Renaissance director vows fresh start after resignation

DANVILLE – Renaissance Danville Executive Director Bob Yapp announced his resignation Monday, vowing to launch his own nonprofit organization dedicated to neighborhood development.

Renaissance Danville, meanwhile, said Yapp hasn't worked for the agency since Aug. 24.

"This decision did not come lightly," said Yapp during a news conference Monday afternoon outside a house in the Renaissance district, where he was restoring a front porch.

Yapp read a four-page statement to media and about 15 supporters, stating that his resignation was effective at noon Monday.

But a statement from the Renaissance board Monday afternoon stated that "effective Aug. 24, 2007, Bob Yapp is no longer employed by Renaissance Danville, Inc. Many attempts to reach a mutually-agreed, amicable separation settlement ended in impasse."

When asked about the discrepancy between dates, Thom Pollock, president of the Renaissance board, referred to the statement and the Aug. 24 date. Pollock said Yapp will be granted severance as law requires for any hours worked, vacation accrued and any uncompensated, verified expenses.

"We will pay him what's due according to the law," said Pollock, who would not elaborate.

The Renaissance release also stated that the board of directors "continues to be committed to the revitalization of neighborhoods. The board has learned a lot during this past year and will take corrective action to ensure the future success of Renaissance Danville."

When asked about the financial condition of Renaissance, Pollock said, "We're OK." The next step for the board, he said, will be to meet Wednesday and begin planning for the future.

Yapp said at Monday's news conference that he made the decision to resign against his will, but he and his wife, Pat, have adopted Danville as their new home, and they are not only staying but will be more involved than ever.

The volunteer board of directors of Renaissance, a nonprofit organization that uses public and private money to restore historic homes in downtown Danville, hired Yapp in July 2006 as executive director. The city of Danville is the largest contributor to the organization, giving $130,000 annually.

In the last year, Yapp secured financing for construction loans for the program, led the restoration of a house at 112 Pine St. and began two more at 118 Payne St. and 439 Franklin St., in addition to teaching a Historic Preservation Trades course at Danville Area Community College and using those students to do work on the Renaissance houses.

But earlier this summer as Yapp approached his one-year anniversary as director, discord emerged among Yapp and the board, and some board members resigned.

Yapp has been criticized for cost overruns on projects, and at an August meeting, the board tried to go into closed session to discuss Yapp's employment. But Yapp questioned whether the organization's bylaws allowed it, so the board adjourned the meeting.

Yapp said Monday that restoration of 112 Pine St., which was presold for $170,000, "cost more than the original budget."

But, he said, the dispute is not about "going over budget on a project house."

Yapp said the reason is that he and some downtown neighbors have objected to a project at 324 Oak St. in the Renaissance district that's being done by Crosspoint Human Services, a nonprofit social service agency of which Pollock is executive director. Crosspoint intends to renovate the apartment building and house low-income residents there.

Earlier this summer, a group of downtown residents signed petitions objecting to the project, arguing that the house should be returned to a single-family residence because that's part of the Renaissance mission and the downtown area needs fewer multifamily housing units.

Yapp also said Pollock has a conflict of interest as Renaissance board president and executive director of Crosspoint because Crosspoint is "now competing with the mission and strategic plan of Renaissance."

Greg Thatcher, a downtown property owner, resident and former Renaissance board member, said he's disappointed to see Yapp step down but will support his effort to lead a new organization.

He said the multiunit project on Oak Street does not fit Renaissance's mission. The district needs more diversity but less density, he said.

Downtown resident Kris Masterman said Yapp has accomplished more in his year than the program has since it began several years ago. He and his wife, Corina, don't have a problem with the Pine Street and Payne Street projects going over budget.

"The product is beautiful," said Kris Masterman, who added that previous projects were not done to the same standards.

Yapp said those who attended his news conference will be a big part of helping him start a new organization. When asked about funding for it, he said once he gathers "the right people," he expects to ask the city for funding.

He said "key neighborhood, business and civic leaders with Danville's best interest in mind will be meeting over the next few months to plan" the organization's creation, and in the meantime, he will continue writing, teaching and consulting.

"We need to get on with this mission," he said.

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