Buoyed by the impending departure of a local Boy Scouts of America council from a city-owned facility, LGBT advocates are setting their sights on another city-owned facility occupied by Scouts.
The “Scout House” is located at 726 E. Wigard St. in Fairmount Park, near Wissahickon Creek.
Since 1987, BSA Troop 474 has been meeting in the facility and holding events on the surrounding parkland. But the property is owned by the city, and the troop pays a nominal rent of $1 a year.
Greg Lattera, who was ousted from the Scouts 10 years ago after he came out, said it’s time for the city to evict the troop if it won’t sign a lease with LGBT-inclusive antibias provisions.
“It’s time for the Nutter administration to bring the hammer down and evict Troop 474,” Lattera said. “The administration needs to take this next step to be consistent, especially if Philadelphia is to be considered an LGBT-friendly city.”
Next month, the BSA Cradle of Liberty Council will vacate a city-owned facility near the Ben Franklin Parkway after a settlement in a five-year legal battle.
The city will give Cradle $825,000 for improvements Cradle reportedly made to the structure over the years.
Troop 474 has subletted Scout House to various subtenants since 1987.
The subtenants have been private individuals and the nonprofit group Outward Bound, and they’ve paid as much as $9,600 annually in rent to the troop.
After Troop 474 repaired the dilapidated three-story structure in 1987, rental payments from subtenants were to be used for its ongoing maintenance, according to city records.
Palma Rasmussen, an outspoken critic of the Scouts’ exclusionary policies, said the city should get a strict accounting of the rental payments received by Troop 474 over the years.
She also reiterated Lattera’s call for the troop’s eviction.
“If the troop won’t sign a lease with standard antibias provisions, it needs to be evicted immediately,” Rasmussen said. “This is outrageous.”
Mark McDonald, a spokesperson for the Nutter administration, had no comment on the advocates’ call for the troop’s eviction.
McDonald also had no comment on the subleasing arrangement, nor on the troop’s lack of a master lease with the city.
Rasmussen questioned the legality of the arrangement.
She also suggested that the Nutter administration appears to be giving preferential treatment to the Scouts.
“What do think they’re getting from Scouts?” she posed. “So far, all I’ve seen is lies, deception and freeloading. Scouting officials in Philadelphia apparently don’t want to pay their own way. And the Nutter administration is enabling their behavior.”
Rasmussen emphasized that her criticism wasn’t directed at youth in the organization, but rather at adult leaders who promulgate damaging policies.
Lattera said he holds great affinity for the Scouts and continues to seek reinstatement into the organization.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to keep prodding the Nutter administration to do the right thing,” Lattera concluded. “But I’m confident that if enough people speak out, this sweetheart deal with Troop 474 will end.”
A representative of Troop 474 couldn’t be reached for comment.