:: Houston facility for deaf fears own lease dispute | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle ::

Houston facility for deaf fears own lease dispute

April 18, 2007
NONPROFITS’ PROPERTY FEARS

Facility for deaf fears its own lease dispute

Program helping deaf children has an agreement like the one city now contests

By MELANIE MARKLEY
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Center for Hearing & Speech.jpgThe Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation isn’t the only nonprofit that faces an uncertain future because of a 99-year lease the city now says is invalid.

Next door, the Center for Hearing and Speech shares a building with the Harris County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority on city property leased for 99 years in 1965. The building sits on a prime 3-acre tract at the corner of West Dallas and Shepherd.

Renee Davis, executive director of the center that teaches deaf children to speak without using sign language, said she has not been contacted by the city, but she worries that her facility could face the same scrutiny as the neighboring center for the mentally retarded.

Representatives of the center for the mentally retarded are in ongoing talks with the mayor’s office. The city had threatened to sell the 6 acres that the center leased because the directors would not agree to pay closer to market-value rent for the land near River Oaks.

Mayor Bill White said he hopes the meetings will produce a fair policy that the city also can apply to other nonprofits such as the Center for Hearing and Speech.

White said he wants to develop a uniform policy to reduce the risk of lawsuits against the city claiming the leases are not valid, which could disrupt the nonprofits’ operations.

The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation operates a residence hall, a sheltered work site, vocational training and day care for adults with severe mental and physical disabilities. continued

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