Bringing Nashville back to life’: Many businesses see boost from busy weekend of music events  By Suzannah Couch. Facebook Post

  • Back to life?

Sep 3, 2019BCM Facebook Post.  In the Maple Leaf Management Group’s meeting last week, it was stated that the county bought metal detectors for Brown County Music Center. Total bill was $8460. This came out of the cum cap development fund, security improvements. To Concerned, thanks.

  • Tim J. Clark Is Maple Leaf reimbursing the county for the expense? Commissioners have been adamant that county taxpayer funds would not be used to pay Maple Leaf expenses. The exception being the $30K the county spent on “our” share of legal expenses.

Aug 26, 2019. BCD.  PHOTOS: A bird’s eye view of downtown Saturday night. By Sarah Clifford.  …  We asked local aerial photographer Gary Huett to fly his drone around downtown Nashville to check out the traffic on Saturday night, the peak time for many activities taking place around the county.   … His videos and still shots, taken between 7 and 7:45 p.m., didn’t show anything notable about the traffic on the highway before the sold-out opening-night show by Vince Gill at the Brown County Music Center — not like some October weekends when it’s at a standstill.  Facebook post of the article 

  • What were the issues with the parking lot? Can it be paved? Is it smaller than needed? Is the overflow parking and shuttles a permanent solution?

Aug 20, 2019.  GUEST OPINION: ‘Let the shows begin’ at Brown County Music Center By Bruce Gould. This is your building, and everybody can take pride in what has been accomplished for our community and be hopeful for the many benefits it will bring us all for many years to come. 

Aug 20, 2019.  BCD, Look what we did’: Community gathers to celebrate ribbon-cutting By

  • The Brown County Music Center is government-owned. The State Bank of Lizton loaned the county $12.5 million to build it and buy the land it sits on from Snyder Farm.
  • At the ribbon cutting, Herring announced that construction came in $32 under budget.
  • “Being a commercial developer, that never happens. If you put a roof on your house, you’ve got change orders, unbelievable accomplishment. I can’t thank you enough,” Herring said to construction chair Jim Schultz during his recognition of volunteers. He said without Schultz’s 40 years of construction experience, the building could not have happened. Schultz was on site nearly every day, working alongside general contractor Brandt Construction.
  • How many of the 10 elected officials that voted to fast-track this project are in the pictures?
  • May 22, 2019. BCD,   GUEST OPINION: Time will tell what music center’s impact will be by Tim Clark .  I have found the series of guest columns by Bruce Gould promoting the Brown County Music Center (BCMC) to be interesting but with a tendency to overstate the economic and cultural impacts of this venue. The last column also includes mischaracterizations regarding the history of this project.  Facebook Post and Comments on the Article
  • Brown County Democrat
  • Brown County Matters 

May 21, 2019. Brown County Council – Ticket Tax Resolution. The council passed the needed resolution to start collecting the $1.00 ticket tax for BCMC (Maple Leaf). Revenue from the tax can only be spent in support of the venue and in four areas: retiring debt, paying lease rentals, infrastructure, capital repairs, and maintenance.  ….

June 26, 2019. Draw 15 Hard and Soft Costs – See pg 5 and 6

April 17, 2019. Line of Credit. Copies of the executed loan docs for the $200,000 revolving line of credit.   I have debited the line of credit has been debited to pay the Banks attorney fee, title company, and bank fees.

Apr 2, 2019. GUEST OPINION: Grand-opening plans for Brown County Music Center

Mar 21, 2019 GUEST OPINION: Interest growing in Brown County Music Center

PHASE III — Final Phase of Construction – Operations

April 26, 2019. WFIU Indiana Public Media  “NoonEdition” – Radio Interview … Suggest take some notes when listening and compare to the “Record” (information contained in this post).

  • Guests: Dana Beth Evans, Executive Director of the Brown County Music Center;  Chuck Wills, Vice President of the Nashville Arts and Entertainment Commission; Nancy Crocker (tourism-related business owner), Nashville Town Council member
  •  On economic development claims, see Tourism: Facts, Assumptions, Myths
  • Brown County Matters – Facebook Post by Tim J. Clark on the information presented in the broadcast
    • Tourism is touted as a key industry for the town of Nashville and the County. The facts:
      • Nashville has the highest poverty-related rate in the county, is the only area in the county where assessed property values have not increased, and tourism-related jobs pay the lowest average yearly wage ($19-22K) in the region.
      • Revenue from tourists was estimated at $47 million. Revenue from county citizens is estimated at $260 million (reported income on state tax returns to $359 million (federal AGI). Despite this fact (county citizens paying the majority of local taxes), county commissioners and council refused to hold public meetings to ask for citizens input on the desirability and feasibility of this project or to consider other investment options.

Apr 15, 2019. Brown County’s new 2,000-seat venue announces big shows, 10 years after the Opry burned

Statements – Executive Director – Mary Beth Evans:

  • “Right now, we’re just trying to find our feet and figure out what’s going to go over here,” said Evans, who’s originally from Irvington, Kentucky, and has held leadership positions at several venues  …”
  • Past Comments by Mary Beth Evans regarding target market: – Nov 20, 2018 article BCD Built from the ground up: Executive excited to build new destination.
    • You also have to be realistic that it’s a 2,000-seat venue and the concerts that go to the stadiums, the Jason Aldeans, the Garth Brooks and the Taylor Swifts aren’t coming to here. Everybody needs to get that expectation and understand those are big arena names. We are a small arena,” she said.
    • “We’re going to get people who are starting out or that are coming down. You might get that really big name that’s wanting to do small, intimate venues, but you can’t hang your hat on that all the time.”
    • She said the Maple Leaf could even be a sort of “launch pad” for up-and-coming artists. “That would be a great thing to be known for,” she said. 

PHASE II —  Management and Construction – Feb 27, 2018to Present

In addition to the coverage of Maple Leaf provided in the Brown County Democrat newspaper, I’ve also included links to the Brown County Democrat and Brown County Matters Facebook posts.

  • Mar 12, 2019. BCD, Maple Leaf music venue has new name, by Suzannah Couch, The Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center will now be known as the Brown County Music Center.
  • Feb 25, 2019. County Council approved the Maple Leaf Line of Credit of 200K, Commissioners approved the resolution on Feb 20, 2019. Copy below:
  • Feb 19, 2019Maple Leaf venue has new name — but not for long? The music venue coming to Brown County this summer has a new name, but it might not keep it. …  Changing the name from “Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center” to “Sundown at Salt Creek” was approved by a vote of 4 to 2 at the Maple Leaf Management Group meeting last week. … However, in an email Monday morning, venue Executive Director Dana Beth Evans said that “further discussions will be held to determine a name that better reflects our values and vision.”
  • Feb 12, 2019. Maple Leaf is growing: Venue work progressing; name change possible
    • Feb 12, 2019. BCD Facebook Post and comments
    • Over the winter, 620 people in Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville were surveyed to gauge their interest in the 2,000-seat music venue and Brown County, what they thought about the name “Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center,” and whether or not they’d stay the night here if they came to a show. 
      • Seventy percent said they would stay overnight in Brown County either before or after an event at the Maple Leaf. That’s music to the management group’s ears.
    • Herring said he liked the name, “Sundown at Salt Creek,” but he wished the group would have had this conversation six months ago.
    • At their meeting this month, the Brown County Council will be asked to approve a resolution allowing the Brown County Maple Leaf Building Corporation to enter into a line of credit agreement with the State Bank of Lizton. The line of credit is for $200,000. 
  • Jan 19, 2019. House Bill 1554. Rep. Chris May.
    • DIGEST Performing arts center admissions tax. Authorizes counties that: (1) have a population of less than 15,500; and (2) own an indoor performing arts center with a seating capacity of at least 2,000 patrons; to impose a $1 admissions tax upon admissions to the indoor performing arts center. Specifies how the revenue may be used. Permits the county to enter into an operating lease with the convention and visitors commission and a contract with a nonprofit organization to operate the indoor performing arts center.
  • Feb 12, 2019, TOWN NEWS: How to support Maple Leaf growth; U.S. Bicycle route; green initiatives
    • Kelso, whose background is in infrastructure development, wondered what the town could do to support the development of additional hotels if they are needed, such as better controlling the amount of rainwater that flows into the wastewater treatment plant when it doesn’t need to be treated. … If infrastructure planning can be done beforehand, the time it would take to develop new hotels or new restaurants could be cut down, Kelso said.
  • Jan 16, 2019. Brown County Matters – Facebook Post. Maple Leaf is well on it’s way to becoming a music venue — better transparency, likely matching grant from the Foundation, etc.
    • Suggestions.  A statement that there will be no taxpayer bailout and any excess profits revert to the county and not the Community Foundation.
  • Dec 31, 2018. BCD,  Top 10 stories of 2018.
    • BCD Facebook Post – Selecting Top Stories – 18 comments/votes
      • Number 3. Maple Leaf project progresses ….   Interesting take on the highlights.  Read the story, to include references and then look at the “rest of the story” below.  Example — see references to the concerns expressed by Bill Austin
  • Dec 18, 2018.  Letter: Maple Leaf participating in grant opportunity
    • The Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center is very excited to announce a $1 for $1 matching grant for money raised by the Maple Leaf between Oct. 1 2018 and Jan. 31, 2019. This grant is made possible by the Brown County Community Foundation along with the Howard Hughes Estate.
    • The Howard Hughes Estate will provide $25,000 with the remaining $12,500 granted by the Foundation for a total of $37,500. The goal is to assist the Maple Leaf in raising a total of $75,000 or more for construction costs.
  • Dec 11, 2018. Meeting Minutes Maple Leaf Mgmt Group
    • Strategic Plan completed.
    • The Board had previously approved a line of credit for the Maple Leaf.  That has now been approved and opened by the bank of Lizton for $200,000.
    • Currently raised $12,500 toward a $37,500 matching grant opportunity.  We have a 1 for 1 grant with the foundation and the Howard Hughes foundation and a 50 cents on the dollar Lilly grant.  These matches/donations will need to be pledged to the BCCF before the end of December.
  • Nov 23, 2018. BCM FacebookMaple Leaf – Financial Management. Response by co-president (Barry Herring) Maple Leaf Mgmt Group, regarding construction on interest payments.
  • Nov 20, 2018Built from the ground up: Executive excited to build new destination. ” She knows not everyone in the community is happy about the venue opening.” … “I’m listening to all sides of it and not forming an opinion because there’s three sides to every story. There’s your side, their side, and then somewhere in the middle is where you’ll find the truth. I’m being very open-minded and not getting input from anybody,” she said. 
  • You also have to be realistic that it’s a 2,000-seat venue and the concerts that go to the stadiums, the Jason Aldeans, the Garth Brooks and the Taylor Swifts aren’t coming to here. Everybody needs to get that expectation and understand those are big arena names. We are a small arena,” she said.
  • “We’re going to get people who are starting out or that are coming down. You might get that really big name that’s wanting to do small, intimate venues, but you can’t hang your hat on that all the time.”
  • She said the Maple Leaf could even be a sort of “launch pad” for up-and-coming artists. “That would be a great thing to be known for,” she said. 
  • Nov 20, 2018. BCD LETTER:  A referendum on Maple Leaf?  by Tim Clark Commissioner Biddle expressed a belief that her re-election included a referendum on the Maple Performing Arts Center. I believe this is a premature conclusion.
  • Nov 13, 2018. BCD. Maple Leaf lobby beams won’t be constructed by The Beamery.
    • The Beamery’s owner, David Watters, said he learned his company was no longer involved after that decision was made.  On Sept. 14, he said there was a lack of communication between his company and the Maple Leaf Management Group. He said his group was “diligently working on getting all the design engineering down to be able to provide the product that we were supposed to provide in a timely manner.
    • “I had pretty much put my designer full-time on the project to get it done, and all the sudden was told that we’re not doing it the day after they signed the contract with another supplier,” he said.
  • Nov 14, 2018. Maple Leaf and Amazon HQS – Facebook Post  – BCM.   Right when you think it can’t get any more interesting, a newly re-elected councilman and proponent of Maple Leaf compares the decision-making of the County commissioners and council in regards to Maple Leaf with that of the of officials from New York and Virginia regarding the concessions made to obtain the Amazon Hqs.  They got “raped” in his words. Read my response on the “Facts” (Press Release”) and make your own conclusions regarding the decision-making acumen of our county commissioners and council.
  • Nov 6, 2018.  Maple Leaf taking shape: Amid construction, contracts also being hammered out …  a survey that will be given in Indianapolis, Louisville and Cincinnati to asses the interest in the entertainment venue, naming options, and whether or not people would be likely to stay overnight in Brown County when visiting the Maple Leaf. The price for 600 completed surveys is $16,745.
  • Oct 26, 2018. Brown County Matters – Facebook Post. Speculation regarding any possible distribution of profits of 75% to the Community Foundation and 25% to Government.  Post by Sherrie Mitchell asking for input on the  plan
  • Oct 21, 2018. Brown County Matters – Facebook Post  Taxpayer funding and the role of government.  Should the revenue collected from your income and property taxes ever be used to support funding for the Playhouse or the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center?
  • Oct 20, 2018. Brown County Matters – Facebook Post – Maple Leaf –  construction (Beam issue) and governance – Maple Leaf Management Group – response from Barry Herring
  • Sept 26, 2018. Candidate questionnaire – Response by Darren Byrd (page 17) Brown County Council on the justification for approving Maple Leaf: ” Locally, we have been waiting for almost 10 years for the return of the Opry. We had a few circumstantial choices. 1: Publicly fund a private venture with your tax money. 2: Continue to wait with no end in sight. 3: Use local tax money to build a new place. 4: Step outside the norm and fund a resident-owned venue with funds that do not subject locals to any burden or risk, but actually benefit all of us with a return to economic activity, and returns excess profits to the county taxpayer. We chose 4.
    • At the candidate forum on Oct 3, 2018, Darry Byrd also stated that it was decided that excess profits will be donated to the Community Foundation (75%) and 25% would go to the county.  (1) Another candidate for council (Dave Redding) remarked that he would not rule out a loan for Maple Leaf using taxpayer money.  Note that commissioners  (Diana Biddle) and councilmen (Dave Critser, Darren Byrd) are on record of stating that no taxpayer money would be used to fund the project (with the exception of the 30K used to pay the “county’s share” of legal expenses.

(1) Regarding the 75/25 profit agreement: Facebook response from

  • “Darren Byrd: Tim J. Clark, it is part of the Administration Agreement between the Management Group, the Building Corp, the CVC, and the County. It was a result of the public negotiations between all of the groups and boards. There were two things that I and others insisted on; this would not be allowed to put local tax payers/residents on the hook in any way, AND that tax payers would receive benefits from it. That was my main requirement in order to even consider this. All funds will go to the Operations and Maintenance fund. After overhead and operations are covered, a Capital Improvement (buffer) fund must be maintained at $1M. All revenue after that will be divided between the Community Foundation and the County (tax payers.) This is in a written agreement and isn’t subject to future Council discretion. Council has already agreed and that was resolved in the Agreement. It can’t be reneged on. (Also, part of the operating costs is a Payment in Lieu of Taxes that will cover the Property Tax equivalent to the county. (ML will be paying property tax.)”
  • April 24, 2018,  BCD Residents question sharing music venue profits, Suzannah Couch Commissioner Jerry Pittman stood up to reiterate that the music center itself and the innkeepers tax are the only collateral for the project. “No matter what happens, taxpayers are not going to be on the hook for anything. If the thing goes belly-up, which I don’t think it’s going to, the bank owns it and they sell it. It goes back on the tax rolls,” he said.
  • August 22, 2018. Guest Opinion: Tim Clark. Maple Leaf: A Failing strategy? by Tim Clark, For “non-supporters” of Maple Leaf, the process used to fast-track this project can be characterized by deficiencies in three areas: Check and balances on power, due diligence and respect.
    •  Brown County Democrat – Facebook Responses to the article
      • My last post : “To summarize a key point, if private money was being used for this project, we would not be having this discussion.  When using money collected from taxes (aka tax money), you apply a different standard. Citizens (see Constitution) have the responsibility to ensure that projects will result in outcomes where everyone benefits or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term. Meeting this standard requires that you have public meetings and ask citizens for their input, ideas, and feedback. Since only the commissioners and council had the authority to approve the ML project, these meetings should have been conducted by the commissioners and council. Elected representatives “SERVE” the citizens. FACT is that despite assurances to the contrary, these public meetings NEVER took place – we were NOT served. A few individuals decided what was best for everyone and now expect to have community support for “their” project. Is the process applied to fast-track this project one that anyone should be proud of?”
    • The Facebook posts identified the need to identify and define terms.
  • August 18, 2018.  MAPLE LEAF BRIEFS: Entertainment tax; director search; naming rights; permit received
  • July 25, 2018. GUEST OPINION: Tim Clark. Maple LeafWill more money be a recurring theme? by Tim Clark.This project was sold as “too good to fail.” Let’s hope that’s true. The public and voters will determine if the decisions and process used to fast-track this project are in the best interests of all county citizens. 
  • July 17, 2018. Additional loan sought for Maple Leaf project Not long after the groundbreaking on July 10, the Maple Leaf Management Group voted to allow co-president Barry Herring to look for another $200,000 loan. That money would allow wooden beams made by local company The Beamery to be…
  • July 17, 2018New ‘leaf’ turned: Work begins on performing arts center Barry Herring stepped to the podium under the tent shading spectators from the sun. Programs were being used as fans against the summer heat.
  • June 27, 2018. Brown County Playhouse in need of financial help,  By Jeff Foster. My concern is that the taxpayer-backed Maple Leaf (and I hear Hard Truth Hills will soon boast its own amphitheater) will make it even more difficult for the Playhouse to thrive. …Compounding the problem is a general downtick in support for local live entertainment …Perhaps Brown County is so special it can buck the trend and attract plenty of ticket-buyers. One certainly hopes so. Still, it could be argued that spending millions on new, larger venues (or propping up older ones) is not prudent, as it ignores this cultural shift in people’s down-time habits. 
  • June 26, 2018, BCD: Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center groundbreaking date set Shovels will break ground at the site of the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center on Tuesday morning, July 10. The announcement comes more than a…
    • “We’re about $680,000 away to get the venue of our dreams,” said project co-president Barry Herring.  .. Cuts included not having wooden beams in the venue’s lobby and not paving the parking field, he reported at the June 14 Brown County Convention and Visitors Commission meeting.
    • At the June 14 CVC meeting, board member Mike Patrick said donations could come anonymously from the community, …  “If there’s someone in the community willing to spend $26,000 to move that blue house, surely there is somebody willing to spend $600,000 to pave a parking lot,” he said.
  • May 22, 2018Maple Leaf sewer service debate settling?
  • May 22, 2018.  Maple Leaf arts center pushes on: Construction bid accepted; cuts made to project After negotiating to cut more than $700,000 from the initial bid, the Maple Leaf Management Group recommended that the Brown County Commissioners hire Brandt Construction Inc. to build the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center. The commissioners unanimously approved that recommendation at their May 16 meeting.
    • The agreement states that 75 percent of remaining excess funds per calendar year will go to the Brown County Community Foundation — if the improvement account sits at $1 million. If the Foundation ever ceases to exist, the money will go to a “similar non-profit corporation with a similar mission in the county,” the agreement states.
  • May 8, 2018Maple Leaf bid opening pushed back. Legal counsel reviewing plans to see what contractors included in bids
  • May 2, 2018.  LETTER.  ‘Stop digging’ on Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center by Tim Clark. There is wisdom in the metaphor that states that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
  • May 1, 2018.  Letter: Location of new performing arts center ‘troubling’
    I picked up a copy of the spring Visitors Guide and read the article about the Maple Leaf … That facility — its location and the infrastructure it will demand — could signal real problems for Nashville’s continued success, and not just for the Brown County Playhouse.
  • April 24, 2018.  Residents scrutinize Maple Leaf processes.  Blog post about the article.  
    • “… having an independent review of the county-owned concert hall project before bids to build it are opened makes sense. There is insufficient transparency, and too much dependence on one person, and lack of oversight. I don’t want my name to be included as being the oversight when I am not. … I was supportive, and am supportive if it’s done right.” –Bill Austin, who resigned as a member of the Maple Leaf Building Corp and is a former County Commissioner.
  • April 21, 2018.    Electronic sign discussion on hold for now by Suzannah Couch. Leaders of the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center project have decided to table discussion on their request until they can meet with other organizations that also might want electronic signs
  • April 17, 2018.  Sewer service territory questions emerge on Maple Leaf project  (Note: Unlikely that this issue was considered in the planning by the county)

Bank Documents

Indiana Gateway Bond-Lease Reports:

OrganizationAs of April 10, 2018.

Brown County Maple Leaf Management Group INC.

PHASE I — Approval Process – April 2017 – Jan  2018.

Decision Authority:  The commissioners and all council members voted to approve funding for the project.  They declined to hold any public meetings to get input from the citizens regarding the desirability and concerns related to the project.

  • Commissioners: Dave Anderson, Diana Biddle, Jerry Pittman.
  • County Council: David Critser, John Price, Glenda Stogsdill, Debbie Guffey, Darren Byrd, Keith Baker, Art Knight.
  • Maple Leaf Project Committee:
    • CVC: Barry Herring (Brown County Inn), Kevin Ault (The Seasons Lodge, Hotel Nashville),
    • CVB: Bruce Gould (Cornerstone Inn,) Jane Ellis (CVB Director).
    • Other: Doug Hardin, Venue Designer, Jim Schultz, Community member

2017 Board of Directors CVB

CVB Articles of Incorporation

CVC Contract with CVB Jan 2016-Dec 2018

CVB Contract 1994000518

Innkeepers Tax Ordinance

IC 6-9-14 Chapter 14. Brown County Innkeeper’s Tax 

Tax Forms (IRS Form 990) and more Info 

The “Fast-Track” Timeline

  • August 22, 2017,  Area Plan Commission (APC) – Recommends zoning change.  APC Member Paul Navarro identified the need to delay the vote pending the results of a traffic study.  He was the only member that voted no on zoning.
  • September 6, 2017,  9:00 A.M. Commissioner Meeting. Zoning approved. It was stated that the approval was for zoning and not the project and that public meetings would be held regarding the desirability of the project. These meetings never happened.
  • November 15, 2017. Commissioners approve the project.
  • November 20, 2017. Council approves project.
  • Dec 20, 2017. Commissioners pass a final resolution approving the project.

SUMMARY – Extracted from the following article: Dec 27, 2017. GUEST OPINION: The role of process in the future of Brown County by Tim  Clark. The Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center (MLPAC) project and the process used to fast-track approval may represent a turning point for the future of the county.  

  • In April 2017, owners of hotels and inns, who are also appointed to the Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) and Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) decide to use the revenue collected from the innkeeper’s tax to invest in an asset that will promote tourism. The Innkeeper’s Tax is a pass-through tax paid by the party renting the overnight accommodations.
  • CVC members are appointed by the county commissioners and council. The CVB is a non-profit organization established to manage tourism related promotion on behalf of the CVC.
  • CVC/CVB members decided on a music venue and performing arts center and also determined the size, location, scope, cost (12.5 million), and overall governance plan for the facility. Given that this investment is expected to result in overnight stays, their businesses will directly benefit from the investment, and the asset values of their establishments will likely increase.
  • Initially, county citizens were told that revenue from the innkeeper’s tax would be used to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage for the venue. Any profits were to be used for community and county infrastructure priorities.  The final terms of the deal are that profits would be used to make the mortgage payment and the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax would only be used if profits were not sufficient to make the payment.
  • A common perception in the county that was reinforced by the president of the county council, may be that the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax is “their (CVC) money.” This inaccurate perception may have contributed to a lack of transparency over the years regarding the management and expenditure of these funds.  This revenue, per statute, is a county asset. Commissioners and Council (elected by citizens) appoint CVC members who are subordinate to the citizens and their elected officials.
  • The approval of a 12.5 million dollar loan using the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax as collateral was approved by the commissioners on Nov 15 and the county council on Nov 20. The commissioners approved another resolution approving the project on Dec 20. In case of default, the venue would become the property of the bank, and per the county council president and the county financial consultant, county taxpayers would not be obligated to assume the liability.
  • No public meetings expressly focused on this important project were scheduled by the commissioners or council before their meetings to approve the project. The League of Women Voters of Brown County offered to facilitate a public meeting to address citizen questions, concerns, and issues regarding the project. Members of the CVC, the CVB and the informal team working on the Maple Leaf project declined to participate, as did several key elected officials.
  • The editor of the only newspaper in the county – The Brown County Democrat, did recuse herself from being the primary reporter because of a conflict of interest — her husband serves on the CVC. The Democrat welcomed opposing opinions in Guest Columns and Letters to the Editor.

Jan 23, 2018. Guest Opinion.  Working toward ‘a more perfect union’ by Tim Clark, a guest columnist. ”As individuals, we may not have too much direct influence over what happens politically at the national level of government. At the county level, our efforts can certainly be directed to local issues. We can choose to determine the quality of government that we want and need.

  • In my first guest column on this topic, “The role of process in county’s future,” I identified that the process used to fast-track the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center (MLPAC) might represent a turning point for the future of the county.
  • In the follow-up column, “Coming together is a beginning,” I identified possible outcomes from the fast-track process regarding scenarios that included “status quo plus,” “transformative” and “collaborative planning.”
  • The feedback I received on the columns suggested additional scenarios that included identifying the best case and a worse case. Best case is that MLPAC exceeds all expectations. A worse case is that the venue does not meet expectations, requiring a decision as to the disposition of an underperforming venue.

Jan 11, 2018.   Land, loan set for Maple Leaf project – Brown County Democrat.  The Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center officially has a home and a $12.5 million bank loan to build it. The Maple Leaf Building Corporation signed an agreement with Chuck Snyder on Dec. 20 to buy his land. The sale closed Dec. 28. A tentative agreement had been in place since July to buy 13.472 acres …

Jan 11, 2018GUEST OPINION: ‘Coming together is a beginning’ By Tim Clark, guest columnist. In the first part of my series, “The role of process in county’s future,” I suggested that the process applied to fast-track approval of the $12.5 million investment in the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center (MLPAC) might represent a turning point for the future of the ... Three scenarios – Status Quo Plus, Transformative (Party Central), Collaborative Planning.

Jan 9, 2018Letter: Maple Leaf Committee needs to answer questions To the editor: It is obvious to me that the Maple Leaf Committee is not going to answer questions about the performing arts center and to have “no more forums.” Someone needs to immediately file a lawsuit against the committee and compel them to answer all questions in writing! Michael B. Smith …

Dec 26, 2017. Letter: In response to Maple Leaf ‘no more forums … – Brown County Democrat To the editor: When we saw the headline in this past week’s paper, we were shocked. After much thought, we have concluded that this letter is necessary. As far as we know, no true forum which seemed designed to solicit genuine input from our county’s residents on the viability of the proposed Maple Leaf …

Dec 26, 2017Letter: More questions about the Maple Leaf center – Brown County …To the editor: Someone once told me “If you’re not prepared to deal with the answer, don’t ask the question.” It seems to me that many of the questions raised since the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center idea was introduced have not been fully considered or answered.

Dec 19, 2017Maple Leaf Building Corporation meeting Wednesday. Members have been appointed to the Maple Leaf Building Corporation, and they’re having their first meeting Wednesday afternoon. Local attorney Andy Szakaly will serve as the registered agent for the Maple Leaf Building Corporation.

Dec 12, 2017Letter: Is innkeepers tax revenue being overcommitted? by Sherrie Mitchell.

Dec 12, 2017. Brown County Democrat.  Maple Leaf committee: No more forums Sufficient input time has been given at past public meetings, group says. The offer by the League of Women Voters to facilitate a public meeting was refused.  

Nov 28, 2017. Council approves pledging innkeepers tax to fund Maple Leaf venue The Brown County Council voted unanimously last week to pledge innkeepers tax revenue to pay the mortgage of the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center. That was the third of three board votes needed to move the project along to the next step.

  • The worst-case scenario was discussed at the council meeting prior to their quick approval of the project e.g., the risk being an economic crash that would reduce the revenue from the innkeeper’s tax. Dave Critser – President of the council stated that if this happened, they would default and turn it over to the bank and start collecting property tax. The council stated that the taxpayers would not bail out the project. Sherrie Mitchell then called the bank and talked to the President. – he reinforced the effect of a default on our credit rating and I believe this may have led to a tweak in the agreement with the bank. The commissioners have also stated that tax money would not be used to support the venue. I asked an attorney from Barnes and Thornburg if the council’s commitment to “no bailout” could be put in writing – he said no.

Nov 22, 2017, Print Edition Brown County Democrat:

  • Maple Leaf funding progresses. Published on Facebook Nov 17, 2017, as Steps taken to fund Maple Leaf venue
    • The resolution the CVC signed allows innkeepers tax revenue to be used to pay the loan if the Maple Leaf does not make enough in profits, Herring said.
  • Guest Column: Planning for project success is a choice. Published on Facebook Nov 21, 2017, as Guest Opinion: Success is a choice, by Tim Clark
    • “Without better planning, we will continue to take a reactive “whack-a-mole” approach as issues bubble to the surface.”

Nov 20, 2017, 6:30 p.m.  County Council Meeting. County council unanimously approved   the project. The audio recording of the meeting (See: Public Meeting Audio, County Council Minutes Audio Link 11/20/2017). Copy of the questions provided to the commissioners on Nov 15 also provided to the council.

County Council Statement 20 Nov 2017.   Copy of the questions provided to the commissioners meeting on Nov 15 also provided to the council.

Nov 17, 2017Steps taken to fund Maple Leaf venue. The Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center has received two votes of approval from government groups, and it will go before the Brown County Council for an additional vote on financing Monday night. 

  • Herring talked with the State Bank of Lizton about financing the project with a traditional loan, which would not require the county to spend or put up any county tax money as collateral — except for possibly the innkeepers tax, which is paid by hotel guests, he said. With the loan, the bank requires only the innkeepers tax and the mortgage as collateral.
  • County commissioner Diana Biddle asked attorney Pitman if Maple Leaf debt could ever be put on the county taxpayer in the form property or income taxes. ..
    • Pitman said the debt would not be put on the county taxpayer; it’s on the innkeepers tax.
    • Pitman said the loan documents will limit the financial liability only to Maple Leaf revenue and the innkeepers tax.
    • The only time local taxpayers would pay the innkeepers tax would be if they rent a hotel room or vacation cabin in Brown County.
    • Commissioner Dave Anderson said there are no liabilities to county taxpayers under the deal. “This is a good thing for Brown County. I can see no exposure to liability for our taxpayers, and that’s a biggie for me,” he said.

Nov 15, 2017, 9 a.m.  Commissioner Meeting.  Commissioners voted to approve a resolution requesting council approval for financing.  Copy of questions provided to the commissioners.

CVC CVB Resolution Nov 14 2017_1

  • Highest Priority for Revenu from the Innkeeper’s Tax –  Mortgage Installment Payments

Nov 6, 2017, Commissioner and Council Meeting.  Maple Leaf update provided to commissioners and council in a “working session”-  not advertised to the public.  Copy of the timetable provided at the meeting: Oct 24, 2017, Project Timetable.

Nov 1, 2017 9 a.m. Commissioners Meeting.  Maple Leaf update provided to commissioners – not advertised to the public.

Sep 20, 2017.  Guest Column: A study of tourism and economic sustainability.  by Tim Clark,However, tourism, by itself, has not and cannot provide a sustainable economic future for Brown County. Further, too much tourism can have …”

  • Note: The proponents of the Maple Leaf project claimed that Maple Leaf “….  could be what it takes to turn things around economically for Brown County.”  This article was written to offer another perspective.  The county is funded primarily by income and property tax.  

Sep 12, 2017.  Maple Leaf land officially rezoned: Project’s next step is bond resolution

  • Brown County Redevelopment Commission member Tim Clark asked the commissioners to postpone the vote until their Sept. 20 evening meeting in order for more members of the public to attend.
  • He had a list of questions that he said hadn’t been answered yet.
  • “I can make the opposite case, that this is a terrible project for the county using the comprehensive plan,” he said.
  • He asked the commissioners to allow him to do a presentation for them, but no meeting or work session was scheduled for that.
  • “What I feel is that if you guys vote for this, and as everybody says it’s just going to naturally go forward, you’re going set Brown County up for a major lawsuit if one person in the county, at a venue, if one person gets hurt and does not have medical response in time or (emergency personnel) can’t get there in time,” Brandon Harris said. … Harris serves on the Nashville Development Review Commission and is working with the county RDC.

Sept 6, 2017. Memorandum to the County Commissioners preceding their vote to approve the zoning change for the Maple Leaf Music Venue.  Encl 0 Memo for Commissioners 2017_09_06

Aug 29, 2017.  BCD Maple Leaf rezoning passes; commissioners have next vote Includes the stated pros, cons, and concerns, By Suzannah Couch.

Aug 29, 2017.  Democrat. Letter: Too many unanswered questions on Maple Leaf by Sherri Mitchell

July/August 2017. RDC INITIAL ANALYSIS –   ENCL 6 RDC Working Draft Project Analysis and Review 201709v10a – Proposed Maple Leaf Project

August 29, 2017.  Guest Opinion: Maple Leaf: What are the other options?  by Tim Clark, The Maple Leaf in a different location (Gnaw Bone? Bean Blossom? Ski World?) could be an “anchor” facility that could support further …”

April 29, 2017. Letter: Seniors don’t want to lose ‘peaceful existence’

Aug 29, 2017. New developments prompt county planning discussion “Clark asked fellow members of the Brown County Redevelopment Commission on Aug. … in a permanent increase in year-round tourism in Brown County,” Clark wrote in a letter to the board.”

August 22, 2017.  Letter: ‘Zoning for Maple Leaf: Not in the plan’ – Brown County Democrat ,Tim Clark  “Although the proposed Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center has not been formally approved by the commissioners …”  

Aug 22, 2017. BCD.  Maple Leaf organizers answer questions from public by Suzannah Couch.

  • Q: Is there a backup for innkeepers tax? Herring: I can’t imagine any scenario that it would go beyond that.
  • Q: Is there a way to guarantee county (taxpayer) money won’t be used for the project?  Herring: If you look at the revenue stream, what will have to happen is the Maple Leaf will have to get built and every hotel in town would have to go bankrupt and close for it to have any impact on local taxpayers. The worst, worst, worst possible scenario would be that the CVB’s budget would be impacted and wouldn’t have the funding that it did, but I can’t calculate a way that it would ever impact the county.
    • Ault: If for some reason the Maple Leaf did not succeed, you can lock the doors and all you have to do is pay the bond payment every year, so the most we are going to be out from the innkeepers tax is $560,000 a year.

August 21, 2017. Letter to the Area Plan Commission preceding their vote for the zoning change for the Maple Leaf music venue. Encl 2a Letter to APC on Maple Leaf Zoning

Aug 17, 2017.  Letters: Find a better site for Maple Leaf concert hall – Brown County … The proposed Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center would put a 2,000-seat concert hall next to one of the prime retirement communities in the state of Indiana. While the performing arts center is a good idea and has been talked about for many years, the chosen site is not only poor planning, it is a bad idea.

Aug 8, 2017Area Plan Commission hearing RE: Rezone for Maple Leaf Center, at 600 State Road 46 East, Washington Twp., by petitioners Barry Herring and Bruce Gould

Aug 8, 2017. Letter: Maple Leaf proposal: Let’s not fail to plan by Tim Clark.  For those where planning may be an abhorrent concept, Benjamin Franklin is credited with the axiom that: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

At the July 13, 2017, RDC meeting, a County Commissioner stated that the initial process that was outlined by the county attorneys was changed to the extent that project reviews and approval no longer required the involvement of the RDC. An updated outline and timeline has yet to be shared with the public.

  • Note: When the source of funding became a loan as opposed as bond, citizens did not have the right to remonstrate. Thus no “legal” requirement to involve the RDC.
  • The RDC did develop a plan for vetting this project through all effected government offices and the plan included holding public meetings. Commissioners declined RDC support.
  •  Timeline of tasks and responsibilities developed by Barnes and Thornburg. June 24 2017 B&T Timetable
  • July/August 2017. RDC INITIAL ANALYSIS 17_08 v10a RDC Project Analysis and Review Working Draft Proposed Maple Leaf Project

June 27, 2017. BCD Tourism leaders propose building new concert hall, by Suzannah  Couch

  • With today’s numbers, Herring said innkeeper’s tax revenue would be substantially more than that. He predicted occupancy at lodging establishments would probably double with a new concert hall in the county. … Other than the improved revenue all tourist-related establishments are likely to see, Herring said he has no personal stake in this venture. As a career builder and developer of shopping centers, he’s been volunteering his time and expertise. (Herring owns the Brown County Inn that will benefit from this project)
  • The hope behind the project is to drive economic impact in “tens of millions of dollars,” Harden said. … “That’s why it’s being done,” he said. “It’s not like this gold nugget is going to feed everyone; it’s based on economic impact.”
  • Schultz said the increased tax revenue coming into the county could be a big benefit in other ways, too, such as funding infrastructure improvements and offsetting the county’s property tax losses from having so much tax-exempt land here.
  • “The spirit is to be to benefit everyone,” Herring said.
  • “It’s been said for years that tourism is Brown County’s only industry, and this is a huge step in the way of economic development,” Gould said.

June 20, 2017.  BCD, Building a destination: Maple Leaf Performing Arts plans by Suzannah Couch. A group of people were waiting for the Brown County Playhouse doors to open for a public rollout meeting and presentation about the Maple …”

Maple Leaf Playhouse Presentation June 2017 (43 pages). 

  • This presentation of the proposed project (not a concept) was an extended version of what was introduced at the April 9 meeting (see below).
  • Slide 18.   “Statute provides that those funds be distributed to nonprofit agencies for the sole purpose of marketing Brown County to potential guests who will spend the night in the County.” WRONG. The statute does not mention a requirement for “overnight stays.”
  • Slide 23. Analysis of economic impact.  “Assumption” that a 2000-seat indoor music venue is “feasible” in today’s market.  Assumptions supporting the economic analysis should also be analyzed as part of an independent feasibility study.

April 9, 2017.  Brown County Redevelopment Commission (RDC) members attended a presentation that outlined the concept for the Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center (MLPAC). In a follow-up contact following the presentation, the RDC reinforced their support for the concept and the importance of aligning the project in the context of a county plan and strategy. The RDC had no further involvement in the project.

  • The adhoc group that developed the proposal requested that the information presented remain confidential/secret – not to be discussed. The reason provided was due to ongoing negotiations for land.  It was stated at the meeting that two (2) million was budgeted for land purchase and site prep. The Snyder Farm site was purchased for 2 million or approximately $145K an acre.
  • At this point, funding was going to be provided through a bond that would have given citizens the right to remonstrate.   Community meetings would be critical in order to obtain citizen support for the project.
  • The “concept” for me was using excess revenue from the innkeeper’s tax to invest in a project (s) to promote tourism.

4 thoughts on “BCMC: Brown County Music Center (Maple Leaf): For the Record

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