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Museum director unhappy with city's commitment
The director of the U.S. National Slavery Museum has raised the possibility that the museum will move from Fredericksburg


Date published: 7/17/2005

By MEGHANN COTTER

The director of the U.S. National Slavery Museum has raised the possibility that the museum will move from Fredericksburg.

When asked about her commitment to Fredericksburg, Vonita Foster, executive director, would say only that her group is committed to opening in Virginia.

"We need partners who are visionary, fair and unbiased," Foster told The Richmond Times-Dispatch in a story published yesterday.

Her comments followed the organization's decision to withdraw its request for a waiver of construction-permit fees. The museum had asked Fredericksburg to forgive the fees, but Foster withdrew the application without explanation this week.

The withdrawal came two days after a divided Fredericksburg City Council postponed a decision on the museum's request.

Some council representatives said they wanted to meet with museum officials to get more information about the project.

The Free Lance-Star has repeatedly offered Foster the opportunity to talk about the museum's progress. She has declined and did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment on the latest developments.

The 250,000-square-foot museum is planned for a 38-acre parcel within the Celebrate Virginia South tourism development, just west of Interstate 95.

Council members have said they were surprised by the museum's reaction to their decision. But they have said they are not discouraged by the latest happenings.

"At this point, no, I don't think it's a concern. If they were to come back and say they're withdrawing the special-use permit, that would be a concern," said Councilman Matt Kelly. "I would hope if they have an issue with what we're asking, they would tell us what the problem is."

L. Douglas Wilder, museum founder and Richmond mayor, insisted Thursday that the project is still coming to Fredericksburg, according to the Times-Dispatch story.

City Councilwoman Debby Girvan said yesterday that she spoke with Foster on Friday. Girvan said the museum's plans seemed to be on schedule.

"There has never been any talk about withdrawing it [from Fredericksburg]," she said. "I certainly want to work positively with them to make it successful. I'm optimistic about the project opening and having a real great impact on the tourism market here."

Reporter Pamela Gould contributed to this story.

To reach MEGHANN COTTER: 540/374-5434 mcotter@freelancestar.com