The Quentin Riding Club will meet December 28 to discuss and vote on its fate, as it currently sits in limbo status after ceasing operations earlier this year.
Club president Greg Shaffer said in a phone interview that the organization would be taking “quite a few votes” that evening with the general goal of determining the direction the property (e.g. the club) will take in the next year.
The riding club did not conduct a membership renewal campaign this winter for 2019 (due to its lack of services or facilities to offer), but according to Shaffer all members who were in active standing as of earlier this year will be eligible to attend and vote at the meeting.
Members should have already received or will shortly receive information by mail regarding the proposals and membership criteria.
At least three proposals have been made. The apparent frontrunner is an equine entity led by Alisa Pitt interested in making the property a public facility. Others include a group led by local businessman Fred Laurenzo and a consortium led in part by former Quentin Riding Club president Larry Minnich. LebTown contacted each of these parties for comment but did receive any responses.
Update 11:36am: Denise Bollard, who is working with Laurenzo on the proposal, said in a phone interview that the group’s proposal would include the option for the riding club to leaseback all or part of the property. The Minnich proposal would likely entertain this, too. However as multiple parties have indicated, it’s not clear that the riding club would be a good tenant in its current shape, given that its operational budget was running at a loss prior to the club going into hiatus.
Shaffer said that the equine group has the staff and professional training required “to make the place once again the equine jewel that many remember it to be.”
If one of the proposals were met with approval by the club and hypothetically the property were bought outright, the acquiring party would settle with Jonestown Bank & Trust, which holds the club’s mortgage and other debt.
Shaffer says that JBT has been, “very good and understanding” in working with club leadership through this period of financial disarray.
Shaffer also noted that the club is close to finalizing a relationship with a lawyer who will represent the club through any hypothetical sale process.
It is not clear that any proposal will be met with open arms by the general membership. Many club insiders were also enthusiastic about an earlier effort led by Jeff and Robin Walder of Walder’s Way Equestrian in Lancaster. The Walders’ daughter Madison had competed in US Equestrian Federation (USEF) events at Quentin Riding Club when the institution attracted that caliber of competition. But Walder knows as well as any that the current state of the riding club was not sufficient to attract that elite of an equestrian clientele today.
Shaffer emphasized that he and other board members serve because they believe in the preservation of the riding club, and remarked of the Walder proposal that it was a shame the club membership hadn’t been quite ready to entertain the idea. “We had an incredible offer that could have saved Quentin,” explained Shaffer, “but because the actions of one or two over-zealous members, they backed out.”
Jeff Walder said that early enthusiasm from a few members quickly gave way to a seemingly endless wait-and-see period that caused him to rethink the level of interest from club membership in putting in the work needed to transform the compound back to its former glory.
It is not clear what would happen to the not-for-profit organization if the facility were sold. Club leadership sees the organization’s primary mission as the preservation of equine activities at the historic Quentin site, originally a world-famous hackney farm owned by the Coleman family. Given this goal, it may make the most sense for the organization to be dissolved if the grounds were sold, with the surplus being donated to another local non-profit.
Another option would be for the Quentin Riding Club to reinvent itself for a new age. Perhaps a perpetual lease option or alternative commitment to provide space could be incorporated into a sale agreement, and the organization could continue as a not-for-profit (or become a non-profit) focused on making equine activity accessible to a new generation of Lebanon Countians.
Some say a third option is actually the right one, with one local lawyer going so far as to write a legal opinion that the Quentin Riding Club is bound to return any surplus assets to club membership on a per capita basis. No board members or insiders contacted by LebTown over the past few months gave much credence to this position. While it’s possible a legal fight could develop around this point, such a confrontation would also diminish whatever surplus remained through legal fees.
The meeting, not open to the public, will be held at 6:00pm December 28 at the Navy Club.