Thursday, May 17, 2001

Lebanon in quandry over house

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The city will have to pay more than twice what it had hoped to save a damaged old house from being turned into a parking lot after a Warren County jury's ruling Wednesday.

        “I don't like paying it, but it's still a piece of the past and you still can't hang a dollar sign on that,” Councilman Mark Flick said.

        After two days of testimony on the value of 27 N. Mechanic St., the six male and two female jurors settled on $230,000 — halfway between what the city and property owner John McComb had sought.

        “It's a fair verdict from the jury for compensation, but it's not an effective use of tax dollars to buy the property and take it away from me,” Mr. McComb said. He testified he needs parking at 27 N. Mechanic for the other two buildings he owns downtown.

        Lebanon City Council could still decide not to buy the site, but then it would have to pay Mr. McComb's legal and appraisal fees.

        That puts the future of the Federal-style house at 27 N. Mechanic — believed the oldest in town — squarely back in the political arena.

        While Mr. Flick remains firmly in favor of the purchase, Councilwoman Amy Brewer is adamantly opposed. She criticized the rest of council Wednesday for pursuing eminent domain against a burned-out, weather-damaged building.

        Further, she said, animosity toward Mr. McComb has been a factor in the city's actions. Mr. McComb replaced Councilman Ben Cole's mother, Mary Ann Cole, on council when she was recalled. Mr. McComb lost re-election in 1999.

        “They harbor some resentment against him,” Mrs. Brewer said.

        Others on council appeared to be undecided about their next step Wednesday afternoon.

        “We know from a survey that 70 percent of people don't want a single historic building torn down, but I'm not sure whether they want to spend extreme amounts of money,” Jane Davenport said.

       David Eck contributed to this report.



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