Letter maps new path forward for Pulse memorial, draws criticism from nightclub owner

Email sent to families of victims and survivors of 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting

People paid their respects on Friday to the 49 lives lost at Pulse Nightclub four years ago. (Erik Sandoval, WKMG)

ORLANDO, Fla.The onePulse Foundation mapped out a new path forward in a letter sent to families of survivors and victims on Monday, but Pulse Nightclub owner Barbara Poma took issue with part of what was written.

“We are reaching out to you to share recent developments at the Foundation with hopes of establishing clarity, answering questions, and sharing direction of how we are moving forward,” onePulse wrote in their letter sent out on Monday.

The foundation’s letter came after a summer of major changes at the organization.

Poma stepped down from the organization in April.

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In May, onePulse announced the permanent memorial would be built on a site other than the nightclub after one of the nightclub’s owners refused to donate his share of the property.

In July, onePulse severed its lease with the Pomas after workers discovered a Temporary Use Permit, which allowed the interim memorial to operate, had expired a year prior.

When we learned of the permit’s lapse, we immediately contacted the City of Orlando and were informed the Foundation could not proceed with a new TPU without the property owner’s consent,” onePulse wrote in Monday’s letter. “Ultimately, this meant the Foundation had no choice but to leave the property due to liability exposure and insurance protection, and because we had no legal authority to operate the site without a permit.”

Poma issued a statement to News 6, which said, in part, “The Foundation is responsible for keeping current regulatory obligations associated with the property, including keeping current the Temporary Use Permit, which lapsed after an extension notice was sent to the Foundation in 2021 stating it would expire May 2022. The Foundation was always able to acquire a new permit. The Foundation just needed consent from us, the property owners, which had we been asked — which we were not — we would have given without question.”

The letter also addressed the relocation of the permanent memorial.

“It had always been our intention and expectation to build the National Pulse Memorial on the site of the Pulse nightclub. However, the Foundation was unable to reach a satisfactory outcome — a full donation of the Pulse Nightclub property and interim Memorial — with its property owners, Barbara Poma, her husband, Rosario Poma, and their business partner, Mike Panaggio. This outcome gave us no choice but to pursue alternative options for the site of the permanent memorial if a memorial was ever to be realized.”

Poma told News 6 “This continues to be a difficult situation; while our business partner refused to donate his portion of the property to the Foundation, we, however, did agree to donate our share, and we made that commitment to the Foundation both verbally and in writing.”

News 6 contacted onePulse for a response to what Poma had to say.

“The temporary use permit expired in May 2022 and the letter from the City of Orlando was sent back in April 2021 when Barbara Poma was at the helm of the Foundation,” said spokesman Scott Bowman. “There have been no steps taken by the Pomas as property owners of the site to address the issue, even after the Foundation notified them back in July.”

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About the Author:

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.