Fairfield unanimously votes to raze historic home

Fairfield City Council unanimously voted Monday night to demolish the historic home a group of residents attempted to save.

“If we had the money, we would gladly preserve that building. But unfortunately, it’s just not in the budget,” Mayor Steve Miller said, noting there are an infinite number of park projects with a finite amount of money.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the wants,” he said.

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Miller said the city would have to spend upwards of $1 million over the next few years to fix the building and maintain it.

“To take that money, and put it there, then what don’t we do? Do we not fix Harbin Park? Do we not fix Joyce Park? Do we not fix Marsh Lake? Do they want the dog park this year?” Miller said. “All those things have to be balanced out, and unfortunately we just can’t be all things to all people.”

The Save the Cooper House committee, a group of residents interested in saving the home, requested the city not raze the 19th-century home but instead convert it into an educational facility.

The Fairfield Parks and Recreation Board recommended that City Council tear the house down. City Council agreed with that recommendation and voted to spend $18,000 to demolish the property at 6460 River Road.

Miller said the group did not have a plan, or a funding option, in place to warrant holding off on the demolition vote.

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No one from The Save the Cooper House committee spoke at Monday's meeting, but the group expressed disappointment in the vote on its Facebook page.

“Although significant public support was generated, the issue of funding (prioritization) seems to have won out,” the post read.

The home sits on a 3.3-acre parcel, known as the Muskopf property, which the city purchased in 2016 with an Ohio Public Works Commission grant. A barn also sat on the property, but the city tore that down last year.

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Fairfield City Manager Mark Wendling said there’s not a timetable yet to raze the building.

“I know it will be soon, I just don’t know exactly when,” he said.

While there have been some critics of the decision — saying the city is losing its history — Wending and Miller said there's a balance of preserving history and planning for the city's future.

Miller said there are plaques recognizing the city’s historic sites and buildings, such as the original Symmes Tavern in downtown Fairfield, and Wendling said the city has two historic cemeteries — Symmes Burial Grounds and Miami Chapel Cemetery. The city spent upward of $30,000 to renovate Miami Chapel, which is the final resting place for the area’s pioneer families and five American war veterans.

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“I think it’s really respecting the history that is there,” said Wendling “There is an American Revolutionary War veteran there, a couple of Civil War veterans buried there. We wanted to honor their sacrifice and what they did for the country. There are things that we’ve done, that we continue to do.”

But when it came down to the Cooper House, it didn’t make financial sense for the city, Wendling and Miller said.

“We did a survey a few years ago, and historical preservation is something we really don’t want to get into as a city,” Miller said.

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