Thursday, April 13, 2000

Lebanon agrees to buy old house

Decision saves 1806 property from demolition

BY Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A week before a house built in 1806 was to be torn down, City Council has decided to buy it.

        “When you're looking at the oldest standing house in town, there's historic value there that's hard to put a dollars-and-cents value on,” Councilman Mark Flick said Wednesday.

        The Federal-style house at 27 N. Mechanic was to be demolished by owner John McComb. Mr. McComb, a former councilman, bought the fire-damaged property in February, reportedly to use for a parking lot.

        But the Lebanon Conservancy Foundation and other historic preservation supporters raised a fuss, and City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to start the process of buying the building through eminent domain.

        Eminent domain allows government bodies to buy property at fair market value regardless of whether the owner wants to sell.

        Councilwoman Amy Brewer voted against the resolution: “I think now you're pulling government into this process, where it does not belong.”

        James Reinhard, who introduced the resolution, abstained from voting because Mr. McComb is his brother-in-law. He said Wednesday that he was against buying the property but wanted the issue, which had been discussed behind the scenes for a couple of weeks, ad dressed publicly and decided one way or the other.

        “It is an emotional issue,” Mr. Reinhard said. “Nobody paid any attention to it when it was a rundown old rental, but now that it's burned everyone wants to save it.”

        Mr. McComb had resisted efforts to save the building, telling the city planning commission last month that it would be cost-prohibitive to restore and rejecting a preservation supporter's offer to buy the building.

        Tuesday night, he said he would not fight City Council on it.

        “If this is really something the city wants to do, I would waylay the demolition,” Mr. McComb said.

        The next step for the city will be to get an appraisal on the property, which has been exposed to the elements for two months.

        The house is thought to have built in about 1806 by Shakers who lived in nearby Otterbein, according to foundation research.


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