Council gives group 18-months to work on Manor House

by Jeff Saunders | reporter Published:

Macedonia -- The group attempting to preserve the condemned home of former Mayor William Frew Long has received another 18-months to achieve its goal.

In a 5-to-1 vote, with Councilor Mike Miller voting against, City Council approved Feb. 14 an ordinance that extends the Longwood Manor Historical Society's one-year permit to work on the structure. The permit, which was to have expired Feb. 28, now expires Aug. 31, 2014.

Mayor Don Kuchta told the News Leader Feb. 15 he plans to veto the ordinance. According to the city's charter, a vote of at least four councilors is necessary to override a veto.

Kuchta said he believes the initial permit, and the extension, are in violation of the city's own ordinances, which require demolition if there is not at least a renovation plan in place within six months of a building being condemned.

Kuchta told Council most of nearly 200 people who responded to a survey on the city's website showed a lack of support for the Manor House.

"So we just made a decision without anyone asking how the survey went," Kuchta said.

Long, who served as mayor from 1962 to 1976, bequeathed the house and his 300-acre estate to the city when he died in 1984. In 2002, Council designated the LMHS as the home's official caretaker.

The society was unable to restore the building and city condemned it in 2007 due to numerous building code violations, including a leaky roof.

LMHS President John Cassmer, who has asked Council several times in recent months to grant an extension, told Council he is happy with the vote.

"We're on a roll and we're going to get as much done as we can," Cassmer later told the News Leader.

Cassmer added he believes the survey questions are biased against the Manor House. He also disputes the city's $400,000 to $600,000 estimate for repairing the building.

A study the LMHS commissioned several years ago estimated repairs could cost as much as $400,000, but Cassmer said the society last year compiled estimates that put costs at around $80,000 to bring the building up to code.

Cassmer said the LMHS plans to update the estimates this year. He said it is also forming a board of directors and is looking for funding, including grants, as well as contractors that are willing to donate low- or no-cost help.

Kuchta also told Council Feb. 14 the presence of the Manor House interferes with his efforts to get an outdoor pool built along with a waterpark being proposed by a pair of private developers.

Kuchta told the News Leader he believes that the city should have taken efforts years ago to preserve the house. He said he purchased five bricks over the years, at $100 each, for preservation efforts.

"It's time to come to grips with reality and do what needs to be done," he said. "It upsets me that people say I hate the Manor House."

Cassmer said the society last year had some work done on the property by volunteers. He said Macedonia Glass replaced windows broken by vandals and Paul Fike Builders, also in Macedonia, replaced a rotted vertical support beam.

Cassmer said another contractor has offered to replace a tarp stretched over the building's roof.

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9432

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