Response from Council Member Sledge

September 11, 2017

Re: E.S. Rose Park

Dear Edgehill residents and Belmont University leaders,

As many of you know, we have had continued conversations regarding Belmont University’s ground lease for E.S. Rose Park and, in particular, a recent amendment allowing construction of a proposed batting facility for Belmont’s use. These concerns originated with a previous lease that is nearly a decade old.

In 2007, the Metro Council approved an Ordinance allowing the Metropolitan Parks director to enter a lease agreement with Belmont for the use of Rose Park. A lease was subsequently executed on November 5, 2007. Under the lease agreement, Belmont was permitted to construct athletic facilities within the park for use by its sports teams, though the park was also to be made available for public use. The lease provided that Belmont would construct the athletic facilities on the property, as well as a concessions building, locker rooms and improvements to the common areas — all at its own expense. The cost of these improvements was estimated at $7 million dollars. Based on the most recent report provided this week by the Parks Department, Belmont’s financial investment to date totals more than $9.7 million, including $1.2 million in scholarships to residents of Edgehill and nearby communities.

Metro retained the authority to schedule dates and times of Belmont’s use of the park, and Belmont was to provide six months advance notice of its needs. Though Belmont was given certain priorities, it was estimated that the sports fields would be available to the community for public use at least 80 percent of the time during regular park hours. Current data from Parks indicates that Belmont has used the soccer facilities 22 percent of the time it has been available over the last 12 months; baseball, 14 percent; softball, 10 percent; and track, 9 percent.

The term of the lease was for 40 years, but under the terms of the lease, termination can occur upon one year’s written notice by either party. However, if Metro acts to terminate the lease, Metro would be required to pay Belmont the fair value of the added improvements.

In May of this year, the Council approved an amendment to the original lease agreement allowing Belmont to construct an additional improvement on the Rose Park property, specifically an 80×120 square foot building abutting the baseball field which would serve primarily as a batting cage facility. In exchange, Belmont would increase its annual lease payment by $5,000 to be divided proportionately between Metro Parks Department, Rose Park Middle School, and Carter Lawrence Elementary School.

In the ensuing months since the Council’s approval of that amendment, concerns have arisen in the community regarding the location and use of this additional facility, prompting several meetings and lengthy negotiations with Belmont University’s administration. While those discussions were conducted in good faith by all parties, I must reluctantly report that the concerns raised by the community have not been adequately addressed by Belmont, and that we have reached no compromise or solution.

As a result, I explored filing legislation calling for the Metropolitan Council to rescind its previous approval of the amendment. Upon working toward drafting this resolution, however, I was notified by Belmont legal representatives, Metro Legal representatives and Metro Council legal counsel that the road to repealing this amendment may be nearly impossible without repealing the entire lease. This is a course I don’t believe any party is suggesting, nor would I support, due in no small part to the provision that would require Metro to reimburse Belmont for improvements to the park.

In ongoing discussions with Belmont representatives and Edgehill representatives, I have secured a commitment from Belmont that the school will not move on any sort of construction for the rest of 2017. I have heard from Edgehill representatives that they desire Belmont’s active involvement in Envision Edgehill. I believe this request is reasonable and would result in better outcomes for Edgehill’s future.

Regarding the batting facility, I must ask all parties to continue to work together to determine a mutually beneficial outcome. I continue to seek community input regarding this decision and I welcome your questions and comments.

Sincerely,

Colby Sledge