Annapolis city council sees the light, votes to rescue Thomas Point beacon

December 24, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Preservationists were celebrating yesterday now that the Annapolis city council has voted to take possession of the historic Thomas Point Lighthouse, completing a months-long process to acquire the Chesapeake Bay landmark.

The council voted 7-2 late Monday to take title of the lighthouse from the federal government in the next few months.

The city then will lease the building to the nonprofit United State Lighthouse Society. The Annapolis Maritime Museum will manage the lighthouse.

Alderwomen Sheila M. Tolliver and Louise Hammond voted against the resolution because, they said, they didn't like the language of the legal paperwork and feared the city could be held liable in lawsuits.

But supporters said the move would ensure that the lighthouse remains in its original location and will boost the local economy by attracting thousands of visitors a year.

"This is a great deal. This lighthouse is the symbol of what's beautiful and mysterious and captivating about the Chesapeake Bay," said L.B. Buchanan, chairman of the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

Said Mayor Ellen O. Moyer: "It's going to be a great asset to the city."

The city was part of the only group that bid on the structure. Federal officials are trying to rid the government of nearly 300 lighthouses throughout the country.

The federal government wants to use resources spent maintaining the lighthouse in the fight against terrorism.

The city did not have to pay for the lighthouse and should not incur costs, said Bob Agee, the city administrator.

The maritime museum and lighthouse society, which also were part of the group that successfully bid on the lighthouse, will pay the estimated $5,000 to $10,000 a year to maintain it.

The museum plans minor repairs to the lighthouse and to bring in antique furniture.

The group also plans to take tourists to the site on boats and create a virtual tour at the historic McNasby's Oyster House in Eastport, Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the museum could reap thousands of dollars from tours and selling lighthouse merchandise. Under lease terms, the city would receive part of the profits.

But Hammond worried that the lease didn't provide enough protection to the city in case of an accident.

"The people aren't going to [sue nonprofit groups], they're going to go after us," she said.

Tolliver objected to the 30-year lease, which could be renewed for 60 years, because it wouldn't give the city enough flexibility to seek other partners.

And while she said she was eager to visit the museum, "it isn't the city's place" to protect historic structures.

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