Ultimate fate?

Published 10:48 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It appears a final decision on this future for historic Obici House could be just a few weeks away. And, based on ideas and proposals discussed by council members Tuesday, those hoping for the historic building’s preservation may not be pleased.

“I think at this point, we need to go ahead and make a decision whether we are going to save it, salvage it or demolish it,” council member Jeffrey Gardy said. “We just need to move on.”

Gardy was not alone in his thoughts as a majority of the council seem ready to end any further renovation bids and clear the way for future development on the property currently occupied by ailing mansion.

During a staff report to the council, Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts laid out the city’s involvement with the house located off the 18th green at Sleepy Hole Golf Course.

Roberts said the process for developing the golf course property, including the house, had been nearly a seven-year project, with the city calling for development proposals four different times.

Currently, city staff members are reviewing two unsolicited redevelopment bids for Obici House, including one from the local firefighters union and another from a group known as Citizens for Preservation of Obici House (CPOH).

Those two groups provided unsolicited bids to the city for the home in early December. On Dec. 14, the city responded to both groups, asking for more information and giving them a Dec. 30 deadline to provide further details. That deadline was later extended to Jan. 14.

It appears now that the Jan. 14 deadline may be the last opportunity for any group to save the building. After reviewing the groups’ responses, the city will decide if either group’s plans are viable and financially sound enough to move forward.

If not, the city is now poised to seek other ideas to either move, dispose of or scrap the home.

“I really want to hear more information on what it would cost to move the home to another part of the golf course,” Mayor Linda Johnson said. “But, it is time to move on and time to give the company leasing the property a chance to move out on their plans.”

The golf course is under the management of Roundtree, LLC, a company owned by Ronnie Roundtree, who agreed to a 20-year lease on the property earlier this year.

As part of that lease agreement, Roundtree has committed to building a number of structures on the property to further develop the course, including a clubhouse, cart storage facility and maintenance building.

Although some members of the council, including Johnson, have asked for details on moving the house, it appears the final decision on the home’s future will be made at the next council meeting on Jan. 20.

“At this point, why don’t they go ahead and tear the thing down?” CPOH president Susan Blair said. “That’s what they are going to do anyway.”

Blair attended Tuesday’s meeting and confirmed the group had already provided its list of responses to the city’s questions.

“A lot that is going to do for us know,” Blair said. “We were offering a plan that would have preserved the house and done so without any taxpayer money. Now they are going to have to use taxpayer money to tear the house down or move it. It doesn’t make sense.”

As part of Gardy’s motion, if the staff determines that neither of the proposed preservation plans are “viable” then the city should offer the chance for any group or citizen to come into the home and salvage any parts of the home they want.

“I would think the Obici Foundation, the hospital or the city would want to make sure to pull some memorabilia out of the house before it’s torn down,” Gardy said.

Council member Joseph Barlow, who represents that portion of Suffolk, said the history and name of Amedeo Obici would continue to live on in the city.

“The hospital still bears his name. Planters Peanuts still has an operation here in the city,” Barlow said. “We need to remember that he did not leave any money for the continued upkeep of his home.

“His commitment was to the welfare of the people of Suffolk and that will continue to live on.”