Mandeville property to become lakefront restaurant amid resident objections _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SARA PAGONES -- The historic Rest A While property

Should the city of Mandeville consider purchasing a historic property in order to preserve its character and prevent it from being turned into something the surrounding residents don’t like?

That, for the Mandeville City Council, is the $30,000 question.

After nearly three hours of debate Thursday night, though, the council decided to defer a vote on an agreement with the Northshore Community Foundation to conduct a study into whether the city should buy the historic Rest A While property from developer Barrett McGuire. Most of the $30,000 would be used to hire a consultant to conduct a feasibility study and business plan for the site.

The council expressed concerns about the proposed agreement and asked for certain changes, including adding a feasibility study and making a council member a co-liaison, along with the mayor, between the city and the foundation.

The matter will be taken up again April 9.

McGuire bought the property for about $750,000 a little over a year ago. Mandeville’s Planning and Zoning Commission last month approved his plans to turn the site’s old hotel and two cottages into a restaurant and two wine bars with seating for 68 and standing room for hundreds more on expansive decks.

Some nearby residents fiercely oppose the plan, saying it would be out of scale with its surroundings and that the added noise and disruption would lower their property values.

Earlier this week, McGuire said that if the city makes him an offer for the property, he’ll listen. He even offered to sell it for what he paid plus the improvements he’s put into the site. He would not estimate how much that would be, however.

Also, he told the council, the property would have to be open to anyone who wants to come and enjoy the lakefront. He won’t sell it if the city plans to flip the property to another organization that would restrict access, he said.

Thursday’s meeting mirrored previous emotional public meetings on the future’s property. Opponents of McGuire’s plan spoke passionately of the potential impact of his proposed restaurant and the unique opportunity for the city to purchase a special historical location.

“It’s worth spending 25 or 30 grand to explore it,” neighbor David Persons said. “Come up with a plan that the neighborhood and the city can get behind and that will provide a cultural and economic benefit.”

Glen Runyon, however, said he didn’t want to see any more of his tax dollars spent on projects in Old Mandeville.

“It’s always Old Mandeville. It’s all District 3,” he said, referring to the council district that encompasses the lakefront. “I am tired of all that money going down there.”

Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.