Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Historic house's value argued

Lebanon officials, owner meet in court

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A city businessman began to make his case Monday that Lebanon should pay him more than a third of a million dollars for a burned-out old building.

        In the opening day of the eminent domain trial in Warren County Common Pleas Court, one appraiser for building owner John McComb put the value of 27 N. Mechanic at $144,300. Damages for the loss of 19 parking spaces there come to an additional $217,600, appraiser Leland Coe said.

        “I consider this to be a Tiffany location ... the prime of the prime,” Mr. Coe said of the site, near the heart of downtown Lebanon.

        The city pointed out in opening arguments that Mr. McComb paid $75,000 for the property in early 2000. Its appraiser will put fair market value at $89,000, said Alan Abes, attorney for the city.

        Mr. McComb was preparing to demolish the building — used as apartments until damaged by fire — a year ago when the Lebanon Conservancy Foundation persuaded City Council to intervene.

        The house was built in 1808 in the Federal style, preservationists say — making it the oldest house standing in the city.

        Although fire has damaged 40 percent or more of the building, it can still be restored, they say.

        The trial began Monday morning with a trip to 27 N. Mechanic. Jurors walked around the house — its caved-in roof and damaged siding showing little sign of its historic nature.

        They also walked to two nearby buildings Mr. McComb owns. Tenants in those offices and shops rent 10 parking spaces behind the house, Mr. McComb testified, and future tenants, too, might expect private parking.

        “We're not only interested in the value of property today, really we're more interested in what it can be come,” he said.

        Lost parking will translate into lower rental rates and longer vacancies for Mr. McComb's buildings, Mr. Coe said.

        His appraisal of the property itself was based on three sales he considered comparable.

        Mr. Coe also cited an old city scandal — its purchase of 5-7 Cherry St. for $150,000, far above its appraised value — as further supporting his appraisal.


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