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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Slavery Museum given seven days to respond

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The National Slavery Museum has a week to file a long-overdue response to an attempt by the city of Fredericksburg to sell land where the museum was once envisioned.

In 2011 the city began the process of selling the 38 acres where the slavery museum was planned overlooking Interstate 95 in Celebrate Virginia South. The city, under state law, has been trying to sell the land to recoup more than $300,000 in unpaid real estate taxes that are more than two years delinquent.

The slavery museum organization, which has been spearheaded by former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2011 to stave off the tax sale. The slavery museum asked for the bankruptcy case to be dismissed last August and pledged to pay the back taxes, which it has not done.

Earlier this year the slavery museum hired Richmond-area attorney and Virginia House of Delegates member Joe Morrissey. On Monday morning Morrissey and Wilder were in Fredericksburg Circuit Court to ask Judge Gordon Willis to allow them to file an answer to the city’s original 2011 filing to force the sale.

Willis gave them seven days to do so, and the city’s attorneys 14 days to respond. A May 28 hearing on the matter is scheduled in Fredericksburg Circuit Court.

The museum’s request for more time is the latest example of delay tactics being used in the case, said John Rife of Taxing Authority Consulting Services, which is representing the city of Fredericksburg in the museum case. He wants the sale to proceed before August, when the museum could again file for bankruptcy.

“There’s been delays at every turn,” Rife told Willis on Monday.

Morrissey and law partner Paul Goldman are also making the case that the amount of money the museum owes the city is significantly inflated due to the land’s assessed value.

The property is assessed at $7.6 million, but a recent appraisal done by Richmond firm Independent Appraisers and Consultants LLC put the value at $750,000 due in large part to a restriction on how the land can be used. The restriction, put on the land by an affiliate of the Silver Cos. when it was donated to the museum in 2002, says the land can be used only for an African-American history museum, or other educational or charitable purpose.

Rife said the museum should have challenged the assessment long ago rather than waiting until right before a potential sale.