Lease leads to debate

Published 10:40 am Monday, May 16, 2011

MURFREESBORO — Town officials here have agreed to continue a land lease agreement with a citizen, pending certain conditions are met.

On Tuesday, Herbert Eley appeared before the Murfreesboro Town Council to request an extension of a lease that allows him to rent property owned by the town. Eley maintains a garden on the property.

“I guess there was a misunderstanding on my part, I had leased the land last year from the town when Interim (Town Administrator Hugh) Montgomery was here and we prepared a lease and I was under the understanding that the lease was extended until July 2011,” he said.

After Eley began to prepare the land, he said found out the lease had expired and after further discussions he was told to come before the council to request an extension.

Interim Town Administrator Richard Hicks noted the council had a copy of the lease.

“The only question at this time is if the board would confer with extending that through the end of December this year,” Hicks said. “Before next year you would take a look at the entire lease and make changes where you want to, if you want to continue beyond it.”

Hicks recommended the lease be left as is due to the misunderstanding and extended through December 30.

Councilwoman Gloria Odum voiced concerns to Eley about the land being properly maintained.

“I have no qualms on extending the lease,” she said. “My concern is that if we extend the lease, but are you going to do anything about the property that has been allowed to overgrow.”

Eley said it depended on Odum’s definition of overgrown.

“Well is it some place you would want to live next to because the citizens that live next to it are not pleased at all,” Odum responded. “I wouldn’t want to live next to it.”

“They have not expressed that to me personally,” said Eley.

He added previously when a resident approached him about the condition of the property Eley received an order to clean it up.

“As far as extending the lease for this year, I talked with Mr. (Gene) Byrd and the Public Works Department to continue their trimming,” he said.

Byrd, who was in attendance at the meeting, said Eley had not discussed it with him.

“I didn’t know you had leased it,” said Byrd.

Eley asked Byrd if the department would continue to maintain the area.

“I don’t see why we should be responsible for property you are leasing,” said Byrd.

Eley said he would take care of the property himself and make sure it was cleaned up.

Town Attorney Buddy Jones said technically the town would not be extending a lease as there was no legal one in place.

He explained in 2009 the board authorized, after Eley made a presentation, to enter into the lease under certain terms. However, Eley never signed the lease or paid a deposit.

Jones said last summer Montgomery revised the lease and set a deposit and rental cost, but council had not authorized the lease.

After further discussion, Councilman Lloyd Hill asked for a new lease through to the end of the year to be prepared and then have Eley come back before the council in January or February of next year.

Hicks suggested the lease include that Eley was responsible for maintaining the property.

Before the board gave their decision, a resident who lives next door to the property said it had been cleaned up, but she wanted Eley to understand that his property made her property look bad when it was unkempt.

“I would like for him to keep it up,” she said.

Mayor Pro-tem Molly Eubank moved to approve the new lease and Councilwoman Sarah Wallace seconded the motion. The measure passed without objection with Councilman Bill Theodorakis absent from the meeting.