The historic Cullars home's future remains uncertain as the Auburn City Council moved to postpone a vote on whether the city should fund the home's relocation and preservation at its meeting on Tuesday evening.
The council will consider the city's involvement in relocating the home at its Sept. 17 meeting and will specifically vote on a resolution that would allow the city to submit a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) to Orange-Auburn III LLC, the owner of the Cullars house property, and enter into a lease with terms similar to that letter. The resolution would also authorize the city to spend up to $1 million to relocate and renovate the house.
The terms of the LOI would include paying a base rent of $24,500 to lease the property from Oct. 1 to April 30 and paying for all utilities servicing the property and taxes and insurance related to the property. The home would need to be moved prior to April 30.
Councilman Brett Smith made the motion to table the vote until the council's next meeting, which will occur before the Sept. 30 deadline by which the city must submit its LOI to the property owner, in order to give the city more time to negotiate with any private individuals interested in taking on the project themselves.
"I think it would be good diligence on us and responsible if we explored all the particular and potential private members that could relocate the Cullars home before we take a vote as to allocating tax dollars or money from the public coffers," Smith said.
City Manager Jim Buston said the city was in conversations with two individuals interested in relocating the home, but as of about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, one had dropped out and the second was still interested. Buston said the city is not done communicating with the second individual.
Mayor Ron Anders implored individuals with the interest and means by which to relocate the house to private property to reach out to the city.
"If you know people in the private sector who are interested, please encourage them to come forward," he told the audience at Tuesday's meeting. "It’s nothing but time to sit down and talk with the staff about the ins and outs of this, but remember, this is not the city of Auburn’s home. This is a private individual’s property right now that is being purchased by another private individual. I certainly would love, in a perfect world, to see somebody come take this house and move it."
Anders said a public hearing would be held on Sept. 17 for anyone wishing to speak on the issue before the vote. The City Council's regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Council Chambers on Ross Street.
The Cullars home, built in 1893 by the Cullars family, is currently located on property at the corner of Samford Avenue and South College Street, 369 S. College St. Orange-Auburn LLC bought the property in 2017 for $4.85 million.
If the council votes to fund the relocation of the home, it would likely be moved to either Kiesel Park or Town Creek Park and used in much the same way as the historic Nunn-Winston house is used in Kiesel Park — as an event space for the city as well as for the public to rent.
In a memo from city attorneys Rick Davidson and Stephen Clay, a legal opinion is provided that concludes that for the city to be able to provide funds to move the house, the City Council "must determine that the relocation of the structure would serve a public purpose" and benefit a significant part of the public.