Obici House situation a shame

Published 8:20 pm Friday, November 27, 2009

It is a shame we can’t come together on finding a viable solution on the future of the historic Obici House. It is a shame a house of such historic significance to Suffolk has such a bleak future.

It is just a shame.

The condition of the home, which teeters on the edge of the 18th green at Sleepy Hole Golf Course, on the banks of the Nansemond River, is also a shame. Tattered shutters, faded and chipped paint and missing shingles now dot the home that once stood so proudly.

And now it appears the process — if it can be called that — that sought to give the house a bright future is coming to an end. That move toward redevelopment and a return to glory appears to be over for the city and may now lead to the eventual demolition.

What a shame.

As Suffolk continues to grow at such a tremendous pace, it runs the risk of losing touch with the history that provided such a strong foundation.

Suffolk may no longer know the hustle and bustle of the peanut industry, but it remains our past, our heritage — and the Obici family was at the center of that industry.

We still celebrate the annual Peanut Festival, complete with a massive parade and the crowning of a Peanut Queen. So why can’t we come to some agreeable solution to this house? Why has it become so contentious – on both sides?

The process for asking for development plans and ideas has been flawed from the beginning.

And, that flawed process is not any one person’s fault. In fact, we have little doubt that the process was administered to the letter of the law. But therein lies the problem.

Oftentimes the letter of the law does not take into account emotion or history. The letter of the law does not afford the luxury of flexibility. It is black and white.

But, when it comes to our city’s history, emotion is the most important element. It is the part of the process that should be relied on more than any other.

When it comes to our history, we should commit ourselves to finding a solution that not only protects our past, but is economically viable.

Both sides of this debate — both the city and the Citizens for the Preservation of Obici House — have very smart people working for them. And, it would be the biggest shame of all if these smart people couldn’t find the right answer.