In a slim 5-4 vote, the Spring Hill Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to approve the Battle of Franklin Trust's (BOFT) letter of intent, paving the way for the city to enter contract negotiations for BOFT to manage the Rippavilla Plantation property.
Additionally, the master plan for the plantation - which includes nearly $7 million worth of proposed improvements to the site - was also approved and adopted in a 7-2 vote.
Alderman Vincent Fuqua, whose final meeting as a sitting alderman was on Monday, argued that such a large decision should be left up to the new board which was set to be sworn in later that same evening, and proposed deferring the vote by a month.
Vice Mayor Amy Wurth, who also served her final day as vice mayor on Monday, disagreed, and argued that her and other board members had been working on setting up Rippavilla's future for years.
Fuqua's proposal to defer the vote failed by a slim margin of 4-5.
The site had been managed by Rippavilla Inc. since 2007, and was supported financially by General Motors with an annual budget of $100,000. After that support appeared to be coming to an end, Rippavilla Inc. successfully urged the city of Spring Hill to purchase the site.
The city continued funding Rippavilla Inc. with $100,000 annually in the hopes of the site eventually becoming financially self-sustaining. Earlier this year, when the idea of a self-sustaining Rippavilla was brought into question, city leaders voted to terminate its relationship with Rippavilla Inc., sending out a Request for Proposal (RFP) in the hopes of finding a new property manager.
Letter of intent
A nonprofit organization, the BOFT was created in 2009 to manage the Carter House and Carnton in Franklin.
In the letter, the BOFT points to the success they've seen in managing the the Carter House and Carnton, writing that in the year following their acquisition of the Carter House, attendance roughly doubled from 20,000 to 40,000. Revenue also increased from tour tickets from $600,000 to $1.1 million annually.
Ultimately, the board voted to approve the letter of intent, with a final contract for BOFT to manage Rippavilla anticipated to come sometime in May of this year.