In a 6 to 2 vote, with one Council member absent, the Auburn City Council decided to allocate no public funds to the relocation and restoration of the historic Cullars house. The Council delayed this vote at the Sept. 3 meeting in order to give the private sector more time to consider buying the house.
Orange Development, LLC purchased the house in August 2017. The new owner sent out a notice in June 2019 that the current property lease would end on Oct. 4, 2019. The City Council was given until Sept. 30, 2019, to notify the property owner of their intention to purchase and relocate the home or leave it to be demolished.
The problem facing the City Council is the fact that the cost of moving the historic home was estimated at $200,000 and the cost of renovating the home after was estimated at a cost of up to $1 million.
Given the short time frame, the Council has been working with citizens to find a way to raise funds and to save the building, said Mayor Ron Anders.
Several council members held forums and meetings to discuss the Council’s options with the home. At the meetings, community members said the Cullars house is about 126 years old. The Cullars family has strong ties to both the City and the University.
Council members said they received dozens of emails, letters and other various messages about the home. They said it is one of the largest responses to a public matter that they have encountered thus far in their terms.
The Council asked private citizens and companies to raise funds or bring forward ideas on how to save the Cullars house. That’s why the Council’s vote to allocate public funds was tabled at the Sept. 3 meeting.
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There were multiple attempts to sell the home to private individuals. Council member Brett Smith even started a public GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to save the home.
At the Tuesday night City Council meeting, the majority of the Council voted to not spend public funds on the house. Council members Steven Dixon and Bob Parsons voted to use public funds. Council member Griswold was absent from the meeting.
Citizens came forward during a public hearing at the meeting to argue both in favor of saving the house and against using public funds to purchase the building.
“Thinking back over the years, Hickory Dickory Park does not yield a return, redoing the streetscape at Toomers does not yield a return,” Dixon said. “Moving this house is an opportunity to preserve the history of the Victorian time period in our town.”
Dixon went on to say that historic resources are finite and cannot be returned once done away with.
Parsons said the Cullars house is of significant importance to the City.
“This past year has brought about many changes, some of which have been exciting, and others have been disheartening and problematic,” Parsons said. “I have been contacted by many current and former residents urging me to vote in favor.”
Griswold, who was absent from the meeting, expressed his support in favor of saving the house through an email which Parsons read aloud during the meeting.
The Council members who voted against using public funds for the relocation of the house all expressed that they supported historic preservation, but the funds could be allocated to other programs or projects to improve the lives of Auburn citizens.
“I can’t in all clear conscious vote to spend a million dollars to move a house,” said Council member Tommy Dawson. “We could build a lot of low-income housing and change lives with the number of houses we could build.”
Other Council members echoed Dawsons remarks, saying there were other ways the money could be spent to improve the lives of Auburn citizens. They said it is what lead them to vote against the allocation of public funds to move the house.
Mayor Anders, who also voted against moving the home, said the Cullars house should stand as a catalyst to make citizens take part in what happens in their city.
Although the Council voted against spending City funds to save the Cullars home, Dixon and other councilmembers expressed they will continue to try and find a way to save the home until the Sept. 30 deadline.
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