The Maple Leaf Music Venue and Performing Arts Center 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.
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.
PHASE II — Management and Construction – Feb 27, 2018, to Present
In addition to the coverage of Maple Leaf provided in the Brown County Democrat, current blog posts on the topic can be found at Independent Voters of Brown County, IN and on Independent Voters Facebook page.
- 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
- August 22, 2018. Guest Opinion: Tim Clark. Maple Leaf: A Failing strategy? 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 Leaf: Will more money be a recurring theme? 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, 2018. New ‘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 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.
- March 27, 2018. Legal Notice: Bids sought for Maple Leaf center construction – Brown County Democrat NOTICE TO BID Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the BROWN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, together with the BROWN COUNTY MAPLE LEAF MANAGEMENT GROUP, INC., Nashville, Indiana, hereinafter referred to as the Owner, will receive sealed proposals for the …
- Feb 28, 2018, Brown County Democrat. Visitors Bureau, Maple Leaf group trying to budget innkeepers tax revenue
- Maple-Leaf-Projections-1 20180228
Indiana Gateway Bond-Lease Reports:
Organization: As of April 10, 2018.
- Maple Leaf Building Corporation. Robyn Bowman, Mike Laros, Susan Gaudin (New) – Bill Austin resigned
- Brown County Maple Leaf Management Group INC.
- Kevin Ault, Tourism Commission – Co-President
- Diana Biddle, County Commissioner
- Darren Byrd, County Council
- Bruce Gould, CVB Board of Directors
- Barry Herring, Tourism Commission – Co-President
- Dena Patrick, Treasurer
- Jim Schultz, At Large
- Reference: Maple Leaf Organization as of April 10, 2018
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.
- 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.
- 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: By Tim Clark. The role of process in the future of Brown County. 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. 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, 2018. GUEST 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, 2018. Letter: 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, 2017. Letter: 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, 2017. Maple 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, 2007. 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.
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
- Guest Column: Planning for project success is a choice. Published on Facebook Nov 21, 2017, as Guest Opinion: Success is a choice, 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, 2017, Steps 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.
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.
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.
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
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 guest columnist, “The Maple Leaf in a different location (Gnaw Bone? Bean Blossom? Ski World?) could be an “anchor” facility that could support further …”
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 J. Clark – “Although the proposed Maple Leaf Performing Arts Center has not been formally approved by the commissioners …”
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, 2017. Letter: Maple Leaf proposal: Let’s not fail to plan By Tim J. 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 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 20, 2017. Building a destination: Maple Leaf Performing Arts plans “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. The statute does not mention a requirement for “overnight stays” e.g., “Statute provides that those funds be distributed to non profit agencies for the sole purpose of marketing Brown County to potential guests who will spend the night in the County.”
- 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.