Dear Citizens of Mason and Supporters of the Odeon Preservation Association,
The following was read by me at the Spring 2011 meeting of the Zoning and Planning Commission, where the Odeon Preservation Association attempted, for the second year in a row, to block us from receiving our Conditional Use Permit. Reigning Cats & Dogs is located at 120 Moody St., with the Odeon Movie Theater as its immediate neighbor to the south. Before we purchased this building in 2009, it was owned by Ramona Kelso, who has been confined to wheelchair, for over 30 years. Before Ms. Kelso put 120 Moody St. on the market, she offered to sell it to the OPA at a very reasonable price, which they declined. After we bought 120 Moody St., we were approached several times by a board member of the OPA about purchasing our property. We reached a verbal agreement, but no contract was ever forthcoming. The representative was also informed that once we began remodeling, the property it would no longer be on the market.According to the Odeon Preservation Association (OPA), the Odeon has an easement to the back of our property at 120 Moody St. Though the purpose of an easement is to “grant access,” the Odeon took advantage of Ms. Kelso’s non-access to the rear of her property by filling her backyard with 11 large truckloads of trash, parking on her property, and building a berm that diverted their rainwater into the back of her property, causing approximately $50,000 in damages. During the remodeling process, we hauled off the trash and repaired the damage to the rear of our building, installing an extensive underground system in the rear of our property to handle rainwater runoff. A fence, which still allows 14 feet of access to the rear of the Odeon Theater, was put up to protect the drain field, which cannot have weight on it.For almost two years the OPA has harassed us verbally and financially. In 2010 they attempted to block us from acquiring our Conditional Use Permit for boarding dogs indoors, by protesting at the Zoning and Planning Commission and City Council meetings. Despite being told by the County Clerk, the Mayor, and the editor of the Mason County News that their objection to us building a fence at the rear of 120 Moody Street had no bearing on the Conditional Use Permit, they continued to come to these meetings in 2011 for the same reason.In 2010, the OPA used the funds that Mason residents so generously donated to support the theater to file a nuisance lawsuit against the Newsoms, protesting the erection of our fence, claiming it blocked access to the rear of the theater. The City of Mason, in an attempt to pacify the OPA, removed a chain link fence, a carport, and cut down every tree on the property behind their office, which abuts the Odeon. They further granted the OPA permission to use the parking lot as much as they needed (which they were doing anyway). Although the OPA got their funding from the people of Mason, we unfortunately needed to spend OUR hard-earned money to hire an attorney and an engineer to do an impact study on our property. As tax-paying, responsible business owners, we are legally responsible for appropriate handling of our rainwater (WE can’t run it into our neighbors’ buildings). The OPA’s mission statement on their website states that “the OPA Board of Directors has continued its Mission to provide entertainment at the Odeon through performing arts, to bring cultural enrichment to Mason and surrounding communities and to maintain a suitable facility for such purpose.” It also says, “we are currently engaged in a fund-raising campaign to complete the facility and prepare it as an unparalleled venue for any and all performing arts while we continue its tradition of showing movies.” Additionally, on the screen every week the OPA urges viewers to donate for a new screen, and to sponsor live music performances at the theater. The people of Mason who donate money to support the Odeon are being conned, because the OPA has used Mason County people’s donated money to hire an Austin attorney to sue us over the erection of our fence. There is no governing body overseeing how the OPA uses the money people donate, and this lawsuit is the direct result of Mason’s generosity. When we opened Reigning Cats & Dogs the response from Mason residents has been overwhelmingly positive, and I get a lot of feedback from clients about how glad they are we are here. Although this thievery and harassment has been going on for almost two years, I have never spoken publicly about this, because I support the Odeon Theater, and I also believe in being a good neighbor. I want the Odeon Theater to continue with its mission statement and provide a cultural outlet to Mason, and I would also like to see them use donated funds not to harass honest business owners, but to protect the citizens of Mason, by installing lighted fire exits and a sprinkler system. I think those needs far outweigh the need to get someone to remove a fence. Thank you for your support.
Sincerely, Lenore Newsom